Following is the full text of the interview:
1. Q: Despite the differences between China and Sweden, the two countries share much common understanding on environmental and climate policies. How should they support each other and jointly promote the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change?
Gui Congyou: I fully agree that China and Sweden should support each other and jointly promote the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Climate change is a global challenge that requires the unity and cooperation of the international community to tackle. The Paris Agreement embodies the broadest consensus of the international community and clearly defines the direction and goals of global cooperation in addressing climate change. The major trend of green, low-carbon and sustainable development across the world promoted by the Paris Agreement is consistent with China’s goal of building an ecological civilization. No matter how other countries change their positions, China will continue to implement the vision of innovative, coordinated, green, and open development that is for everyone. Based on the inherent needs of our own sustainable development, we will take practical measures to enhance domestic actions to combat climate change and fulfill our obligations 100%.
In implementing the Paris Agreement, China and Sweden share common goals and visions. China is willing to work together with Sweden to jointly safeguard and promote the multilateral governance of climate change and promote green, low-carbon and sustainable development across the world.
2. Q: As I understand, the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) has developed into a successful forum for exchanges on climate and environmental issues since its foundation in 1992. In the past 20 years, what achievements have been made in China’s international cooperation through CCICED?
Gui Congyou: The China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) was founded in 1992 with the approval of the Government of China. It is a non-profit, high-level international advisory body composed of Chinese and foreign senior officials and experts on environmental protection and development. Its main task is to exchange and disseminate successful international experience in environmental protection and development. The current chairman of CCICED is Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of the State Council of China. Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Climate and the Environment Ms. Åsa Romson is a council member.
Since its foundation, with the strong support of the Chinese Government and international partners, and aimed at promoting the implementation of sustainable development strategies and building a resource-conserving and environment-friendly society in China, CCICED has carried out hundreds of research projects in many areas of environmental protection and development, and put forward hundreds of policy recommendations on wide-ranging issues such as pollution control, cleaner production, biodiversity conservation, energy efficiency, circular economy, low-carbon economy, ecological compensation, the social dimensions of environmental protection, sustainable consumption, media and public participation policies, corporate social responsibility, green supply chain, green finance, management of ecological system and environmental governance capacity. Many of the proposals have been highly valued by the Chinese Government and the international community and have yielded important outcomes. For example, China’s State Environmental Protection Administration was upgraded to the Ministry of Environmental Protection. In 2014, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting approved the establishment of an APEC green supply chain cooperation network. Green finance was put on the agenda of the 2016 G20 Summit. The Chinese Government will continue to work closely with relevant international partners to make full use of the CCICED platform to strive for more achievements in global climate and environment governance.
3. Q: In recent years, many Chinese companies have developed very well in Sweden. A few years ago when Geely bought Volvo Cars many people were worried, but now the Swedish automobile industry has established close ties with China through Geely Automobile and National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS). During my recent trip to China, I visited the Tianjin project of NEVS and saw good progress there. What does China think of the development of Chinese-funded enterprises in Sweden?
Gui Congyou: When it was bought by the Chinese private company Geely Group in 2010, Volvo Cars had been suffering losses for years and facing a bleak market prospect, and some Swedish people had doubts and concerns about the acquisition. Your question indicates that you were optimistic, not worried about the acquisition at that time. Eight years later, we now see that Volvo Cars has undergone a tremendous transformation with a significant increase in its market share in China, North America, and Europe. Last year, its sales volume reached a record high of 570,000 vehicles, among which more than 100,000 were sold in the Chinese market. Nowadays the Geely-Volvo project has become a successful exemplar of win-win cooperation between EU and China’s auto industries and is widely applauded. We appreciate the positive attitude of the Swedish side towards Chinese investment, and the Geely-Volvo project also has exerted a positive impact on promoting China-Sweden investment cooperation.
In June 2012, National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) acquired Saab Automobile, a Swedish company with a history of nearly 75 years, and launched a new brand “NEVS”. After several years of integration and market development, NEVS focused on developing new energy vehicles. On 5 December 2017, the NEVS 9-3 Electric Vehicle model, which was developed on the basis of the advanced Phoenix platform, officially went into production in Tianjin, China. In the second half of 2018, NEVS’ s factory in Trollhättan, Sweden is planned to start production of NEVS 9-3 targeting the European and American markets. By then, the company will have an annual production capacity of 500,000 high-end pure electric vehicles.
The above two projects could be regarded as fine examples of complementary cooperation in technology, capital, production, and market advantages between Chinese and Swedish auto industries which has led to strong competitive edges and win-win development. We need to actively support their cooperation, and also look forward to more such successful examples of cooperation in other fields.
