Interview of Chinese ambassador to Qatar Zhou Jian on the High-level Video Conference on Belt and Road International Co-operation
Question: A few days ago, China held the High-level Video Conference on Belt and Road International Co-operation. What is the outcome of this meeting?
Answer: The conference was successfully held in Beijing on 18 June. President Xi Jinping sent a written address to the conference. State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired the meeting. Ministers from 25 countries including Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Serbia, Greece and Hungary, Director-General of World Health Organisation Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Administrator of the UNDP Achim Steiner attended the meeting. The Joint Statement of the High-level Video Conference on Belt and Road International co-operation: Combating Covid-19 with Solidarity was issued after the conference.
The meeting, held at a time when Covid-19 pandemic is still raging around the world and the global economy is in recession, has sent a clear message of solidarity and win-win co-operation to the world. In my opinion, the conference has achieved four outstanding outcomes:
Firstly, it has raised a great banner. Facing this worst global health emergency since World War II, how should the international community respond? China’s answer is: by building a community of a shared future for mankind. President Xi noted that Covid-19 has made many things clear to mankind. The destinies of all nations are closely connected, and all human species are in fact a community with a shared future. Be it in the combat against the pandemic or in economic recovery, the international community cannot succeed without solidarity, co-operation and multilateralism.
The right approach to tackling global crises and realising long-term development is through greater connectivity, openness and inclusiveness. This is where Belt and Road co-operation can make a big difference. China is committed to peaceful development and mutually beneficial co-operation, and will join all countries for high-quality Belt and Road co-operation, together contributing to a community with a shared future for mankind.
Secondly, it has drafted a blueprint. Since President Xi proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, thanks to the extensive participation and strong support of all parties, we have worked hard to meet high standards, benefit the people and achieve sustainable goals, followed with the principle of joint consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, as well as principles of openness, green development and integrity.
In the face of Covid-19 outbreak, President Xi has drafted a new blueprint for Belt and Road co-operation, stressing that we will work with our partners to make the B&R a road to co-operation in fighting against the common challenges, a road to healthiness in safeguarding the health and safety of the people, a road to recovery in promoting economic and social recovery and a road to development in releasing the potential of the world.
Furthermore, it has provided a train of thoughts. State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed four suggestions to a high-quality Belt and Road co-operation: The first is to step up public health co-operation, facilitate the assistance and provision of containment supplies and the research and production of therapeutics and vaccines, thus pushing forward the development of a “Silk Road of health”.
The second is to strengthen connectivity. It is important to get key Belt and Road infrastructure projects restarted as early as possible, so as to keep industrial and supply chains secure to provide a solid underpinning for the economic recovery of all countries.
The third is to carry out co-operation in innovation to inject fresh impetus into sustainable growth. Efforts will be made to strengthen co-operation in 5G, big data, AI and cloud computing, contributing to build a digital Silk Road.
The fourth is to firmly reject unilateralism and protectionism, and stay committed to an open world economy. The multilateral trading system must be defended, trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation must be enhanced, in an effort to foster a more open, inclusive and balanced economic globalisation that benefits all.
Lastly, it has conveyed confidence. State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced China’s readiness to provide support to Belt and Road partners, in combating the pandemic and economic recovery in the following five key areas:
First, under the $2bn assistance pledge announced by President Xi Jinping, we will support affected partners, developing countries in particular, in fighting Covid-19 and resuming economic and social development.
Second, in the development and application of vaccines, we will positively consider the needs of our B&R partners, and support technical exchanges and co-operation through platforms such as the Alliance of International Science Organisations in the Belt and Road Region.
Third, China is ready to start technical co-ordination with our partners as soon as possible to discuss the establishment of fast-track lanes for cross-border exchanges of people and goods.
Fourth, we are ready to hold a transportation ministers’ video conference with Belt and Road partners, as part of our efforts to maintain the smooth functioning and security of international industrial and supply chains and logistics systems.
Fifth, China will always stand ready to step up co-operation with our partners in innovation, joining hands together to promote Silk Road e-commerce, and advance co-operation in areas of smart cities and green development.
Q: Qatar is an active participant in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In recent years, co-operation between the two sides has achieved fruitful success. How is the future co-operation between China and Qatar?
A: China and Qatar are natural partners in Belt and Road co-operation. When His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani visited China in 2014, we signed the MoU for Belt and Road co-operation, and Qatar has become one of the first countries to join the “Belt and Road” initiative. Over the past six years, our co-operation under the “Belt and Road” initiative has been prosperous and fruitful. Trade volume between China and Qatar has been increasing year by year, reaching $11bn in 2019. Our co-operation has formed a mature pattern with energy as the core, infrastructure as the key, finance and investment as new starting point. In the next stage, we wish to work closer together with our Qatari friends, and jointly promote the high-quality development of our Belt and Road co-operation.
