Chinese diplomat touts benefit of Sino-Belgian ties

Updated: 2013-09-09 02:19

By Tuo Yannan and Fu Jing (China Daily)

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Belgium, a small country with state-of-the-art science and technology know-how, can play a bigger role in China's economic structural reform and grow economically by tapping into the Chinese market, China's top diplomat in the country said.

Liao Liqiang, the Chinese ambassador to Belgium, said he is optimistic about the prospects of Sino-Belgian cooperation in the high-tech sector.

Such cooperation will help China, he said, adding that the two sides are ready to expand cooperation in mutual investment, urbanization, environmental protection and agriculture modernization.

"China is committed to structural reform, and the advantages of Belgium can meet the demands of development in China," Liao told China Daily ahead of Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo's visit to China.

Liao said Belgium's expertise in microelectronics, electronic waste-processing, agriculture and the bio-pharmaceutical industry provide good opportunities for cooperation with China. "There are lots of potentials for both countries to further explore," Liao said.

He also said current relations are built from a time-honored history of cooperation and exchange.

"In 1971, the two countries established diplomatic relations, opening a new chapter in bilateral ties, which followed the friendly exchanges between the two peoples since the 17th century," he said.

The ambassador said that Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai Bell Co Ltd and Xian Janssen Pharmaceutical Ltd are joint ventures between China and Belgium, and they were the pioneers in 1980s when China started its reform and opening-up policy.

Xian Janssen Pharmaceutical Ltd, founded in 1985, is one of the earliest multinational pharmaceutical companies in the Chinese market.

The founder of the company, Paul Janssen — a renowned Belgian scientist — once said: "When you make a friend in China, it is for life. Personally I have had nothing but good contacts with the Chinese."

Liao said Sino-Belgian relations have been developing smoothly over the past 40 years and scored important achievements in recent years. Retired King Albert II's visit to China in 2005 further deepened bilateral exchanges and cooperation.

"Bilateral trade has increased from more than $20 million in 1971 to $26.3 billion in 2012, and increased more than 1,000 times. Bilateral cooperation has gradually expanded to the economy and trade, science and technology, education, culture and provincial-level partnerships," he added.

In recent years, noticeable development has also been achieved in people-to-people dialogue.

Liao said Belgium has four Confucius Institutes, and 23 Belgian elementary schools and middle schools offer courses in Mandarin.