Growing Opportunities For Ireland and the World: An Opening China and its Belt and Road Initiative
Ambassador Dr. Yue Xiaoyong's keynote speech at GMIT, Galway

October 5, 2018

Dr. Michael Hannon,

Mr. Kam Chin,

Distinguished friends,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.

It is always a great pleasure to come to Galway. My address today will focus on the greater new effort for China to open itself to the outside world, especially upon the Belt and Road Initiative and the forthcoming China's International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai.

We started in China our Reform and Opening-up in 1978 as you all have seen, and all those reform and open-up drive have indeed brought huge vitality to our national development and turned a new page for China.

Our open-up began from coastal regions and rural areas, and gradually expanded to the whole nation and all sectors of our economy. Through those 40 years' efforts, China has learned a lot from the successful experience of peoples all over the world including the great and smart creative Irish people. We adopted for example wonderful ideas and practice from Shannon Free Zone in Ireland in designing our Special Economic Zones.

China has now transformed itself from a closed, poor and backward country into a much more open, richer and stronger one. We have embraced trends of economic globalization, worked with international and regional partners, participated actively in the world joint efforts to improve and upgrade global governance. China has become the second largest economy and largest industrial country.

A rising tide lifts all boats. Four decades of China's success raised Chinese people's living standard by a dramatic margin. Here are a few examples.

  --Our national GDP grew from 218.5 billion USD in 1978 to 12.2 trillion USD in 2017, an increase of more than 50 times in 39 years;

  --Our annual trade grew from 20.6 billion USD to 3.69 trillion USD, nearly 180 times;

  --Gross National Income per capita in China grew from about 200 dollars to nearly 8,000 dollars, up 40 times;

  --We have managed to provide food, clothing and housing for more than 1.3 billion people while lifting over 700 million people out of poverty, accounting for 70% of the global total.

  --Our contribution to the expansion of world economy counts as high as 30%.

Looking into the future, our door is going to open up even wider. China as the largest developing country in the world, we do face the daunting challenges of inadequate and unbalanced development. Bigger and deeper external cooperation is not only indispensable but also will continue playing a major role. We believe that with an ever more globalized world and economy and internationally more and more intertwined business activities, it is impossible for anyone to develop behind closed doors, or isolate within the national bound. President Xi has made it clear that the door of China will only open wider. We would continue to welcome more foreign investments to come, to China, continue to encourage Chinese companies to go out to the global market and continue to expand trade with our overseas partners with less barriers, lower tariffs and better help or services. Our market access will be easier with our legal system further enhanced and our business environment more attractive. We will further strengthen protection of the intellectual property rights and encourage more imports. In fact, China is expected to import over eight trillion US dollars worth of goods and make over 750 billion US dollars of outbound investment in the next five years.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We all are witnessing a new round of China's Opening up with more opportunities for the common prosperity of countries in the world, Ireland and others. That brings me to the topic of the Belt and Road Initiative.


That initiative is the hallmark and new milestone. It will take China's reform and opening up to a totally newer and higher level, to push our international cooperation to a large scale and size too. It was put forward by President Xi Jinping himself in September and October of 2013 namely to construct the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.

The Initiative aims to promote the friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation in all fields among the countries and regions not only along the Belt and Road, but also over the world, and jointly work to build a community of shared interests, common goals and joint commitments featuring mutual trust, business partnership and cultural inclusiveness.

The Initiative adheres to the principle of working together through "joint ideas, joint contribution and shared benefits", to reflect the spirit of equality, cooperation and win-win approach.

The Initiative is different from Marshall Plan in 1940's in quite some aspects: it roots deeper culturally with our ancient silk road experience and spirit over 2000 years along; it reflects new realities and holds greater potential with the new experience of humanity in the 21st century, the era of globalization and closer links of human community in the world; it has no past tense Cold War influence or restrains, with much greater horizon for us to explore for cooperation and prosperity, and is able to open its arms to all.

As President Xi Jinping put it, the Initiative is promoting connectivities and joined efforts for not only public policy, but also partnership from all possible participants for infrastructure, trade, financial services and people-to-people exchanges. We are committed to do our part and readily welcome Ireland and the rest of the world to join in.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Since its initiation, the BRI has enjoyed wide and strong support and acceptance.

As of July 2018, more than 100 countries and international organizations had signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with China, covering from Europe to Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific. We are happy to see that the UN General Assembly and Security Council both adopted the Initiative in resolutions to indicate their recognition and support.

Ireland has shown its leadership to be on board. On May 2017, the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held in Beijing. The Irish government sent its delegation. Next B&R Forum will be held in 2019 in China, His Excellency Taoiseach Mr. Leo Varadkar has told me that Irish government will send a much higher level delegation this time.

The Initiative indeed means growing opportunities.

First and for most, it is good news for strengthening infrastructure network. As a Chinese saying goes, "Better Belts and Roads lead to Better Life".

In terms of sea routes, international container liner routes from China have connected more than 600 ports from 200 countries and region all over the world, to achieve 30% of trade volume in China.

In terms of railways, as of August 2018, the number of China-Europe freight trains has reached 10,000, transporting about 800,000 containers and connecting 48 Chinese cities with 42 cities in 14 European countries.

In terms of airlines, China has signed bilateral intergovernmental air transportation agreements with 125 countries and regions, including 62 of them along the Belt and Road. There are 45 direct flights route between China and the Belt and Road countries, with around 5,100 flights taking place each week.

A multidimensional infrastructure network is taking shape, one that is underpinned by economic corridors such as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor and the New Eurasian Continental Bridge, featuring land-sea-air transportation routes and information highway and supported by major railway, port and pipeline projects. Those geographical routes link China closer to all other countries in the world.

Growing opportunities lies also on more business with China.