4. Q: In Sweden, or even Europe, there are still some voices that question Chinese investment. For example, some Swedish media recently questioned plans by Chinese companies to build a new port in Lysekil. What is China’s attitude towards such doubts?
Gui Congyou: We have noted recent reports by the Swedish media on Chinese companies’ participation in Swedish port construction. I would like to emphasize that the essence of China-Sweden trade and investment cooperation is mutual benefit and win-win results. The friendly exchanges between China and Sweden goes long back, and their economies are highly complementary with great potential in two-way investment. Strengthening trade and investment cooperation between the two countries is in the common interests of both sides and brings tangible benefits to the two peoples. It also brings to the Swedish side capital, jobs, and channels to the Asian markets, as is best illustrated by the Geely-Volvo project. Like Swedish companies, Chinese companies act independently as market players and fully comply with commercial principles while making outbound investments.
At the just-concluded 2018 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting at Davos, many leaders of European countries stated that protectionism is not the choice for the future. Opposing protectionism has become the mainstream of the international community. Sweden has always been an active advocate and defender of free trade and open economy. The Swedish government and many insightful people have repeatedly welcomed foreign investment including from China. China also firmly opposes protectionism. As a beneficiary as well as a firm supporter of trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, China will open its economy further to the outside world. The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has clearly stated that China’s open door will not be closed, but only be opened wider. China will continue to improve domestic business environment and also encourage capable Chinese companies to carry out investment and trade activities in Sweden. It is hoped that Swedish people from all walks of life can objectively and rationally view the market behaviors of companies and create a stable business environment and public opinion atmosphere for foreign investors including Chinese companies. On the issue of opposing protectionism, we must not only speak loud, but also do well.
5. Q: From another perspective, how can Swedish industry help China develop in an environment- and climate-friendly manner?
Gui Congyou: As has been stated at the 19th CPC National Congress, building an ecological civilization is vital to sustain the Chinese nation’s development. We Chinese people must implement our fundamental national policy of conserving resources and protecting the environment, cherish the environment as we cherish our own lives, implement the strictest possible systems for environmental protection, and develop eco-friendly growth models and ways of life. We must pursue a model of sustainable development featuring increased production, higher living standards, and healthy ecosystems. We must continue the Beautiful China initiative to create good working and living environments for our people and play our part in ensuring global ecological security. At present, China is fully implementing the direction and objectives of development set by the 19th CPC National Congress and, as it strives to build an ecological civilization, will make greater contributions to the global effort in addressing climate change and protecting the environment.
Sweden’s industrial development has undergone a process of pollution, treatment and finally sustainable development, and has advanced experience in developing industry in an environment- and climate-friendly manner. The Swedish Smart Ecocity of Hammarby is a typical example. Through applying a variety of clean energy, energy conservation and environmental protection technologies, the district has formed an environment- and climate-friendly development model and set an example for global sustainable development.
Hammarby’s experience is very useful to China. In March 2010, the then Vice President Xi Jinping made a tour of Hammarby during his visit to Sweden. He commended the development experience of Swedish Smart Ecocities, and personally pushed forward the signing of cooperation agreement between China’s Wuxi City and Hammarby, which China and Sweden are actively implementing. Shortly after I assumed office in Sweden, I visited Hammarby to promote the implementation of the important cooperation consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries. After this interview, I will visit Hammarby again to inspect the construction of the “upgraded version” of the Ecocity. Nowadays, there are many Chinese delegations visiting Hammarby every year, to learn Sweden’s advanced experience in energy conservation, environmental protection and circular economy, and Sweden’s concept of sustainable development, and to seek cooperation with Hammarby. We hope that through such cooperation, more Swedish companies will bring to China Sweden’s advanced experiences, technologies and products related to promoting development in an environment- and climate-friendly manner, and play a greater role in helping China to achieve sustainable development and build an ecological civilization. We also hope that China and Sweden will make new contributions to promoting global sustainable development through bilateral cooperation.
6. Q: I visited Beijing not long ago. During the 10 days of my stay the sky was blue every day and the air was quite good, which was completely different from my last visit several years ago. The changes were very obvious. I really want to know how China has made it. As far as I know, China is vigorously promoting non-fossil fuel vehicles and ready to invest heavily in the development of electric vehicles and electric buses. When did China start implementing this policy? What are the most important political considerations behind this development?
Gui Congyou: What you saw in Beijing is the result of the Chinese Government’s determined efforts to treat environmental pollution. The report of the 19th CPC National Congress has emphasized that we will speed up reform of the system for developing an ecological civilization, and build a Beautiful China. Beijing’s air quality will be better and better. This positive change has benefited from China’s efforts to develop green transportation and promote green mobility. Bike-sharing has swept the country, and high-speed rail networks have basically taken shape. With the continuous development of electric vehicles, in the future, China is expected to achieve a short-, medium- and long-distance non-fossil fuel transportation model composed of bicycles, electric vehicles and high-speed trains.
