29 September 2022
Op-ed by H.E. Ambassador Jiang Yu, Special Representative for China-CEEC Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China
It is a great pleasure to visit North Macedonia in the golden season of autumn shortly after I was appointed Special Representative for China-CEEC Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China. During the visit, I had candid discussions with representatives from the North Macedonian government and parliament about how bilateral relations and China-CEEC Cooperation could be advanced in the years ahead. In just a few days, the two countries are going to celebrate the 29th anniversary of their diplomatic ties. The Chinese side stands ready to work with its North Macedonian partners to leverage the opportunities offered by China-CEEC Cooperation and the Belt and Road initiative and strive for healthy and steady growth of the bilateral relationship.
The creation of the China-CEEC Cooperation format back in 2012 offered cooperation between China and North Macedonia an additional option. Over the past decade, members the format have stayed committed to practical cooperation and worked together to put in place a number of platforms for cooperation in a wide range of areas, including trade, investment, connectivity, tourism, agriculture, culture, education as well as fighting COVID-19, based on the principles of friendly consultations, joint efforts, openness and inclusiveness and the understanding that China-CEEC Cooperation is an important part of China-EU cooperation and a useful complement. Fruitful results have been yielded, benefiting North Macedonia and all other participating parties and contributing to the overall growth of bilateral relationships between China and CEE countries. China-CEEC trade had reached 163.2 billion US dollars in 2021, up by 142.6% over 2012, including a significant growth of 150% in CEEC export of agricultural products to China. The number of Chinese tourists visiting CEECs had reached 2.166 million in 2019, a growth of nearly four times over 2012. On the bilateral side, two-way trade had reached 600 million US dollars, up by 2.6 times over 2012. The Miladinovci-Shtip Highway and Kičevo-Ohrid Highway built by Sinohydro have yielded good societal effects and economic returns and become a highlight in North Macedonia’s involvement in China-CEEC Cooperation. It is fair to say that China-CEEC Cooperation has served as another major engine driving friendly cooperation between China and North Macedonia, along with the bilateral relationship itself and China-EU cooperation, bringing real benefits to people of the two countries.
In the 10th year of China-CEEC Cooperation, we need to think about where we go from here in light of the new circumstances. I believe we need to make joint effort in the following aspects:
First, we need to stay to the general direction of cooperation. In the face of complicated and volatile international situation and the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that we stay committed to our goals with full confidence, by steadily steering the mechanism, taking advantage of its cluster effect and making sure that the format serves its purpose of reshaping and reinforcing bilateral relationship. The momentum of cooperation should not be interrupted by any individual incident. Otherwise, the common interests of all participating parties will suffer.
Second, we need to stay committed to the practical nature of the format. It has always been our shared vision to try to make the China-CEEC Cooperation cake bigger, so that everyone involved will benefit. Under the new circumstances, we need to explore new patterns of cooperation and bring into full the play the role of the format in bringing benefits to all. We need to implement what was agreed at the Beijing Summit and roll out new practical measures to take cooperation forward in such fields as trade, investment, connectivity, green economy and innovation, in the hope of delivering more visible results.
Third, we need to follow the principle of mutual trust and friendly consultation. We need to further deepen cultural and people-to-people exchanges to increase mutual understanding and amity between our people and cement popular support for China-CEEC Cooperation. Meanwhile, issues arising from cooperation should be addressed in the spirit of friendly consultation, openness and inclusiveness, to accommodate the comfort level of all parties and avoid politicizing the format or even Cold-War mentality.
Fourth, we need to seek common development through unity. China-CEEC cooperation has never been an exclusive circle, but an open platform for countries to learn from each other and draw on each other’s strengths. It is helpful that we identify a synergy between the China-CEEC format and other regional cooperation mechanisms. More flexible approaches can be adopted in the spirit of true multilateralism, as a step forward towards a community of mankind for a shared future.
Looking into the next 10 years of China-CEEC Cooperation, we are filled with confidence that as long as we work together, China-CEEC Cooperation will certainly benefit us even more.