Words are equally im­por­tant as ac­tions: Van Rom­puy re­calls Xi speeches

China Daily - - 19TH CPC NATIONAL CONGRESS - Ed­i­tor's Note: The Com­mu­nist Party of China will hold its 19th Na­tional Congress on Oct 18. In the runup to the meet­ing, asked a for­mer EU top of­fi­cial and two prom­i­nent ex­perts for their views on de­vel­op­ments in China and the coun­try’s global lead­er­ship.

“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.

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