On 20 April, Ambassador Gui Congyou gave an exclusive interview at the Embassy with the program Ambassadorial Interview Series of the Swedish Institute for Security and Development Policy (ISDP). Ambassador Gui answered questions on China-Sweden relations, international trade, China’s foreign policy, China-Europe relations and other topics from Dr. Lars Vargö, distinguished fellow of ISDP and former Swedish Ambassador to Japan and South Korea.
Following is the full text of the interview:
1. Q: China and Sweden have long maintained friendly relations, the basis of which is mainly trade. The continuous development of China presents important opportunities for Sweden. If China’s economic growth slows down, what impact will it have on China-Sweden economic and trade relations ?
Gui Congyou: In recent years, China-Sweden relations have maintained steady development, and practical cooperation in all fields has continued to expand. For many years China has been Sweden’s largest trading partner in Asia and Sweden China’s largest in the Nordic region. Bilateral trade volume reached USD15 billion last year, a year-on-year increase of nearly 20%, while export from Sweden to China grew by 27%. For the first time in 25 years, Sweden has shifted from deficit to surplus in trade with China, which has fully reflected China’s strong demand for premium Swedish products and the great potential in cooperation between the two countries.
In the 40 years since the reform and opening up, China has scored great achievements in economic and social development. Over the past five years since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), China has unswervingly pursued the vision of innovative, coordinated, green and open development that is for everyone, accelerated the transformation of the growth model, and improved the economic structure. The 19th CPC National Congress held last year emphasized that China’s economy has been transitioning from a phase of rapid growth to a stage of high-quality development. The lowering of China’s economic growth target is for the purpose of transformation and innovation, which leads to improvement in the quality and returns of development. In the first quarter of this year, China’s GDP increased by 6.8% year-on-year, and the national economy has maintained steady performance with a good momentum for growth. The basic role of real economy and consumption in economic development has continued to strengthen. China is expected to surpass the United States as the world’s largest consumer market by the end of this year.
President Xi Jinping has solemnly announced that China will adopt a series of new and major measures to further opening up, including significantly broadening market access, creating a more attractive investment environment, strengthening protection of intellectual property rights, and taking the initiative to expand imports. In order to meet the demand of the vast Chinese consumers for high-quality foreign products, China will hold its first International Import Expo in Shanghai this November. While many other countries have held export expos, few have held an import expo. China holding the Import Expo fully demonstrates that it is dedicated to further opening up and willing to import more products. We look forward to the participation of Swedish companies to bring premium and competitive products to the Chinese market and expand two-way investment, so that China-Sweden trade and investment cooperation will develop towards greater breadth, deeper levels, and higher quality.
2. Q: What should policy makers in China and Sweden do to help defuse friction in global trade? What role can companies play?
Gui Congyou: At this stage of economic globalization, all countries in the world have already been bound together for good or ill. Frictions in trade are natural due to structural differences among different economies. The key is that all countries should uphold the principle of openness and win-win cooperation and resolve disputes through constructive dialogue under the framework of the multilateral trading system. As all WTO members have solemnly pledged, “should any dispute or friction occur, they will not seek unilateral actions that may heighten confrontation but will rather seek remedies through the dispute settlement system, and observe its rules and its rulings.”
Therefore, not only China and Sweden, but all policy makers in the world should stay rational and refrain from politicizing trade issues. Instead, they should act responsibly and bring trade issues back to the multilateral trading system for consultations and resolve them in accordance with business rules through negotiation. Punitive tariffs imposed outside the WTO framework are very likely to lead to a trade war. History has proved and will continue to prove that such a practice will harm both others and self.
To adjust trade imbalances, it is ultimately necessary to use market instruments and allow companies to be the main player. Most of the trade, investment, and technology transfer take place among multinational corporations, therefore they should actively take part in the discussions on global governance and the formulation of global trade rules. At the same time, companies should strengthen their awareness of avoiding trade frictions by taking proactive measures, and be given more play in dealing with trade frictions.
3. Q: At the 19th CPC National Congress, President Xi Jinping outlined the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. What does China’s role as a major country mean to Sweden?
