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Interview with H.E. Ambassador Zhang Jinxiong on the Second Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum

Q: Can you comment on the upcoming Second Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum? What’s your expectation for the meeting?

A: The Second Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum will be be held from 19 to 22 January in Santiago, Chile. Foreign Minister Wang Yi will be there and meet with Minister Beighle and his other Caribbean colleagues.

The Meeting will make a difference for China-CELAC relations. Not only it is the first time for the Meeting to be held in this continent, but also it will be held under the context of the just-concluded 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. We look forward to working with our CELAC partners to explore better enhancing inter-connectivity on the basis of mutual benefit and shared growth, promoting innovation and win-win cooperation, and exchanging views on international and regional issues of common interest. We hope to take this opportunity to chart a blueprint for future development of the Forum and China-CELAC cooperation in the next three years so as to bring our comprehensive cooperative partnership to a higher level.

Two documents, Declaration of Santiago and Joint Action Plan of Cooperation (2019-2021) (Priority Areas) will be issued after the Meeting, which I believe will inject new impetus for our future cooperation.

Q: Can you tell us more about the achievements of the China-CELAC Forum?

A: The Forum was established in July 2014. Six months later, the first Ministerial meeting was held in Beijing. Thanks to the joint efforts of both sides in the past three years, China and CELAC countries maintained smooth communication and coordination under the framework of the Forum. Significant early harvest has also been yielded out of various sub-forums, which greatly contributed to the sound development of China-CELAC cooperation and country-to-country relations.

Firstly, political mutual trust has been consolidated in an unprecedented way. President Xi Jinping visited Latin America three times in the past four years, leaving his footprints on 10 Latin American and Caribbean countries. He met on various occasions with all the leaders of Latin American and Caribbean countries having diplomatic ties with China. These summit meetings have enabled the Forum and China-CELAC cooperation to achieve sustained and steady progress.

Secondly, the bond between our two sides have been increasingly close. Under the framework of the China-Latin American Countries and Caribbean States Cooperation Plan (2015-2019), trade, investment and financial coordination have served as three engines in promoting the pragmatic cooperation in six prioritized fields, including energy and resources, infrastructure construction, agriculture, manufacturing, scientific and technological innovation, and information technologies. From January to October 2017, China-CELAC trade volume increased by 18.3% to $210.29 billion USD. Over 2,000 Chinese companies are operating in CELAC countries, investing a total of $27.23 billion USD in this region, an increase of 115.9% over the same period of the previous year. The total direct investment has reached $207.15 billion USD, making this region the second largest destination of outbound Chinese investment only after Asia.

Thirdly, friendship has been deeply rooted in people’s mind. There have been frequent exchanges between legislative bodies, localities, media and think tanks between the two sides. Cooperation in education, culture, and tourism has been vibrant. China-CELAC Cultural Exchange Year was successfully held in 2017, generating a new trend of mutual appreciation and mutual learning. Scholarship, training programs and Bridge for the Future Program funded by China are constantly making head way. China-Latin America media exchange center has been established. Being as a genuine friend in need, China has provided substantial aids to Latin American countries hit by disasters.

Q:Are you satisfied with your current relationship with Suriname?

A: The establishment of CELAC-China Forum is a strong boost for our two countries to achieve a higher level of cooperation. Recent years have witnessed sound and steady progress in China-Suriname relations. High level exchanges are frequent. President Bouterse and President Xi Jinping met with each other three times within two years. Minister Beighle met with Minster Wan Yi in Beijing last month. Assistant Minister Qin Gang visited Suriname last August. As sincere friends of mutual trust and good partners of mutual benefit, China and Suriname have supported each other in issues of core interests and maintained close coordination in regional and international issues.

Fruitful results have been harvested in pragmatic cooperation between our two countries. Projects of 350 houses, renovation of the office building of BUZA and Sophia’s Lust Community Center have been concluded and transferred to Suriname. Projects of Dalian IV and National Broadband and e-Government are making headway. The project of expansion of airport is to be launched. Feasibility study of an agricultural and technical cooperation center has been concluded. The project of capital road monitoring and surveillance is under evaluation.

We stand side by side with the Surinamese people. Apart from agricultural equipment, trucks and tractors, laptops, we provided one million US dollars emergency assistance in cash to Suriname to fight against ZIKA epidemic.

People-to-people exchanges between our two countries are increasingly dynamic. Last year, members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly visited China. Apart from Paramaribo and Hangzhou, two more cities, Para and Xianning have paired as sister cities. Confucius Institute of Anton de Kom University was successfully launched. Its Mandarin courses have become very popular. 347 people from both public and private sectors participated in short training programmes in China in a single year, which has outnumbered the total of previous 10 years. Surinamese journalists also went to China to cover the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and visited various cities in China. Through their pens and lens, people in Suriname are able to see better the real China.

Q: Last December, the Chinese Embassy and the Foreign Ministry of Suriname co-hosted a seminar “One Belt One Road -- Opportunity for China-CELAC Cooperation”, which has aroused strong interest in Suriname in participating in the OBOR initiative. Will there be any related discussions during the upcoming ministerial meeting?

A: To bring China-LAC relations to a higher level and the mechanism of China-CELAC Forum to a stronger foothold, we need more input and inspiration. In 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed the initiative of building Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (One Belt One Road or Belt and Road Initiative). The purpose is to promote cooperation and achieve shared growth by integrating developing strategies of participating countries. The Belt and Road Initiative conforms to the trend of times, meets the development needs of various countries and has become a popular global public product.

Historically, CELAC region is a natural extension of the ancient maritime Silk Road. Belt and Road Initiative will be incomplete without the participation of CELAC countries. As a matter of fact, the Initiative will be included in the theme of the Second Ministerial Meeting of China-CELAC Forum, which reflects the common aspiration of both sides to better integrate their development strategies. By utilizing the Belt and Road concepts, principles and cooperative modes, the two sides can enhance policy coordination, improve connectivity, and facilitate trade, finance and people-to-people exchanges so as to supplement each other and achieve win-win cooperation.

Guided by the Initiative, China stands ready to take the Second Ministerial Meeting as a new start, to work with CELAC partners to further enhance our strategic and political mutual trust and upgrade China-CELAC pragmatic cooperation. Meanwhile, China will continue to strengthen the China-CELAC Forum and its sub-forums with a view to building more platforms for dialogue and exchanges. We have full confidence that with our concerted efforts, we can bring China-CELAC cooperation to a new height and forge together a China-CELAC community of shared destiny.

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