Remarks by Ambassador Cui Aimin at the Webinar with the Swedish Chamber of Commerce China

On 19 March, Chinese Ambassador to Sweden Cui Aimin attended the Webinar with the Swedish Chamber of Commerce China and delivered remarks. The full text is as follows:

Respected Chairman Ludvig Nilsson,

Dear friends from the business community,

Good afternoon!

It gives me great pleasure to participate in the webinar with entrepreneurs of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce China. First of all, on behalf of the Chinese Embassy in Sweden, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the Swedish Chamber of Commerce China for your efforts to strengthen China-Sweden economic and trade relations, and express my appreciation to members of SwedCham China for taking root in China and actively participating in China's economic construction. Today, I would like to share a few thoughts on China-Sweden relations and bilateral economic and trade cooperation.

First, China’s economy is moving forward steadily, injecting strong impetus into the development of the world economy.

First of all, the Chinese economy rebounded and moved upward with the GDP growth rate ranking at the forefront among the world’s major economies. The level of opening up continued to advance. Foreign trade has showed strong resilience. The consumer market has huge potential. In 2023, China's GDP grew by 5.2%, contributing 32% to the global economic growth. China is still the largest engine of the world economy growth. China attracted 163.25 billion US dollars of foreign investment, and the structure of foreign investment in actual use was further optimized. China’s import and export volume reached 5.94 trillion US dollars, maintaining the world’s largest trading country in goods for seven consecutive years, and the global market share of China’s exports remained stable. Consumption expenditure contributed 82.5% to economic growth, driving economic growth by 4.3 percentage points. In the backdrop of interwoven difficulties and challenges of sluggish world economic recovery, acute geopolitical conflicts, rising protectionism and unilateralism, China's economy grew in a wave-like fashion amid twists and turns and the achievements did not come easily.

Secondly, China has four advantages, namely the distinctive institutional strength, vast market demand, a complete industrial system to ensure supply, and a huge and high-caliber workforce. The socialist market economic system can not only give full play to the advantages of the market economy, but also leverage the strength in pooling resources behind major undertakings. China has a middle-income group of more than 400 million people and is the second-largest consumer market, the largest online retail market and the second-largest import market. China is the world's largest manufacturing country and the only country in the world that owns all the categories in the UN industrial classification system. The total number of skilled personnel reaches 220 million and the total number of research and development personnel ranks first in the world. China has a number of world-class entrepreneurs. China’s economic development has strong endogenous power, resilience and potential.

Thirdly, as the second largest economy in the world, China has formed good and stable fundamentals in its long-term development. Even if there are some twists and turns, the overall trend of long-term growth will not change. In the process of transformation and upgrading, China’s economy is indeed facing some problems that cannot be ignored, but we have started to overcome and solve them. In view of the weakness of the real estate industry, we adopted 16 financial measures and a “three arrows” policy combination from the three financing channels of credit, bonds, and equity to promote the real estate market to develop steadily and healthily. Faced with the unexpected recovery of consumption, we take a full range of steps of increasing incomes, optimizing supply and stimulating potential demand to promote new consumption represented by green, health and intelligence. In order to improve the investment trend, 700 billion RMB will be earmarked in the central government budget for investment this year. We will also encourage private investment in major projects and will do more to remove various barriers so that private investment can enter, develop, and play its part in more fields. We will ensure national treatment for foreign-funded enterprises, strengthen services for foreign investors, build the “Invest in China” brand and make it easier for foreign nationals to work, study, and travel in China.

The 2024 Government Work Report sets China’s GDP growth rate at around 5% for this year. In setting this target, it takes account of evolving dynamics at home and abroad and other relevant factors and reflects the requirements to pursue progress and to strive to deliver. The IMF predicts that China’s economic growth will continue to be higher than the global growth rate from 2024 to 2028. It will be significantly higher than the growth rate of developed economies, and continue to be at the forefront of emerging economies and developing countries. China will advance toward a bright future.

Second, the economic and trade relations between China and Sweden are generally stable, and there is still great potential for future cooperation.

China and Sweden have a long history of economic and trade exchanges. Sweden was the first western country to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China and also the first country to sign a bilateral investment protection agreement with China. For a long time, bilateral friendly exchanges and pragmatic cooperation have brought tangible benefits for the two countries and the two peoples, laying solid foundation for the future cooperation between enterprises. At present, the two countries continue to be each other’s largest trading partner in Asia and the Nordic region. In 2023, the economic and trade cooperation between China and Sweden encountered some difficulties, but there were also many highlights.

Firstly, the bilateral trade in goods and two-way investment declined. In 2023 the bilateral trade volume decreased by 8.2%. Swedish investment in China dropped by 18.2% and Chinese investment went down by 23.7%. But we don’t need to be pessimistic about this. It is normal for bilateral trade and two-way investment to have ups and downs. The economic and trade structure between China and Sweden is constantly optimized and adjusted, and the proportion of cooperation in emerging areas is increasing. The economic and trade cooperation between China and Sweden will surely develop more steadily, go further and be better.