Gui Congyou:The 19th CPC National Congress established the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. Its most remarkable highlight in foreign policy is the call for promoting the new form of international relations and championing the development of a community with a shared future for mankind, in the pursuit of major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.
Since ancient times, the Chinese people have believed in the values of harmony among nations, a world of equality and peace, and brotherhood among peoples. After the founding of the People’s Republic, China initiated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which have become the basic principles for the development of state-to-state relations that transcend social systems and ideology, and have been accepted by the vast majority of the countries in the world. The report of 19th CPC National Congress emphasized that China will continue to hold high the banner of peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit and uphold its fundamental foreign policy goal of preserving world peace and promoting common development. China remains firm in its commitment to strengthening friendship and cooperation with other countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and to forging a new form of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice, and win-win cooperation. China will develop itself in the process of stepping up cooperation with the rest of the world, and benefit the world in the process of being further integrated into the world.
China and Sweden are traditionally friendly countries with no historical dispute or conflict of interests. We share many common topics and interests in areas like maintaining world peace and stability, globalization, free trade and climate change. China’s development means opportunities for Sweden. It is hoped that the Swedish side will seize the historic opportunity to continuously strengthen coordination and cooperation with China, so that we can jointly make more positive contributions to the world on the way toward building a new form of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind. As I said to my Swedish friends, cooperation between China and Sweden can produce the effect of one plus one being greater than two.
4. A: Innovative technologies have great significance for both China and Sweden. China aims to become a scientific and technological leader by 2030. Sweden has similar ambitions. Stockholm hopes to become the Silicon Valley of Europe. How can the two sides cooperate to achieve these goals?
Gui Congyou: President Xi Jinping emphasized in the report of 19th CPC National Congress that China must firmly implement the strategies of invigorating China through science and education and innovation-driven development, and set higher targets for future international cooperation in scientific and technological innovation.
Sweden, a world leader in technological innovation, has made important contributions to human scientific progress. The Swedish scientific research community has always been committed to open cooperation. China and Sweden have great potential in scientific and technological innovation cooperation.
The leaders of the two countries reached an important consensus on strengthening China-Sweden scientific and technological innovation cooperation. When he met with Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Löfven in June 2017, President Xi Jinping stressed the importance to associate China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, innovation-driven development strategy, and “Made in China 2025” with Sweden’s “Smart Industry” strategy, to strengthen cooperation in fields such as clean energy, smart cities, life sciences, green finance, high-speed rail and aerospace. This important consensus by the two leaderships has set a clear direction for Chinese-Swedish scientific and technological innovation cooperation.
Last August, Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and Minister of Science and Technology Wan Gang visited Sweden, and co-chaired with the Minister of Higher Education and Research Helene Hellmark Knutsson the 4th meeting of China-Sweden Joint Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation. The two sides agreed to conduct “2+2” cooperation, or joint research projects that involve a scientific research institution and a company from each side. This shows that China-Sweden scientific and technological innovation cooperation is not a one-way flow of technology, but rather joint development of new world-class technologies with the participation of businesses from both countries. In this way, results of joint research can be transformed into productivity more quickly, to better serve economic and social development and enhance the well-being of the two peoples.
5. Q: Sweden is a member of the European Union. The relationship with EU is one of the most important foreign relations for Sweden. The EU is also an important partner of China. How does China look at China-EU relations?
Gui Congyou: The China-EU relationship is one of the most important bilateral relations in the world. It is of strategic significance to both China and Europe and world peace and development. During his first visit to Europe as the Head of State of China in 2014, President Xi Jinping proposed the development of partnerships for peace, growth, reform and civilization and a comprehensive strategic partnership with a stronger global influence, which has pointed the direction for the development of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership under the new situation.
At present, China is deepening reform in all areas, and advancing the modernization of its national governance system and governance capacity. It is accelerating the advancement of new-type industrialization, informatization, urbanization, and agricultural modernization, and speeding up the development of the socialist market economy, democratic politics, advanced culture, harmonious society, and ecological civilization. We will work tirelessly to realize the two centenary goals and the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation. The EU is undergoing governance, industrial and social transformation, promoting smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and striving to lift its international competitiveness. China’s rapid development has become a good opportunity for Europe’s development and prosperity, while Europe with its economic strength and time-honored civilization is also one of the most important partners for China’s reform and development. China-EU cooperation has never been more urgent. We hope Europe will take a long-term perspective, surpass differences in social systems, cultural traditions and ideologies, respect the development path chosen by China, and regard China’s development as a major opportunity, to work together with China for common development.
