Ambassador Cui Aimin’s Remarks at the SwedCham China Webinar

On 28 April, Ambassador Cui Aimin attended the webinar with the Swedish Chamber of Commerce China and delivered a speech themed “New Opportunities in the New Era, Jointly Create a Brighter Future for China-Sweden Economic and Trade Cooperation”. The full text of the speech is as follows:

Mr. Ludvig Nilsson,

Ms. Dong Huijuan,

Ms. Daniela Ling-Vannerus Cassmer,

Members of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce China,

Good afternoon! I am very glad to have the opportunity to participate in the webinar of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce China. Last month, I shared my views on bilateral economic and trade cooperation with the Sweden-China Trade Council. Today, I would like to exchange views with you, our friends that have long been in the Chinese market, on China’s current economic situation and the economic and trade cooperation between China and Sweden.

At present, global economic development faces many challenges, with unilateralism and protectionism on the rise, anti-globalization trends surging, and the negative impact of COVID-19 still lingering. The Ukraine crisis has aggravated the global energy crisis, food crisis, supply shortage and inflation, leaving many countries at the valley of development. Against this backdrop, China has always stood firm in upholding multilateralism and opening up, worked with other countries to tide over difficulties, and made useful contribution to the recovery of the global economy.

At the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China held last year, it was proposed that China will vigorously build itself into a great modern socialist country in all respects through a Chinese path to modernization. It is the modernization of a huge population. It is the modernization of common prosperity for all. It is the modernization of material and cultural-ethical advancement. It is the modernization of harmony between humanity and nature. It is the modernization of peaceful development. In the economic field, that is to accelerate efforts to foster a new pattern of development, which is focused on the domestic economy and features positive interplay between domestic and international economic flows, advance high level opening-up, and achieve high-quality development. As an important carrier and bond of the “dual circulation”, foreign-funded enterprises connect the links of production, distribution, exchange and consumption, which can promote the supply of high-end factor resources and promote domestic industrial transformation and consumption upgrading. China will, as always, welcome and support foreign enterprises to invest and do business in China, and create a market-oriented, law-based and international business environment for foreign enterprises to develop in China. China’s “Two Sessions” held in March made specific implementation plans for the guidelines set out at the 20th National Congress of the CPC, that is, we will make greater efforts to attract and utilize foreign investment, expand market access and open up the modern service sector, and ensure national treatment for foreign enterprises. At the same time, we will further expand domestic market demand, build a modern industrial system, and promote green transformation of the development model. We will effectively guard against and defuse major economic and financial risks, and vigorously develop social programs. These policies and measures will bring huge development opportunities to foreign enterprises.

Facts show that the development direction set by China is correct and the policies it has formulated are effective. Since the beginning of this year, with the optimization and adjustment of epidemic prevention and control measures and the introduction of a series of policies and measures, the Chinese economy has enjoyed a strong recovery, with a more smooth economic circulation and significantly improved market expectations. In the first quarter and on year-on-year basis, consumption recovered rapidly. Retail sales of consumer goods increased by 5.8%, and the CPI rise was kept within a reasonable range of 1.3%. Industrial recovery has been strong, with the added value of industrial enterprises above designated scale growing by 3%, and the manufacturing PMI staying in the booming zone for three consecutive months. The import and export of goods increased by 4.8%, the utilized foreign capital increased by 4.9%, and the non-financial direct investment increased by 26.3%. The internationalization of the RMB has also accelerated. Compared with last year, the 4.5% growth of the Chinese economy in the first quarter has given the international community full confidence in China's economic development. The IMF and the OECD have raised their forecasts for China's economic growth this year to 5.2% and 5.3% respectively. It is foreseeable that the giant ship of the Chinese economy will ride through the wind and waves, make steady progress, and provide greater impetus and contribution to the world economy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Since I started working here, I’ve had extensive and positive exchanges with Swedish people of all walks of life. From what I learned during my visits, I think there are three features in China-Sweden economic and trade relations:

First, the foundation of cooperation is solid. In history, our two peoples have enjoyed close ties, conducted mutual learning between civilizations and time-honored cultural exchanges. There are no historical grievances or geographical disputes between our two countries. Sweden was the first western country to establish diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China and the first country to sign a bilateral investment protection treaty with China. Since China’s reform and opening up, Swedish companies have taken an active part in China's reform and development, and bilateral trade cooperation has been stable for a long time. At present, the economic development goals of China and Sweden are highly compatible. Both countries attach great importance to green, low-carbon and sustainable development and have set carbon neutrality goals. Both sides firmly support multilateralism, free trade and economic globalization. I believe that thanks to the profound friendship and solid foundation of cooperation, enterprises of both sides will fully benefit from the cooperation and continuously promote the sound and steady development of bilateral relations.

Second, the cooperation relationship is close. China and Sweden share the same direction of development, vision and demands, and have shown great resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sweden is now China’s 10th largest trading partner and 3rd largest investment destination in the EU, while China is Sweden’s largest trading partner in Asia. More than 10,000 Swedish companies are trading with China, and more than 500 are operating in China. Last year, our bilateral trade in goods remained stable and two-way investment increased substantially. Sweden invested 540 million USD in China, up by 80% year on year; China's investment in Sweden reached 1.05 billion USD, a year-on-year increase of 76%, which shows the great enthusiasm and vitality of cooperation between Chinese and Swedish enterprises. A number of new highlights of bilateral cooperation have emerged in the fields of new energy, new materials, electric vehicles and infrastructure. Many Chinese new energy companies have invested and set up factories in Sweden. Chinese electric vehicle brands such as Xpeng and MG have entered the Swedish market. Scania has set up a truck base in Rugao, Jiangsu Province. ABB has set up a robot factory in Shanghai. All these show the dynamic economic and trade cooperation between the two sides.