Secondly, there are many achievements in major projects. A large number of cooperation highlights have emerged in the fields of new energy, new materials, electric vehicles and infrastructure. Chinese companies such as Senior Material, Kedali and Lead Intelligent have continuously deepened their cooperation with Northvolt in the field of lithium batteries. PTL is about to land in Sweden. The first batch of three Stockholm Metro Extension Line projects delivered by CRTG Engineering has all been evaluated as excellent by CEEQUAL and two other subway extension lines are under smooth construction. Scania’s second phase project in Rugao Jiangsu has broken ground, which adds powertrain production apart from the whole vehicle project. In 2023, Scania’s engine sales in China climbed to the top three in its global market. In February this year, the foundation-laying ceremony of Volvo Automobile Asia-Pacific Headquarters fourth phase was held in Shanghai, providing continuous empowerment for the development, electrification transformation and talent system of Volvo Automobile in the Chinese market. ABB’s new factory in Shanghai is praised as its most leading intelligent factory model with the highest degree of automation and flexibility. China has become AstraZeneca’s second largest global market and an important growth engine.

Thirdly, the Swedish community remains enthusiastic about cooperation with China. Since I took office two years ago, in order to have a deeper understanding of Sweden and explore more Sino-Swedish cooperation opportunities, I’ve visited many Swedish regions, dozens of chambers of commerce, companies, Swedish well-known professionals in the fields of science and technology and education, and exchanged views with hundreds of Swedish people from all walks of life. Among them, there are large enterprises, large consortiums, but also small and medium-sized enterprises. There are industries in traditional manufacturing, but also new energy, new materials, and other emerging industries. I am deeply impressed with each visit and I would like to share my feelings with you. 

First, Swedish corporation has its unique culture. Relaxing work environment, flat management structure, and unique FIKA culture are common characteristics of Swedish companies. At the same time, different companies also adhere to their own unique corporate cultures and develop a value concept that focuses on quality, safety, practicality, and environmental protection, which is widely approved by consumers from China, Sweden as well as other countries.

Second, Swedish enterprises have strong scientific and technological innovation capabilities. Sweden’s innovation capabilities ranked among the world’s top, with high-level scientific and technological development and modernized industries. In particular, small and medium-sized enterprises generally have unique competitiveness and strong research and development capabilities, forming the backbone of this innovative country, I believe they present an important growth point for future cooperation between China and Sweden.

Last but not least, most Swedish enterprises are willing to conduct economic and trade cooperation with China. Most Swedish enterprises are optimistic about China's economic prospects. In the view of Swedish small and medium-sized enterprises, Chinese people are pragmatic, barely talking but mostly working. They feel reassured about doing business with Chinese and hope to have the opportunity to cooperate with more Chinese companies in the future for a win-win partnership. Mr Cocozza has participated in the Canton Fair for more than 100 times since 1966, and become a far-spread story of Sino-Sweden economic and trade cooperation. The cooperation between Geely and Volvo is also a benchmark in China-Sweden mutually beneficial cooperation.

Third, seize opportunities, deepen cooperation, and continuously move the bilateral relations forward.

The first is to strengthen confidence and seize market opportunities. Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly emphasized that China's door to the outside world will still open wider. We will continue to proactively benchmark against international high-standard economic and trade rules, continue to shorten the negative list for foreign investment, remove restrictions on foreign investment access in the manufacturing sector, and release market access to telecommunications, medical, and other service industries. We will continue to host major expos such as the China International Import Expo, Canton Fair, and Consumer Expo, implement the free trade pilot zone improvement strategy, create new highland for opening up, and share China's market opportunities with other countries around the world. A survey conducted by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China shows that 59% of the companies surveyed regard China as one of the top three investment destinations. The Business Confidence Survey Report by the German Chamber of Commerce in China shows that 91% of the German companies surveyed will continue to operate in the Chinese market, and more than half of the surveyed companies plan to increase investment in China in the next two years. The latest survey report released by the American Chamber of Commerce in China shows that more than half of the American companies surveyed rank China as the first or top three investment destinations in the world. “De-risking” with China means decoupling from opportunities. We hope that the Swedish companies in China can seize the opportunities and grow together with the Chinese market.

The second is to tap potential and deepen green cooperation. The Report on the Work of the Chinese Government 2024 emphasizes the vigorous development of a green and low-carbon economy, which is also one of Sweden's advantages. While consolidating traditional cooperation areas, Sweden and China can actively explore new areas of cooperation such as green, low-carbon, and environmental protection, and invest more in new energy and new materials, innovative medicines, bio-manufacturing and other fields, so as to continuously expand cooperation space. At the same time, in the fields of new quality productive forces such as artificial intelligence and big data, our two countries also have great potential to tap. I hope that high-tech enterprises in the two countries, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, can focus on green development, continue to release potential and expand cooperation.

The third is to explore new models to carry out trilateral cooperation. Swedish multinational companies have strong capabilities, and small and medium-sized enterprises have large growth potential and are highly complementary to Chinese companies. The technological and product advantages of Swedish companies combined with China's capital and market advantages will burst out huge energy and reach the effect of 1+1 greater than 2. We could further innovate cooperation models, work together to explore third-party markets, especially the “Belt and Road” market, use Swedish technology to contribute to the development of developing and underdeveloped countries, and jointly promote the realization of the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The fourth is to strengthen exchanges and interactions, and tell a good story of win-win cooperation between China and Sweden. Amity between the people holds the key to sound state-to-state relations. All members of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce China are companies that have been engaged in cooperation with China for years. You have long rooted in the Chinese market and have a good understanding of China. I hope you will share with Swedish people from all walks of life the realities of China's economic development, to help Swedish people have a clearer and more accurate view on China, bring more Swedish friends from the business community to invest and establish businesses in China, and make greater contributions to promoting stable and healthy development of bilateral relations. We will, as always, provide services and assistance to the best of our ability for Swedish friends to develop in China.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all good health, a prosperous career and a bright future, and wish this event a great success!

Thank you!