December 14, 2017

A Brighter Future for the China-Netherlands Friendship

By H.E. Mr Wu Ken, Chinese Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

 

In May, the most beautiful season of the Netherlands, we will celebrate the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level between China and the Netherlands, which is a historic moment for both our countries.

China and the Netherlands are located at the two ends of the Eurasian continent respectively, but the two peoples share a long history of enduring exchanges, despite the geographical distance. Over 400 years ago, the “Maritime Silk Road” stretching from Guangzhou of China to the Netherlands had already linked the two peoples together. Tea, silk, porcelain and other Chinese products were introduced into Europe through the merchant vessels of the “Sea Coachmen”. The Netherlands was one of the first Western countries to recognize the People’s Republic of China and the two countries established diplomatic relations at chargé d’affaires level in 1954. On 18 May 1972, the leaders of the two countries, with a far-sighted strategic vision and political wisdom, upgraded the diplomatic relations to the ambassadorial level, thus ushering in a new era of development of friendly bilateral relations.

The past 45 years have witnessed the increasingly mature political relations between our two countries. During this period, the China-Netherlands relations have kept moving forward despite the volatile international situation and twists and turns of the bilateral ties. Especially since 2014, with the historic mutual state visits by President XI Jinping and King Willem-Alexander, both sides together enhanced the China-Netherlands relationship to a new position of “Open and Pragmatic Partnership for Comprehensive Cooperation”, which laid a solid foundation for its future development, and promoted bilateral relationship into its best period of development in history. Recently on 12 April, two Giant Pandas, Wu Wen and Xing Ya have just arrived in the Netherlands from China and will make their public debut very soon. This is an important fruit of the mutual visits of our two Heads of State, and the most convincing example of the China-Netherlands friendship and cooperation as well.

The past 45 years have also witnessed the substantial development of our pragmatic cooperation. The bilateral trade volume grew from a mere US$69 million in 1972 to US$67.2 billion in 2016, an increase of almost 1,000 times in 45 years. The Netherlands is now China’s second largest trading partner in the EU and China is the Netherlands’ second largest trading partner outside the EU. Meanwhile, the Netherlands has nearly 3,200 investment projects in China and China has almost 600 in the Netherlands. Our bilateral cooperation in agriculture, water management, chemical industry and logistics is among the best in the cooperation between China and European countries and there are more and more similar amazing achievements. With the continuous transformation and development of China’s economy and society, and with the deepening and implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, I firmly believe that the potential of our pragmatic cooperation in various fields will be tremendous.

The past 45 years have moreover witnessed the steady deepening of the friendship between our two peoples. The Dutch famous philosopher Baruch Spinoza once said, “The heart is not conquered by force, but by love and tolerance”. In China there is also an old saying, “Amity between the people holds the key to relations between countries”. In recent years, the two countries have often mutually sent high-level art troupes and held performances and exhibitions of various kinds. For example, the “Happy Chinese New Year” performances have been held in the Netherlands for 11 consecutive years and have become widely participated highlights among local people. The China Cultural Center in the Haguethe new important fruit of bilateral cultural exchanges, was officially inaugurated last year.

As more and more Dutch people begin to learn Chinese, following Leiden Confucius Institute and Groningen Confucius Institute, the third Confucius Institute will be unveiled within this year. At present, 10 Dutch middle schools have already set up Confucius Classroom and the number will reach 13 this year. The Netherlands saw more tourists coming from China than from any other Asian country and China has become the second largest origin of overseas students of the Netherlands. The cultural and people-to-people exchanges have enhanced the understanding of the two peoples, further consolidated the public and social foundation for the development of bilateral relations and become one of the “three locomotives” for the steady and sound development of bilateral relations along with political and economic exchanges.

The achievements in the past 45 years are really hard-won. As the incumbent Chinese Ambassador to the Netherlands, I have great confidence in the future development of the China-Netherlands relations. Yesterday, one of my Dutch friends asked for my opinion on the following development of bilateral relations. I told him to have a look at the spring flower field in the Netherlands and there lies my answer. Yes, indeed, just like the vast beautiful sea of flowers, the prospect of the China-Netherlands cooperation will surely be broad and the China-Netherlands friendship will definitely enjoy a brighter tomorrow!

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