Ambassador CONG Peiwu Delivers a Keynote Speech on China’s Economic Situation and China Canada Cooperation in a Webinar Hosted by Canada China Business Council
15 July 2020
President Graham Shantz,
Friends from the business community of China and Canada,
It is a great pleasure to communicate with you via video conferencing. I would like to thank the Canada-China Business Council (CCBC) for organizing this event.
The last time when I had a face-to-face conversation with friends from the Canadian business community was at a luncheon hosted by CCBC in Toronto last December. Mr. Shantz and I were to arrange exchange activities again, though we could not make it happen due to the sudden outbreak of the COVID-19. While we are practicing physical distancing, it feels like that we are talking to each other in the same meeting room, thanks to the modern technology.
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly disturbed the order of global production and life. Nevertheless, it is gratifying that China and Canada are taking a series of measures to deal with the economic and social impact brought about by the pandemic, and we have achieved remarkable results. Furthermore, in fighting the disease, China and Canada have carried out a series of cooperation, including providing personal protective equipment, to support each other and tide over the difficulties together, which fully demonstrates the profound traditional friendship between China and Canada. I believe that there will be more room for practical cooperation between China and Canada in the post-pandemic era.
I have noticed that a recent CCBC business survey report shows that many friends from the Canadian business circle are very interested in topics such as China’s economic situation, policies and opportunities for cooperation between our two countries. Mr. Shantz suggested that I take this opportunity to make a comprehensive introduction. And I would like to share with you my views on China’s economy and China-Canada cooperation in “past tense”, “present tense” and “future tense”.
So firstly, I’ll use the “past tense” for our cooperation since the establishment of the diplomatic relations. As we all know, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Canada. Fifty years ago, Canada broke through many obstacles and became one of the first Western countries to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. The past 50 years witnessed numerous achievements from China-Canada cooperation in various fields, among which economic and trade cooperation was the most active and fruitful field. It couldn’t have been achieved without the contributions of friends from the business circles of both countries.
The scale of bilateral trade kept expanding. It increased from 150 million US dollars 50 years ago to 74 billion US dollars last year, a nearly 500-fold increase over the past 50 years. The two-way investment was booming. By the end of 2019, Canada’s cumulative investment in China was nearly 11 billion US dollars, and China’s investment in Canada exceeded 18 billion Canadian dollars. The areas of cooperation were constantly broadening. The cooperation between the two countries has gradually extended from trade in goods to more fields like modern service industries, agriculture, innovation, culture, tourism, and education. Currently, more than 200,000 Chinese students are studying in Canada, and more than 1.5 million tourists travel between the two countries every year.
就我个人而言，对这些变化的感触很深。20年前，我曾在中国驻加拿大使馆工作。和多数加拿大人一样，出差途中我也时常在Tim Hortons喝杯咖啡。如今，Tim Hortons已在中国开设多家门店，中国消费者在自己的城市就能享用一杯正宗的加拿大国民品牌咖啡。不久前，Tim Hortons同中国商业巨头腾讯公司达成商业合作计划，宣布将进一步扩大在华业务。
Personally, I feel deeply about these developments. Twenty years ago, I worked in the Chinese Embassy in Canada. Like most Canadians, I often had a cup of coffee at Tim Hortons during my business trip. Today, since it has opened a number of branches in China, Chinese consumers can enjoy a cup coffee of the authentic Canadian national brand in their own city right away. What is more, Tim Hortons reached a business cooperation plan with Chinese business giant Tencent not long ago, announcing that it would further expand its business in China.
I also learned that Bombardier was involved in producing China’s high-speed rail (HSR). China HSR is still developing rapidly at the moment, and its passenger volume has leaped up to the second place globally, which speaks out its name to the world. In addition, it is worth mentioning that the ongoing reform of the pension scheme in China in recent years has learned a lot from the Canadian pension model.
