A large ocean-going ship docks at the Port of Lianyungang in East China's Jiangsu Province on September 3 to load vehicles for export to Belgium. (Photo: cnsphoto)
Belgium is an important participant in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Pragmatic cooperation between China and Belgium has shown great resilience and made new progress after the COVID-19 outbreak as a result of the strong ties between our business communities and local governments, injecting fresh impetus into our comprehensive strategic partnership for friendly cooperation.
Cooperation between China and Belgium under the Belt and Road has a strong foundation. Our bilateral relationship has made steady progress since its commencement half a century ago, especially following the successful exchange of state visits by President Xi Jinping and King Philippe 6 years ago. Belgium has innate advantages for being a part of the Belt and Road. With its central location in Western Europe, the country is a shipping hub linking both land and sea transportation.
Belgium's economy is distinguished by the numerous innovation-driven SMEs and technological edges in bio-medicine, clean technology and energy etc. As China possesses a large market and mass production capacities, the two countries have much to offer each other.
Shared consensus over free trade
Belgium is interested in pragmatic cooperation with China. It resonates with the openness, inclusiveness and the "extensive consultation, joint building and shared benefits" principles of the Belt and Road. We enjoy a high degree of consensus over free trade and building an open world economy.
The Belgian government has taken part in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, and the China International Import Expo, and has also encouraged Belgian companies to seize opportunities created by the BRI.
The largest ever trade mission led by Princess Astrid to China last year concluded over 70 cooperation agreements across various sectors, further energizing our pragmatic cooperation.
China-Belgium "Belt and Road" cooperation has been fruitful. Sea, land and air connectivity has been greatly enhanced. China is the fourth biggest customer for the Port of Antwerp. The logistics park at the Port of Zeebrugge and the China-Belgium Technology Center are making smooth progress. The Geely VOLVO production plant in Ghent operates well. Alibaba's eWTP shipping hub in Belgium will make e-commerce a new highlight of China-Belgium cooperation.
Trade in goods has also grown as China is now the second largest export and import partner to Belgium outside the EU. The latest deals that Ageas Insurance and IBA signed with Chinese partners show the sound momentum of China-Belgium cooperation won't be dampened by the epidemic.
Closer in hard times
The BRI supports China-Belgium joint efforts against the epidemic. During the epidemic, the China-Europe cargo freight transported life-saving medical supplies and ensured the flow of goods across the Eurasian continent. Turnover from China at Liege airport has increased, where medical supplies were transited to European countries urgently in need of protective supplies.
Direct flights between Brussels and Beijing enabled essential traveling throughout the epidemic. Chinese and Belgian researchers and enterprises work together on vaccine and drugs to contribute to fight COVID-19 and the building of a global health community for all.
A friend in need is a friend indeed. China and Belgium stand behind each other in the most difficult times. This will pave the way for closer cooperation and exchanges in the future.
"Belt and Road" cooperation between China and Belgium is also manifesting in the deep friendship among our peoples.
Two years after being Chinese Ambassador to Belgium, I feel that there are more people devoted to China-Belgium relations than ever.
Belgian entrepreneurs not only found trust-worthy business partners but also made friends in their long-standing cooperation with China, becoming advocates for our friendship.
Overseas Chinese in Belgium established the Belt and Road Chamber for the Chinese Business Community in Belgium to contribute to the BRI and the growth of people-to-people relations. The two sides have 31 pairs of sister cities and provinces. The Chinese New Year Parade and other activities in Brussels, Ghent, Liege and Poperinge have strengthened our friendship.
As a symbol of the fruition of China-Belgium relations, the two giant pandas from China gave birth to a baby boy and a baby girl last year, drawing great public attention and stirring up great enthusiasm for Chinese culture.
In 2021, China and Belgium will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations, which have withstood international vicissitudes and thrived on the basis of equality and mutual respect over time.
Looking ahead, our relations are on track toward even greater development. China is ready to work together with Belgium to draw on the Belt and Road cooperation and steer the giant ship of our relations through changing times and international affairs towards further progress for the benefits of our peoples.
The author is the Chinese ambassador to Belgium
The Chinese Ambassador to Belgium Cao Zhongming Photo: Courtesy of the Chinese Embassy in Belgium