First is to build a road of health security. Facing this unprecedented public health disaster, the co-operation and friendship between China and Qatar has become an example of international health co-operation. We will continue to step up health co-operation in epidemic prevention and control. We will to continue to provide fast channels for Qatar to purchase and import medical supplies from China, especially the raw materials that could help Qatar to improve production capacity of medical supplies such as masks. We will also continue to work with Qatar in joint prevention and control, enhance information sharing, together to build a community of shared future for health security between our two countries.
Second is to build a road of recovery. Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has completely controlled the pandemic domestically, and taken the lead in the resumption of production and work. China’s economy is stepping up pace to return to normal, and the economic vitality has been rapidly released. We are also pleased to see that under the wise leadership of His Highness the Amir, Qatar’s work to combat Covid-19 has made positive progress. With the four-phase lifting-up policies, lives of Qatari people are gradually returning to normal, production and work are being resumed, and the entire society revitalised.
In the next stage, China will work closely with Qatar to promote connectivity, together to build a “fast track” in personnel exchanges and a “green channel” of bilateral trade, so as to provide a solid ground for economic recovery of our two countries. We will strengthen policy co-ordination with Qatar and balance epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development, while keeping steady pace of key “Belt and Road” projects such as the Lusail Stadium. Meanwhile, China will seek innovations in bilateral co-operation in the field of “non-contact economy” such as remote medical service, online education, 5G, big data and other “infrastructure of new generation”, and inject new strength into the sustainable development of “Belt and Road” co-operation between our two countries.
Third is to build a road of co-operation. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, China has been actively working to advance international co-operation, sharing experience, sending medical teams and supplies to countries around the world. Qatar has also played an active role in this regard. His Highness the Amir has announced Qatar’s pledge of $20mn contributions to support Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation. Qatar has to date provided medical supplies to more than 20 countries and donated $140mn to international platforms, and continues to help countries to take their citizens back home. China highly appreciates Qatar’s involvement and contributions.
For the next step, China will join Qatar to support global research work of vaccines and the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in developing countries. We will work closely with the Qatari side to provide assistance to developing countries around the world. We wish to strengthen co-operation with Qatar to help countries with weaker health systems to build up their response ability. We will also play a leading role along with Qatar in co-ordinating global epidemic response and explores to establish regional emergency communication mechanisms.
Fourth is to build a road of development. The Belt and Road co-operation between China and Qatar has brought tangible benefits to our peoples. Energy is the cornerstone of bilateral co-operation. Qatar has become China’s 2nd largest exporter of LNG products. Two months ago, the Chinese side has signed a $3bn contract in LNG ship project with Qatari counterparts. Chinese companies have undertaken many major projects in Qatar, such as the Lusail Stadium and strategic water reserve. Financial investment and high-tech co-operation are new growing points. The Bank of China (BOC) and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) are the two largest financial branches in QFC in terms of total assets, providing more than 70% of loans to support local enterprises. Huawei Company has also contributed in the first 5G commercial networks in Qatar.
In the long run, we wish to strengthen the integration of “Belt and Road” initiative with the Qatar’s “2030 National Vision” strategy, forging “four-pillars” of China-Qatar pragmatic co-operation featuring energy, infrastructure, financial investment, and high-tech. China will deepen our energy co-operation and expand LNG trade, taking full advantage of the complementarities in supply and demand between our two countries, and explore further co-operation in both the upstream and downstream field of the entire industry chain. We could also explore third-party co-operation in this regard.
In terms of infrastructure, the Chinese side will complete the construction of major projects with top quality and speed. We will also encourage more Chinese high-tech enterprises to join QFZ projects, supporting Qatar’s economic development and diversification. As for financial investment, China will strengthen financial connections between our two countries, expand the use of RMB settlement in Qatar, and support more Chinese companies to invest in Qatar. We also warmly welcome Qatari companies to invest in the Chinese market. China will also enhance our high-tech co-operation, where we can participate in Qatar’s projects such as 5G, big data, smart railway, and contribute China’s wisdom to Qatar in the development of digital economy and smart cities.
Sun rises after thunderstorms. China firmly believes that as long as we uphold the principle of building a community of shared future, and forge ahead on a road of unity, co-operation and win-win relationship, we can eventually defeat the pandemic together and further enhance our Belt and Road co-operation with high quality outcomes. This will bring China and Qatar endless impetus to achieve our development goals and promote the sustainable development of the world economy.
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