With the increasingly close exchanges between China and Canada, such stories abound. Through cooperation, the two countries’ industrial and commercial circles have achieved mutual benefit and win-win results and brought tangible benefits to the people of both countries.
After the past tense, let’s talk about the present, that is, the current economic and social developments in China. For some time, many friends from all walks of life in Canada have been asking me the same question: what is the current economic situation in China, especially after the onslaught of COVID-19? I often respond with two keywords: resilience and confidence.
Under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping, leveraging its advantages, China has effectively brought the pandemic under control in a relatively short period of time, comprehensively promoted disease prevention and control as well as economic and social development, and advanced the resumption of work and production in an effective and orderly manner. The latest data show that China’s major economic indicators have rebounded strongly and are continuing to show positive changes. The manufacturing PMI in June was 50.9, the 4th consecutive month above the 50-point mark. China’s economy has shown remarkable resilience in the face of the pandemic.
China is an important engine of world economic growth before and after the pandemic. China’s economy is huge: it has a total GDP of more than 14 trillion US dollars, a middle-income group of more than 400 million and a consumer market of more than 8 trillion Canadian dollars. In 2019, the World Bank ranked China as the top ten economies with the largest improvement in business environment for the 2nd consecutive year. Furthermore, China has sound economic fundamentals, complete industrial systems, continuously optimized business environment, self-contained infrastructure conditions and large market scale, all of which give us no reason to doubt the future of China’s economy.
I am pleased to see that the survey conducted by CCBC shows that the Canadian business circle was generally optimistic about the prospects of China-related business. In fact, with regard to China’s economic future, the major international organizations and the Canadian business community have the same prediction. According to the latest forecasts from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in June, China is the only major economy expected to finish 2020 with positive growth. The encouraging present will certainly lead to a wonderful future. The sound development of China’s economy and many economic measures taken by China at present and in the future will certainly provide a large number of opportunities for China and Canada to deepen economic and trade cooperation.
I believe many friends are very interested in China’s “two sessions” held not long ago. Affected by the uncertainty of the global pandemic, the Chinese government did not set a specific target for economic growth for the whole year, reflecting the down-to-earth work style of the Chinese government. At the same time, we have introduced considerable policies to deal with the impact of the pandemic, bail out enterprises and stimulate market vitality. China will adopt a more proactive fiscal policy as well as a prudent monetary policy in a more flexible and appropriate way, which include to further cut tax and fees, to strengthen financial support to enterprises, to reduce enterprises’ production and operating costs, to promote the reform of market-based allocation of factors of production, and to energize market entities.
During a video conference with EU leadership on June 22, President Xi Jinping stressed that no matter how the international landscape may evolve, China will always stand on the side of multilateralism, and adhere to the global governance concept of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. This year’s Government Work Report stressed that China must pursue reform and opening up as a means to blaze a new path that enables us to respond effectively to shocks and sustain a positive growth cycle. Premier Li Keqiang once again promised that China will foster an enabling market environment in which all companies, Chinese and foreign, are treated as equals and engaged in fair competition. China has always been supporting multilateralism and free trade, and committed to promoting trade liberalization and investment facilitation. I do believe that there is broad consensus and huge room for cooperation between our two governments and the business circles in this regard.
With regard to the new opportunities for deepening economic and trade cooperation between China and Canada, you may pay attention to the following three “areas”:
The first is the key development areas highlighted in this year’s Government Work Report. The report points out, in the next stage, China will arrange a special central budget and special local government bonds, to promote the upgrading of the manufacturing industry and the development of emerging industries, and to support new types of infrastructure, new types of urbanization, and major projects like transportation and water conservancy.
The second is the new areas that China allows access to with the foreign investment policy. The newly revised 2020 negative list of foreign investment has been reduced from 40 items to 33, relaxing foreign investment access restrictions in areas like finance, manufacturing, agriculture, medicine, and education. Canadian business circles have obvious advantages in many of the above sectors.
