President says China, EU need to 'build more bridges'

Belgian PM expresses willingness to play constructive role in developing relations

By XU WEI | China Daily
Updated: Jan 13, 2024
President Xi Jinping meets with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in Beijing on Friday. FENG YONGBIN / CHINA DAILY

President Xi Jinping highlighted on Friday the need for China and the European Union to "build more bridges", calling for joint efforts to ensure the steady progress of bilateral ties.

During a meeting with visiting Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in Beijing, Xi stressed that China's EU policy has remained stable over the long term, and the nation has always seen the 27-member bloc as its partner. De Croo was making a two-day visit to Beijing which started on Thursday, 11 days after his country assumed the presidency of the Council of the EU.

"Our two sides should cooperate and communicate more closely in working toward an equal and orderly multipolar world and a universally beneficial and inclusive economic globalization, jointly contributing to global peace, stability and prosperity," Xi said.

The Belgian leader expressed his readiness to play a constructive role in the development of ties between the EU and China, saying that he hopes his visit "would be the first step to bring that relationship to the next level". He went on to say that the world needs China and the EU to work together as partners to strengthen cooperation in promoting global economic growth, addressing climate change and building a more stable world.

The Chinese president made clear to De Croo the strong emphasis that China attaches to its ties with Belgium, saying that the two nations share common interests in resisting protectionism and upholding free trade. He extended a welcoming message to Belgian businesses to invest and do business in China, saying that China is willing to provide them with an enabling business environment.

It is also Beijing's hope that Brussels can offer a fair, transparent and nondiscriminatory business environment for Chinese firms, he added. Xi called for joint efforts to build up cooperation in traditional sectors such as transportation, logistics and biopharmaceuticals, and in promoting cooperation in green development and the digital economy.

De Croo said his country opposes decoupling and the severing of supply chains, adding that Belgium welcomes Chinese businesses. The Belgian leader started his China visit on Thursday with a tour of the Forbidden City and the inauguration of the nation's new embassy in Beijing, which he described as "the start of a new era of Belgian-Chinese engagement based on strong people-to-people ties, diplomatic partnerships and mutual prosperity". He also met with Premier Li Qiang and Zhao Leji, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

Hadja Lahbib, the Belgian foreign minister, who accompanied De Croo on his visit, said on social media that the trip has delivered a boost to Belgian farmers as "China is ready to lift the embargo on Belgian pork".

Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies at Fudan University, said: "It has been crystal clear that neither side can decouple from the other, and a stable relationship would serve the interests of both sides." Sun Yanhong, a senior research fellow at the Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the visit by De Croo and Premier Li's upcoming visit to Europe show that bilateral engagement is deepening.

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