Third, the cooperation has bright prospects. The industrial structures of China and Sweden, with their own characteristics and strengths, are highly complementary. On one hand, Sweden is at a high level of development. It has advanced technologies, products and managerial expertise in areas such as environmental protection, high-end manufacturing, bio-medicine, smart agriculture and creative industries, which China can learn from. On the other hand, China has a huge internal market, a complete industrial system, a full portfolio of value chains and sound infrastructure conditions. China is making major efforts to promote industrial structural upgrading and high-quality economic development, which provides development opportunities for foreign companies including those from Sweden. The complementarities of the economic development of China and Sweden make the two countries natural and well-paired partners. The potential for development is tremendous.

The future of bilateral cooperation will be defined by scientific and technological innovation and green and low-carbon development. Currently, over 80% of two-way investment concentrates on areas of new energy, environmental protection and sustainability, which shows the strategic vision of the Chinese and Swedish entrepreneurs. The Chinese and Swedish enterprises not only need to maintain the production and sales in traditional industries, but also need to explore cooperation in innovative areas such as green and low-carbon development, digitalization and intelligentization, and expand development space.

Ladies and gentlemen,

You have long been rooted in the Chinese market, and you are the participants, witnesses and contributors to China’s reform and development. Practical cooperation benefits both sides and the two peoples. Next, I would like to share our views on how to better carry out practical cooperation and promote the development of bilateral relations:

The first is to seize the opportunities of China’s development, and be committed to the Chinese market. The Chinese government always honors its commitment with real actions. Now the Chinese government at all levels is putting economic work on top of its agenda. It is sparing no efforts in stabilizing economic growth, employment and prices, and expanding domestic demand. It is foreseeable that the Chinese economy will unleash greater energy and embrace a brighter prospect. I read the China Business Climate Survey 2022, conducted by SwedCham, Business Sweden and Swedish diplomatic missions in China. The report shows that 72% of Swedish companies in China were profitable in 2022, the highest in the Asia-Pacific and 9% higher than the previous year. Among Swedish companies in China, 61% will increase investment in the country, which shows that the companies are generally satisfied with the operation and development of their business in China. In March, Business Sweden established an office in Shenzhen, which is its third in China after its Beijing and Shanghai offices. It shows the Swedish business community’s optimism about the prospect of China’s economic development. I hope the Swedish enterprises will keep their faith and focus on China’s economic development, and bring more high-quality products, services, technologies and concepts into China, and share China’s development dividends.

The second is to fully participate in the high-quality economic and social development of China. The Chinese economy is currently at a key stage of transition and upgrading. While vigorously advancing green and innovation-driven development, it is also facing a number of challenging realities including an aging population. In view of the needs of China’s economic and social development in the current stage and the characteristics and strengths of Sweden in various fields, the Swedish enterprises, I believe, should actively participate in the green transition, scientific and technological innovation and the work to address the aging population of China. As the world’s largest carbon emitter, China has set the development goals to reduce carbon emission and realize a green transition. For Swedish enterprises to conduct green and low-carbon cooperation with China is not only a contribution to China’s green transition, but also a positive participation in mankind’s efforts to combat climate change. Sweden is established on innovation. For Swedish companies to pay more attention to the new technologies and industries, and strengthen their research and development presence and research basis in their cooperation with China, is helpful for their own development in innovation. China has the world’s largest elderly population, and Sweden has clear strengths in community-based elderly care, home-based assisted care and classification and category-based elderly care management systems. We welcome Swedish companies to enter the market of elderly care in China, bring in new concepts, services and technologies, and participate in the process of China’s implementation of the strategy on population aging.

The third is to jointly foster a good atmosphere for cooperation. The economic and trade cooperation between China and Sweden cannot prosper without a good environment and atmosphere, which requires our joint efforts to create and maintain. For a long time, China-Sweden economic and trade cooperation is defined by friendly cooperation and win-win benefits. In recent years, however, affected and misled by factors in various aspects, some people in Sweden have developed misunderstandings and bias on China, which weakened the Swedish companies’ commitment to the Chinese market and the operation and development of Chinese companies in Sweden. The entrepreneurs here at the webinar have long been rooted in the Chinese market, and you have a deep understanding on the real situation in China. I hope you will share more objective situation of China’s economic development with the various sectors of the Swedish society, tell more real stories of win-win cooperation, and foster a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I feel that today’s webinar is a very good way of communication. I hope in the future there will be more opportunities for us to exchange views and communicate with each other, to learn about the development of Swedish enterprises in China, to hear your suggestions and needs, and to help us better fulfill our duty. The Chinese Embassy in Sweden is willing to provide assistance to resolve the problems in your cooperation with China.

Let me conclude by sincerely thanking all of you for the positive contribution to China-Sweden friendly practical cooperation, and extending good wishes for the success of SwedCham and its member companies. Let us join hands and work actively for a brighter future of China-Sweden economic and trade cooperation and create benefits for the two countries and two peoples!

Thank you!