The third is the areas of high-level opening up in Hainan Free Trade Port. At present, looking up to the world’s highest level of opening-up, China has given Hainan zero tariffs, low tax rate, independent customs operations, free trade, free movement of people and other policies. It is such an excellent opportunity that global investors should not miss.
The Chinese side has always believed that there is no fundamental conflict of interests between China and Canada. In the past, the present and the future, respecting each other and seeking common ground while reserving differences are the solid cornerstones of the healthy and stable development of bilateral relations. Complementary advantages, as well as mutual benefit and win-win results, are powerful driving engines for constantly growing practical cooperation between the two countries.
There is no denying that the current China-Canada relations are facing challenges and the biggest problem in China-Canada relations at present comes largely from the interference by the United States. China does not require Canada to make an either-or decision between China and the United States. We believe that the Canadian side has enough wisdom to actively carry out cooperation with China while properly handling relations with the United States. In fact, both China and Canada are committed to developing economy and improving people’s lives, and share a wide range of common views on issues such as safeguarding multilateralism and free trade, supporting the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization, and tackling climate change. I hope that the Canadian side would make a right decision for their own interests as soon as possible, correct the mistake, properly resolve the biggest obstacle in China-Canada relations, and bring bilateral relations back on the right track, thus unleashing the great potential of cooperation between the two countries.
A few days ago, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China unanimously passed the Hong Kong national security law. In view of the fact that many entrepreneurs here may have investment or other business interests in Hong Kong, I would also like to take the opportunity to share with you some information in this regard. For any country, national security legislation belongs to national legislative power and has a sufficient legal basis. The national security legislation for Hong Kong targets a very narrow category of acts that seriously jeopardize national security and has no impact on Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents or the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors in Hong Kong. Over the past year, we had seen increasingly rampant activities by “Hong Kong independence” organizations and radical separatists in Hong Kong, escalating violence and terrorist activities as well as profound, unlawful foreign meddling in Hong Kong affairs. All this placed national security in serious jeopardy and posed a grave threat to Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. The national security law doesn’t only provide a strong legal guarantee for Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability, but also helps to protect the legitimate rights and interests of investors from all over the world in Hong Kong. The implementation of the national security law will play an pivotal role in restoring the social order of Hong Kong, stabilizing the financial market of Hong Kong and recover investors’ confidence. It helps consolidate Hong Kong’s status of international financial center and commercial center and accelerate the recovery of Hong Kong’s economy.
I hope that the business circles of China and Canada will further forge ahead, continuously deepen and expand the economic and trade cooperation based on complementary advantages and mutual benefit and win-win results, and play a positive role in promoting friendship between the two countries and the two peoples. I also hope that the Canada-China Business Council will play a greater role in deepening China-Canada economic and trade cooperation and expanding the common interests of the two countries.
Alice Munro, a famous Canadian writer, once wrote in her novel Runaway, “Few people, very few, have a treasure, and if you do you must hang onto it.” In my opinion, the profound traditional friendship and fruitful cooperation in various fields between China and Canada are the “treasures” we share. I would like to join hands with you to firmly grasp the “treasure” of China-Canada relations, cherish it with double efforts, and strive to explore it for the benefit of the people of the two countries.
The webinar consisted of 6 sessions. The first one was the keynote speech from Ambassador Cong, followed by 5 seminars respectively with the Atlantic Chapter, Québec Chapter, Ontario Chapter, Prairies Chapter and British Columbia Chapter of CCBC. During the seminars, Ambassador Cong responded to questions raised by the Canadian business circle on market access of China, food and agricultural products export to China, opening-up in education sector and the third China International Import Expo, etc. He also highlighted the situation of reform and opening-up of China, the vitality of China’s economy and the potentials of China-Canada practical cooperation.
150 people from Canadian business circle and over 20 people from Chinese companies in Canada attended the webinar.
Founded in 1978, CCBC is a non-profit organization committed to promoting commerce, trade and investment between China and Canada.