New Era, New Opportunities and New Progress
--Speech by Ambassador Wang Min at the Norwegian Rail Conference
（From Chinese Embassy in Norway）
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. It is a great pleasure to attend the Norwegian Rail Conference and deliver a speech here. I'm really interested in this Conference's topics. Since enhancing infrastructure connectivity is one of the pillars of the Belt and Road Initiative, it's a suitable occasion to talk about the Belt and Road Initiative at the Rail Conference. In this regard, I would like to make the following three points:
Firstly, I will make a general briefing on the Belt and Road Initiative.
Over 2,000 years ago, our ancestors opened the transcontinental passage connecting Asia, Europe and Africa, known today as the Silk Road. Our ancestors, navigating rough seas, created sea routes linking the East with the West as well, namely, the maritime Silk Road. These ancient silk routes opened ways of commercial, personnel and cultural exchanges among nations at that time. But today, on this increasingly multi-polar, economically globalized, digitized and culturally diversified earth, we find ourselves in a world full of challenges. Global growth requires new drivers, development needs to be more inclusive and balanced, and the gap between the rich and the poor needs to be narrowed. Hotspots in some regions are causing instability and terrorism is rampant. Deficit in peace, development and governance poses a daunting challenge to mankind.
Based on deep reflections on the above-mentioned challenges, in the autumn of 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the building of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, that is, the Belt and Road Initiative. The aim of this initiative is through historic synergistic development and win-win cooperation, to realize policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds, and tackle common challenges faced by mankind.
As President Xi Jinping pointed out, the Belt and Road Initiative is open to all other countries. Since the inception of the initiative, China has stayed committed to the principle of wide consultation, joint construction and shared benefits, and discussing and doing things together with others to produce benefits for all. Over four years on, we have seen the Initiative gradually translated from a concept into actions, and has become a remarkable success. It has been written into important resolutions of the UN General Assembly and the Security Council. Over 100 countries and international organizations have voiced their support and interest in participating in this Initiative, and over 80 countries and international organizations have signed cooperation agreements with China. From 2014 to 2017, trade between China and countries along the routes exceeded 4 trillion US dollars. Chinese investment in these countries topped 60 billion US dollars. As of the end of 2017, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank had approved over 3.7 billion US dollars in financing for over 20 projects. The Silk Road Fund had signed agreements on 17 projects, pledging 7 billion US dollars in investment.
Except for economic achievements, the Belt and Road Initiative also made a lot of progress on cultural and people-to-people cooperation on multiple levels and in a wide range of areas, and encourages exchanges and cooperation on education, science and technology, culture, health, tourism and sports. As of the end of 2017, there were 734 pairs of sister cities between China and 53 countries along the routes. Mutual visa exemption or visa-on-arrival arrangements were agreed between China and many countries along the routes.
In May last year, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was successfully held in Beijing, which achieved more than 270 concrete results. At this Forum, President Xi Jinping chartered a blueprint for the future development of the Belt and Road Initiative. He stressed the importance of steadfastly building an open global economy, reminding us that those who pursue protectionism will lock themselves in a dark room deprived of light and air. President Xi also put forward China's proposal for boosting global growth and making globalization more balanced. He called for joint efforts to develop a model of innovation-driven growth, open and win-win cooperation, fair and equitable governance, and balanced and inclusive development. These ideas have many similarities with policies of Norway.
As you may know, China published a white paper on its Arctic policy in January this year, and proposed to jointly understand, protect, develop and participate in the governance of the Arctic, and advance Arctic-related cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, which will bring opportunities for parties concerned to jointly build a "Polar Silk Road", and facilitate connectivity and sustainable economic and social development of the Arctic. We're sure it will bring lots of opportunities for China-Norway cooperation in many areas.
Secondly, since today's conference is the major conference for rail community in Norway, I will make a brief introduction on Chinese high-speed rail and China Railway Express train on this occasion.
China has a vast territory and a large population. Therefore, its infrastructure construction truly bears on its people's livelihood improvement. The Chinese government highly values transportation infrastructure construction and upgrading, and with 40 years' development since the reform and opening-up, China now enjoys advanced technology and production capacity, high cost-performance and global competitiveness in the transportation infrastructure field. In particular, with leading technology innovation and application, high-speed rail has now become one of the most convenient and fastest transportation means for Chinese people to get around and travel as well as a "golden business card" of China's equipment manufacturing.