6. Q: Another important issue for Sweden is Russia. Due to Ukraine, the “Salisbury incident” and other issues, the relationship between the EU and Russia has become increasingly tense, and Sweden is highly concerned about this. How does China view the tension between the EU and Russia?
Gui Congyou: The EU is undoubtedly an important pole in the multi-polar world. China has always attached great importance to Europe and regarded developing relations with Europe as a priority of China’s diplomacy. China continues to support the process of European integration. As a global power and permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia is also a pole and has important influence in international and regional affairs.
China has consistently advocated that disputes between countries should be properly resolved through friendly negotiations. All countries should obey international law and the basic norms of international relations and avoid taking any actions that intensify contradictions. As the international community is facing many challenges, all countries should reject the cold war mentality, give up confrontation, and work together to safeguard world peace, stability and tranquility, to jointly build a new type of international relations of mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation. The EU and Russia are neighbors that cannot be moved away. The only right choice for the two sides is dialogue and cooperation.
7. Q: In recent years, conflicts have increased across the world. Sweden is concerned about this. China sticks to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Can China and Sweden cooperate to promote world peace and stability?
Gui Congyou: Absolutely. No matter how powerful it becomes, China will always safeguard world peace, contribute to global development, and uphold international order. China firmly remains committed to the path of peaceful development. It will be more active in maintaining international and regional security, and contribute more of Chinese experience, Chinese wisdom and Chinese approaches to improve international governance. China is firmly dedicated to political settlement of international and regional hotspot issues and strives to play a constructive role in bridging disagreements and promoting peace talks.
Sweden is also committed to safeguarding world peace and stability and advocates the settlement of disputes through diplomatic means. We appreciate this. China and Sweden can certainly strengthen cooperation in international and regional issues, and step up communication and coordination on dealing with global challenges, addressing regional hotspot issues, combating terrorism and promoting international development, so as to jointly make greater contributions to global peace and stability.
8. Q: What advice do you have for Swedish youth who want to learn about China? What should they do and what kind of opportunities do they have?
Gui Congyou: In the past 8 months as China’s ambassador to Sweden, I’ve found that young people from both China and Sweden are becoming more and more interested in each other, which is a good thing. As of the end of last year, there were more than 8,000 Chinese students studying in Sweden and nearly 400,000 Chinese tourists to Sweden, most of whom are young people. For Swedish young people who want to learn about China, I have the following suggestions for their reference.
To understand China, one must first understand China’s development path. China follows the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The 19th CPC National Congress declared that Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has entered a new era and has embarked on a new journey of building a great modern socialist country. Second, one must understand China’s system of political parties. China has CPC as the ruling party, but it’s not “one-party dictatorship” as referred to by some Westerners. Instead, it adopts a system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation, specifically cooperation and consultation with eight democratic parties. Third, one must understand China’s history and culture. China has more than 5,000 years of civilization and history and has created a splendid Chinese civilization. But in modern times, it has also experienced deep misery caused by aggression, enslavement and plunder. Only by knowing the journey of the Chinese people in the past can one understand the pursuit and dream of the Chinese people today. Fourth, I suggest that young people in Sweden read the book The Governance of China by Xi Jinping. This is the key to understanding contemporary China. This book records the thinking and practice of President Xi Jinping on governing the country and embodies the essence of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. It provides a window for comprehensively sensing and understanding China today and is the most authoritative book for in-depth comprehension of Chinese path, concept and approaches in the new era.
Seeing is believing. I also sincerely hope that young people in Sweden, whether as students or tourists, will go to China and take a look around to have a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of China’s past, today and the future. With sincerity and good faith, Swedish friends certainly could truly appreciate the Chinese story, Chinese miracle and Chinese spirit. I myself and the Chinese Embassy in Sweden will definitely do our best to help Swedish friends from all walks of life to better understand China.
Source , Chinese Embassy.