Total trade between China and other Belt and Road countries form 2013 to 2017 has exceeded 5.5 trillion USD, and China's investment in these countries has surpassed 80 billion USD. Chinese companies have set up 82 economic cooperation zones, generating some 2.2 billion USD of tax revenue and 240,000 jobs for them.

In the first seven months of 2018, Chinese companies raised investment in 54 countries along the Belt and Road. The 8.55 billion USD newly added investment represented an 11.8 percent increase year on year. New construction contracts along the Belt and Road worth 57.11 billion USD.

Growing opportunities are certainly supported by stronger financial support.

To promote financing, China has engaged in multiple forms of banking cooperation with countries and organizations involved in the Belt and Road Initiative. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was founded in 2016. In May 2017, Ireland was approved as one of its 87 members. The AIIB has provided loans for 28 projects worth over 5.3 billion USD in 13 Belt and Road participant countries.

We have announced to contribute 40 billion USD to set up a Silk Road Fund to support the BRI. 7 billion USD of investment has been made via the fund. The 16+1 financial holding company between China and Central and Eastern European countries has been set-up.

With distinctive focus, those new financial institutions and traditional ones such as the World Bank will mutually reinforce each other. A multi-tiered Belt and Road financial support network has been taking shape.

Growing opportunities are in fact drawing continuous power and buttress with ever deepening people-to-people ties along BRI.

The Initiative gives great importance to people-to-people connectivity. Over the past five years, we in China paid close attention to top the culture and spirits of the Silk Road by promoting friendship and cooperation through more and closer people-to-people exchanges in fields of arts, education or tourism.

China has set up 81 education institutions and projects as well as 35 cultural centers in countries along the Belt and Road. In 2017, China's outbound tourism amounted to 130 million, an increase of seven percent on 2016. In the first half of 2018, China spent around 39.3 million USD on the Silk Road scholarships.

As of the end of 2017, there were 734 pairs of sister cities between China and 53 countries along the routes. Mutual visa exemption or visa-on-arrival arrangements were agreed between China and 24 countries along the Belt and Road.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you may know, at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced for China to hold China International Import Expo (CIIE) starting from 2018. CIIE 2018 will have its opening ceremony in November 5th to 10th in Shanghai.

CIIE is China's another significant move for an open, inclusive and cooperative world economy. It surely provides a new platform to do business and strengthen cooperation between China and the rest of the world. In the next five years, China is expected to import products and services valuing more than 8 trillion USD, and its total overseas investment will exceed 750 billion USD, which will provide enormous business opportunities for all countries including Ireland.

It's indeed not often to find a developing country like China that chooses by itself to hold an import-themed expo. The whole idea is very simple but very great, and so courageous. We have opened our arms, now it is your turn, and the turn from all our partners and friends.

The turns are quite encouraging up to now. Around 140 countries and regions, including Ireland, and about 3,000 companies have confirmed their participation and more than 150,000 domestic and international professional buyers are registered to attend the event.

We are delighted to learn that Mme. Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, will lead an Irish official delegation to Shanghai to attend the event. 27 Irish companies will participate in the exhibition, including collective stands of Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland, with a 244-square-meters area exhibiting agri-food products, education, consumer products, high-tech and intelligent equipment. Mr. Andrew Doyle TD, Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, will also attend CIIE during his trip to China.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are in a time of opportunities and challenges. The world situation is not always in favour of doing good things for our people. With unilateralism, protectionism, bullyism and popularism on the rise, the international landscape is filled with uncertainties and destabilizing factors. Should we stay committed to multilateralism or let unilateralism have its way? Should we seek to uphold the architecture of the international order or allow it to be eroded upon and collapse? Those are questions of critical importance bearing on the future of humanity, questions that all countries must carefully reflect on and seek right answers.

China's answer is clear. We all along have insisted on maintaining openness, inclusiveness and multilateralism. The Belt and Road Initiative and the practice of CIIE are shining examples that China has been fulfilling its promise and joining itself into the world economic system.

In the face of new developments and severe challenges, Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his statement reflecting the keen understanding of mankind's common interests and the future of our planet in 2015, called for building a community of shared future for mankind. China will as always work with the international community to support and maintain the international multilateral, liberal trade system and its constructive practice.

For those purposes, we together with the countries world over believe that the following principles need to be adhered to:

First, we must pursue win-win cooperation. No country can meet the global challenges alone or stay immune. What is to be called for is cooperation, no confrontation, consultation, but no coercion, common prosperity, no winner-takes-all.

Second, we must act upon rules and order. State-to-state relations should be based on credibility, not willful revocation of commitments. International cooperation should be guided by rules, not impulse, observing international law and the basic norms, governing international relations and honoring international agreements reached upon through negotiations.

Third, we must uphold fairness and justice. In international affairs, fairness and justice means equality among all countries, big or small, rich or poor, strong or weak. It means responsibility for major countries to offer shoulder more and help poor and weak. Fairness and justice also means respect for other countries' sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, as well as their choice of development path or the right to pursue happiness and opportunities.

Fourth, we must deliver. Our efforts should be clear targeted, results-oriented, and measurable by tangible progress. It is imperative that we work together to uphold the international system with the United Nations at its core as well as the multilateral trading system centering on the World Trade Organization.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are ready to continue joining our hands with Irish people to expand our collaboration and cooperation. 2018 marks the sixth year of the Strategic Partnership for Mutually Beneficial Cooperation between China and Ireland. It is the year of new opportunities, new harvests and new horizon. The foundation of our bilateral relationship is wonderful and it has paved our way ahead.

Let us come together and seize the moment. I am sure that the year 2019 will see greater achievements for our common efforts and common prosperity between China and Ireland. we will surely lift our relationship to a new high.

Go raibh maith agaibh!