So far, China has built the world's largest high-speed rail network on its land--25,000 kilometers as of the end of 2017, accounting for 66.3 percent of the world's total. According to Chinese Government's plan, the high-speed rail tracks will hit 38,000 km by 2025. Even in 2018, its fixed asset investment on railways will be about 112 billion US dollars, aiming to build 4,000 km of new rail lines this year, 3,500 km of which will be high-speed rail tracks. Here I'd like to take the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway as an example. This railway was built to the world's highest standards, and was designed to run at a maximum speed of 350 kph, which only takes 4 hours and a half to get to destination, the distance of which is similar to that of Oslo and Tromsø. At my meetings with some Norwegian businessmen who took the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway, they told me the journeys were fantastic, and they were deeply impressed by the train's high-speed, modern equipment, clean and tidy circumstance, punctual arrival, safety and comfort.
As part of the Belt and Road Initiative, the launch of the rail freight service ushered in a new era for freight on rail as an alternative to shipping by sea or air. The importance of China's rail link to Europe was highlighted in a white paper issued by the Chinese government in March 2015, entitled Joining Hands to Build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road–Vision and Actions. China Railway Express train has now connected more than 30 Chinese cities to 36 cities in 13 European countries, including Germany, England, Russia, Poland, Spain and so on. Last year, 3,600 cargo train trips were made between China and European cities, surpassing the previous six years combined. China Railway Express ran its first freight train between China's Yiwu and London last year. This offered a new, on-land option for the movement of goods between China and Britain, opened the last mile of the China-Europe Express Railway and extended the "Belt and Road" to the very western end of Europe. The entire route is almost 12,500km and takes about 18 days, one month less than maritime transport and just about 20% of air transport in cost. Also last year, Finland became the first Nordic country to have direct freight train link to China. It only takes ten days for trains from Finland to travel the 8,000km route through Russia and Kazakhstan to China. More Scandinavian goods including electronic devices, spare parts, and agricultural specialties such as blueberry and salmon will be exported to China and equivalent cargoes from China will be exported to the Nordic countries in the future. The China Railway Express service, seen as the "Belt and Road on rail", helps boost connectivity between China and the rest of Eurasia. An interconnected network has begun to replace uncoordinated individual cargo lines. In addition to offering freight transport solutions, it contributes to flows of global investment, resources, technology and skilled personnel, and facilitates global cross-sector collaboration.
Thirdly, I will make some comments on China-Norway exchanges and cooperation.
We are pleased to see that, since the normalization of China-Norway relations in December 2016, bilateral cooperation in all fields has been resumed quickly and comprehensively. Prime Minister Solberg and Storting President Thommessen paid successful visits to China. The political mutual trust of our two countries has been consolidated continuously. The practical cooperation has been strengthened greatly in the fields of energy, maritime, environmental protection, science and technology, innovation and local affairs. For example, a Chinese company built the world's largest salmon farming cage for Norway last year, another Chinese company is building Norway's second longest bridge in Narvik, and the Free Trade Agreement negotiation between China and Norway is going on positively. Exchanges in the areas of culture, education, tourism and sports have been flourishing as well. The development of China-Norway relations is showing a positive and sound momentum.
Another important opportunity for promoting cooperation between China and Norway is the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China which was held last October, with a close relationship with the Belt and Road Initiative and China-Norway relations. The Congress has achieved major theoretical innovations, ultimately giving shape to the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and adopted a two-stage development strategy for achieving socialist modernization in China, which is to build China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful by the middle of the century.
To realize the above-mentioned strategic goals, China will apply a new vision of development, develop a modernized economy, and further supply-side structural reform, which has provided new opportunities for China-Norway relations. Norway has gained success and experience in marine engineering, innovation, social security, green economy and sustainable development, which are highly consistent with the key development areas established during the 19th Congress. During Prime Minister Solberg's visit to China last April, leaders of our two countries have exchanged views in depth on cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative. Norway has an obvious geographic advantage, and is a natural partner to China in realizing Eurasia connectivity. Norway joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a founding member in 2015. These factors provide good basis for deepening China-Norway cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
China has crossed the threshold into a new era, so has China-Norway relationship, which has provided new and important opportunities for the development of bilateral relations. Looking ahead, we can see that the future of China-Norway relations is bright and promising. We must seize the day, seize the hour, and seize the opportunities, work together to strengthen cooperation in all areas, including cooperation on connectivity and infrastructure, and achieve new progress to promote our bilateral relations towards a better tomorrow, which will benefit our two peoples.