China started to develop new energy vehicles as early as the beginning of this century. China has successively introduced and revised relevant policies for new energy vehicles, batteries, and charging facilities for electric vehicles, strengthened industry norms, and promoted energy conservation and emission reduction. At present, new energy vehicles have become China’s national strategic emerging industry and key areas of the “Made in China 2025”. China’s new energy vehicles has ranked first in the world for three consecutive years in production and sale. In 2017, sales registered a year-on-year increase of 56.8% with 777,000 vehicles sold, of which pure electric vehicles accounted for 60%. In September 2017, the Chinese government announced it would begin studying when to ban the production and sale of cars using conventional fuels.
The development of non-fossil fuel transportation will, on the one hand, be conducive to energy conservation and emission reduction and improvement of the environment. On the other hand, it will ease the pressure of oil shortages and improve the energy structure. It will also promote the transformation and upgrading of the automobile industry and promote the sustainable development of transportation . Sweden has world-class concepts, experience and technologies in the field of non-fossil fuel transportation. We are willing to strengthen cooperation with the Swedish side to jointly promote the development of non-fossil fuel transportation.
7. Q: How can China maintain its industrial competitiveness while addressing air pollution? How will China handle its dependence on coal for electricity production?
Gui Congyou: We are looking for the best model to coordinate pollution control and industrial development. First, we must increase the use of clean energy and drastically reduce our dependence on coal. China is leading the world in terms of nuclear power capacity under construction and the installed capacity of new energy power plants such as solar and wind power.
China is vigorously implementing the Coal to Gas Conversion Project to change its coal-based energy system. Since 2015, the gas-fueled heating system has been adopted within Beijing’s 5th Ring Road. From 2017 onwards, the whole city, including the suburbs, no longer use coal as fuel. So the good weather you saw in Beijing during your 10-day stay was not accidental. It is estimated that China’s installed capacity of renewable energy power generation will reach 620 million kilowatts in 2018, and 710 million kilowatts in 2022 with an average compound annual growth rate of 3.57% in the next five years. While developing clean energy, China will also strengthen inter-provincial supply support and reserve sharing of the power grid, and coordinate the allocation of peaking resources in the region to collaboratively consume renewable energy power.
The report to the 19th CPC National Congress has stated that China will spur the development of energy-saving and environmental protection industries as well as clean production and clean energy industries. We will promote a revolution in energy production and consumption, and build an energy sector that is clean, low-carbon, safe, and efficient. You have seen with your own eyes that haze has been greatly curtailed in Beijing. It has been proved that rising electricity demand in China will not lead to further dependence on coal. China’s demand for coal will continue to decrease, and the energy demand of industrial production will be met mainly by the development of renewable energy.
8. Q: In Beijing we attended a large conference organized by the EV100 network. The impression from that meeting is that China soon will have a world-leading industry for electric cars and become a major producer and exporter of electrical vehicles across the world. However, in some countries, there is still a huge traditional automobile industry. The political power is strong to implement industrial protection rather than support the development of electric vehicles. How will China deal with this risk?
Gui Congyou: China supports the electric vehicle industry out of strategic considerations, mainly to mitigate tail gas pollution, improve air quality, and enhance energy security. After years of rapid development, China’s electric vehicle industry is moving from the start-up stage to the growth stage, and China has become the world’s largest manufacturer and seller of electric vehicles. But there is absolutely no need for European countries to worry about this, because China needs to first meet domestic demand for electric vehicles. China has begun studying when to ban the production and sale of cars using conventional fuels. China has 1.37 billion people from about 400 million households. If every family buys an electric car, the current production capacity is still far from enough. What we worry about is not whether China’s electric vehicle production capacity will affect other countries, but rather its inadequacy to meet the needs of the domestic market.
China will not produce electric vehicles behind closed doors, but stands ready to jointly develop and sell electric vehicles and share profits with all capable and willing countries. In recent years, many developed countries, major automobile-producing countries, and large-scale automobile manufacturers have reached extensive consensus on developing electric, low-carbon, informationalized and intelligent automobiles and have made greater efforts towards this goal. China has always pursued an open policy for cooperation and is willing to conduct win-win cooperation with manufacturers all over the world to provide good and affordable electric vehicles for global consumers, including in China. If consumers of other countries buy Chinese electric cars by their own choice, it is entirely market behavior, and we should let competition based on market economic rules come into play. Competition brings progress. Closing the door and isolation only protect backwardness and will never bring about progress.