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Ambassador Huang Xingyuan attends the "Belt and Road Initiative and Opportunities for Cyprus" Forum

     On April 12, 2019, Ambassador Huang Xingyuan attended and delivered a keynote speech at the "Belt and Road Initiative and Opportunities for Cyprus" Forum held at UCLAN Cyprus. The full text is as follows.

Since my arrival in Cyprus less than three years ago,I have attended five forums or workshops on the Belt and Road Initiative. This speaks volume about the intense interests from Cypriot side. In two weeks' time the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held in Beijing. The second BRF has three things to watch for: First, the number of foreign heads of state and government expected to attend will be much larger than that of the first BRF. Second, it will be a much bigger gathering with thousands of delegates from over 100 countries. Third, there will be more side events including 12 thematic forums focusing on practical cooperation and, for the first time, a conference organized specifically for the business community.


Nowadays the global problems are getting worse, with instability and uncertainty on the rise. The international order is at a new cross-road. As the largest developing country in the world and a permanent member of the UN security council, the orientation of China's policy is of critical significance to the world's development in the 21st century.


At the new historic start, the Chinese leadership put forward the Belt and Road Initiative with a forward-looking perspective. This initiative originates from the concept of Confucius in ancient China, that is to achieve success, one should let others succeed as well. Such concept of inclusive development is reflected in the diplomatic thoughts of modern China.


Six years since it was proposed, the BRI has become the largest platform for international cooperation and the most welcomed global public goods. To date, nearly 160 countries and international organizations have signed BRI agreements with China. Thanks to BRI, people in different countries have enjoyed tangible benefits. The Maldives has built its first inter-island bridge, Kazakhstan is connected to the sea, Belarus is able to produce passenger vehicles. More than 13000 China Europe Express Railway has been operated and the Eurasian continent is benefiting from the longest-distance freight train service. In Kenya, the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway, built with Chinese assistance and dubbed "a project of the century", has created nearly 50,000 local jobs and boosted Kenya's economic growth by 1.5%.  


In Europe, BRI is also getting more and more support. Last month, President Xi paid a successful visit to three European countries. During the visit, China and Italy signed an MOU on jointly building the Belt and Road. Monaco expressed its willingness to actively participate in the joint development of the Belt and Road. China and France signed agreement on the third round of priority projects in third-party markets, and kicked off a third-party market fund. Leaders of Germany and EU also expressed their intention to develop synergies between Euroasia Connectivity and Belt and Road Initiative and conduct cooperation in an innovative manner.   


Three days ago, at the 21st China-EU Summit, Premier Li Keqiang, President Tusk and President Junker agreed to jointly safeguard multilateralism and the open world economy, respect for international law and for fundamental norms governing international relations, with the United Nations at its core, continue to forge synergies between the EU strategy on Euroasia Connectivity as well as the EU Trans-European Transport Networks and the Belt and Road Initiative, and achieve within 2019 the decisive progress required for the conclusion of an ambitious EU-China Bilateral Investment Treaty in 2020.


Cyprus enjoys an important location, with good financing channels and extensive commercial networks, and holds significant influence on its neighbouring countries and regions. Therefore it has the potential to become a critical point on the Belt and Road. Both President Nicos Anastasiades and House President Demetris Syllouris have expressed their willingness to actively participate in BRI.


Under the framework of BRI, China-Cyprus cooperation has made great achievements. On policy coordination, Chinese NPC and Cyprus parliament has signed an MOU on cooperation in October 2018. On trade facilitation, Cyrpus Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis led a delegation to China International Import Expo and signed the protocol for exporting diary products to Chinese market in November 2018. On infrastructure connectivity, Huawei Technology has helped to upgrade Cyprus' digital infrastructure such as fiber networks and has established a Communications Technology Lab with the University of Cyprus to train the next generation of talents. On Financial Integration, Cyprus has become a member of Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank in May 2017. On closer people-to-people ties, over 5000 Chinese visited Cyprus last year and this February the first China Cyprus Show Kids event was held in Larnaca, an innovative way to provide new impetus to culture exchange between China and Cyprus.


Looking ahead, there is great potential in our bilateral cooperation. We will continue to forge synergies between the BRI and Cyprus development strategies, with our bilateral economic and trade co-operations, with EU initiatives, and with the East Mediterranean regional co-operations, so as to bring the pragmatic cooperation between China and Cyprus to a higher level.


Like most new things, the development of BRI is not smooth. Some people view BRI through colored spectacles and they oppose it for the sake of objection. Some talk down BRI by asserting that it is unsustainable. Some oppose it because its success has gone beyond  their expectation.


The skeptics usually cite Sri Lanka as an example of "debt trap theory". Sri Lankan Ambassador to China explicitly denied that loans or infrastructure projects from China would plunge the country into "debt crisis".He pointed out that on one hand China never impose loans on Sri Lanka. It is Sri Lanka who makes the decision according to its own needs. On the other hand, the Colombo Port City has great commercial potential to generate revenue to pay back the debt.


In fact, during the process of the development of Belt and Road, China never impose on or attach any unacceptable conditions to others. Each and every project is the result of equal-footed consultations. The debt problem of some countries have been long existing and it is unfair to blame the BRI or China for it. Plenty of facts are proof that the BRI is not a "debt trap" that some countries may fall into, but an "economic pie" that benefits the local community; it is not a "geopolitical tool", but a great opportunity for shared development.


Currently the international landscape is undergoing profound and complicated shifts. The benefits of international cooperation on Belt and Road is increasingly playing an active role.  China will stay committed to further such international cooperation on BRI in a pragmatic manner. As the saying goes, one walks faster but group walk further. China stands ready to work with all countries including Cyprus, to uphold the principle of consultation and collaboration for shared benefits, further synergize development strategies, and jointly contribute to development and lasting prosperity of the region and beyond.


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