Words are equally important as actions: Van Rompuy recalls Xi speeches
“CHINA IS VERY GOOD AT LONG-TERM PLANS AND WE HOPE THAT THIS INITIATIVE CAN BE VERY SUCCESSFUL IN DEVELOPING THE BILATERAL RELATIONS.” Herman Van Rompuy, former Belgian prime minister and former president of European Council
Herman Van Rompuy has served as Belgian prime minister and president of the European Council. In both capacities, he received Xi Jinping during his visits to Belgium and the European Union headquarters in 2009 and 2014 respectively. Xi also met him either in Beijing or on other occasions before the veteran European politician stood down from his political career in late 2014.
Of those meetings, Van Rompuy says he is keen to highlight two speeches President Xi delivered in Europe.
The first one that impressed him was given by Xi at the College of Europe in the picturesque Belgian city of Brugge, where Van Rompuy is still teaching, when Xi wrapped up his first tour to West Europe as Chinese president in early 2014.
“In the speech, Xi explained China’s long history of civilization and the impressive achievements made by strategic partners China and the European Union,” Van Rompuy recalled in Brussels during a rare exclusive interview following his retirement.
Xi has proposed both sides forge a partnership from peace, reform, growth and civilization, which have already become guidelines of their bilateral relationship. In this sense, Van Rompuy said Xi’s speech is “political symbolic”. As politicians, he said “words are equally important as actions”.
During Xi’s visit to the European Union headquarters before giving the speech, both China and the bloc were planning to find synergies between the Belt and Road Initiative and European development programs. In late 2014, after Donald Tusk replaced Van Rompuy, both sides started to forge synergies between the initiative and multi-billion-euro European investment scheme.
“China is very good at longterm plans and we hope that this initiative can be very successful in developing the bilateral relations,” Van Rompuy said.
Xi’s speech advocating open economies and free trade and the fight against protectionism was the second one Van Rompuy wanted to highlight. “We were much impressed by President Xi’s speech in Davos, which showcased China’s engagement to an open economy in a globalized world,” said Van Rompuy.
Van Rompuy said the European Union shared with Xi’s advocacy, when the West was surrounded with terrorism, populism and isolationism.
In looking forward, Van Rompuy said China and the European Union are strategic partners, but it doesn’t mean that both sides cannot have differences at a time when both sides have their lots in common.
“In this pure relationship, we can explain to each other about the differences we have,” he said.
Van Rompuy said the European Union is the world’s biggest open economy and he is convinced that the union’s recent move to unify the investment screening system at the European level was not meant to target China. “Our position is that in order to keep this openness on the global scale, we need this level-playing field,” he said.
“Otherwise we will lose support for open trade and investment within the European Union and we need the support of our citizens. This is nothing to do with protectionism and we don’t target China.”
Van Rompuy said a stable European Union is in the interests of China.
He also recognized China’s efforts announced in its marketoriented reform package at the 3rd Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee and he expected China to further showcase its determination to deepen its reform efforts at the soon-to-come 19th National Congress of the CPC.