Former Cyprus ambassador Dr Andrestinos Papadopoulos interviews the Chinese ambassador Liu Xinsheng
Q: China has been the fastest-growing economy in the world for the last decade or more with growth rates the developed world could not even dream of. However, the Chinese leadership has taken the decision to undertake major reforms in the economic, political, cultural, social and environmental areas. Can you give us more details?
A: Since the late 1970s, reform has made a world of difference in China. The Chinese economy grew by 10 per cent a year on average for 35 years running. The Chinese have remarkably improved their lives and over 200 million have been lifted out of absolute poverty, representing the single biggest achievement of the UN millennium goals.
China has its share of challenges as well. How to nurture domestic drivers of the economy like consumption and the services sector? How to balance rural and urban development? How to create more jobs for increasing urban residents in their millions? How to uphold equity while promoting efficiency? How to protect the environment? None of these challenges can be easily dealt with. Some of the old ingredients in the recipe for China’s success may no longer be as useful as before. China has to find new sources of growth in a new era.
That’s why at the just concluded Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Chinese leadership has taken the decision to comprehensively deepen reforms in economic, political, cultural, social and environmental areas. Reform is the keyword of the day. It gives us a powerful tool to instill fresh vitality into the economy and ensure its sustained and sound growth well into the future. The pilot initiative of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone is just a start. Market forces will now have a decisive role to play in allocating resources.
Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed late last year the ‘Chinese Dream’ of the great renewal of China. To make the dream come true, the Chinese people are making every effort to attain the ‘Two Centenary Goals’ put forward at the 18th Party Congress. The first is to fully complete development of a moderately prosperous society by the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC in 2021. The second is to build China into a prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious modernised socialist country by the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 2049.
A China that is committed to these ambitious goals through reform and development offers enormous opportunities to Cyprus and the rest of the world. Just last month, China successfully landed its very first unmanned spacecraft on the moon, and its lunar rover explored the moon surface. The Chinese are cooperating with the French to build nuclear power plants in the UK. China has the world’s fastest super computer and fastest bullet trains and is willing to share with the world its expertise and technological know-how. It invests about 50 billion US dollars a year overseas. It imports nearly two trillion US dollars worth of goods a year. More than 80 million Chinese tourists went abroad last year. The figure is expected to exceed 100 million in two years’ time.
Q: Over the years our bilateral relations have reached remarkable standards. Can you give us an overall assessment of these relations and how do you see them expanding in the future, especially now that Cyprus is a member of the European Union?
A: This year marks the 42nd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Cyprus. The friendship between our countries has a long history and is deeply rooted in the hearts of the people. In recent years, China-Cyprus relations have entered a new stage, with enhanced mutual political trust, broader economic and trade ties and stronger people-to-people exchanges. Be it trade, property development and sales, tourism, renewable energy, or infrastructure development and investment, there is a lot that the two countries can do together.
According to Chinese Customs Statistics, our bilateral trade in 2012 reached 940 million euro, up by 14.8 per cent year-on-year, a strong growth when major trading nations were slowed down by economic crisis. And from January to September of this year, Cypriot exports to China totaled 31 million euros, up by 51.8 per cent over the same period of the previous year. This means despite all the hardships, Cyprus has registered a positive growth of exports to China for 10 consecutive years. China is Cyprus’ eighth-largest trading partner. The sound and smooth development of economic and trading relations between our countries has brought and will continue to bring real and tangible benefits to the peoples of the two countries.
Giorgos Lakkotrypis, Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, has just paid a successful visit to China and met with a host of Chinese ministers. He brought with him a large Cypriot business delegation to Beijing and Shanghai. Kyriakos Kenevezos, Minister of Education and Culture also visited China recently and discussed with his Chinese counterparts how to step up educational and cultural exchanges and cooperation between our two countries. Chinese Vice Minister of Culture visited Cyprus two months ago and signed a bilateral agreement on protecting cultural property with Tasos Mitsopoulos, Minister of Communications and Works. Meanwhile, many Chinese people are turning their eyes to this beautiful island and entering Cyprus property market at a fast pace. According to statistics, the direct investment from China to Cyprus has been rising rapidly, with the Chinese purchasing around 100 million US dollars worth of immovable property alone in 2011.
Cyprus is always a trustworthy friend for Chinese people. China stands ready to deepen practical cooperation with Cyprus in such fields as trade, tourism, real estate, energy and infrastructure, expand cultural and people-to-people exchanges, and strengthen communication and coordination in regional, European Union and global affairs. We are confident that with the joint efforts of the leaderships, governments and people in both countries, we will continue to benefit from this longstanding and ever growing relationship between two very friendly nations. As everyone is still celebrating the New Year, I’d like to wish the Cypriot people a very Happy New Year.
Q: As a permanent member of the UN Security Council China is playing a prominent role in world affairs. How is this influencing the Cyprus Problem and what is your position on it?
A: China and Cyprus have a traditional friendship and respect and trust each other. Over the years, our two countries have rendered understanding and support to each other on our respective core concerns. One China and one Cyprus are our shared conviction.
The Chinese side consistently believes that the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus should be fully respected. And the Cyprus issue should be resolved in a fair and reasonable way on the basis of relevant UN resolutions.
The Chinese side follows closely the current negotiations and hopes that with the concerted efforts of all parties, the two Cypriot communities will seize the good opportunity, make the best use of all positive factors, adhere to principles and at the same time be pragmatic and flexible, gradually narrowing their differences through negotiations, work out a solution acceptable to both sides, and put an end to a divided nation and achieve reunification at an early date.