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A Shared Commitment to Practical Cooperation and Peaceful Development
 

By H.E. Xi Jinping

President of the People's Republic of China

Published in the Swiss newspaper Neue Zurcher Zeitung

January 13, 2017

I am very pleased to come to the beautiful country of Switzerland for my first overseas trip in 2017. This is the first time for me to visit Switzerland as Chinese President and the first state visit by a Chinese head of state in the new century.

The well-known Swiss poet and Nobel laureate Carl Spitteler once said that there is no greater happiness than having friends who share the same outlook and destiny with oneself. During my visit, I will have talks and meetings with leaders of the Swiss Federal Council and Federal Assembly and have extensive contact and discussion with people from various sectors. I will also attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2017 in Davos and visit the headquarters of UN agencies and international organizations in Geneva and Lausanne. I am very much looking forward to this trip.

I

Despite the great distance between our two countries, the Chinese people are no strangers to Switzerland. Known as the roof of Europe and a leader in innovation, Switzerland boasts beautiful landscape, hard-working people and an advanced economy.

The exchange and cooperation between us go back a long way. In the early 20th century, Swiss-made clocks and watches, medicine, textiles and mechanical products were already sold in China, and Swiss financial and insurance services also had presence there.

In 1950, Switzerland was one of the first Western countries to recognize and establish diplomatic relations with New China. In 1954, Premier Zhou Enlai led the Chinese delegation to the Geneva Conference, unveiling to the world the diplomatic style and approach of the young People' s Republic.

Shortly after China began its reform and opening-up program in the late 1970s, a Swiss company set up the first industrial joint venture in China. At the start of this century, Switzerland was among the first European countries to recognize China as a full market economy.

In recent years, Switzerland became the first European continental country to conclude and implement a free trade agreement with China. Our two countries have taken pioneering and innovative steps in our engagement with each other, such as Switzerland' s support for the internationalization of the RMB, its participation in the founding of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and mutual visa exemption for diplomatic passport-holders of our two countries. These have set a good example for cooperation between China and other European countries.

The China-Switzerland relationship is growing from strength to strength. During his state visit to China last April, President Johann Schneider-Ammann and I announced the establishment of an innovative strategic partnership between the two countries, the first of its kind for China featuring innovation. This marked a new phase of our bilateral relations.

The relations between our countries are a model of friendship and cooperation between countries that are different in size, social system and development stage. This is made possible by our people' s mutual goodwill, by a shared commitment to growing our bilateral relations on the basis of equality, innovation and win-win cooperation, and above all, by our respect for each other' s social system and development path.

In a complex and fast-changing world beset by weak economic recovery, China and Switzerland need to work together to deepen the innovative strategic partnership across the board. This will not only benefit our peoples and grow China-Europe relations, but also contribute to the steady progress of international relations, global recovery and fair trade.

Going forward, we need to deepen our engagement in the following areas:

- Maintaining high-level exchanges. We should leverage the dialogue and consultation mechanisms at various levels and show mutual understanding and support on issues concerning each other' s core interests and major concerns.

- Breaking new ground in practical cooperation. The newly established Sino-Swiss High-level Innovative Dialogue will enable us to promote collaboration between our companies, universities and research institutes and in energy conservation, environmental protection, climate change, IPR protection, financial services, eco-agriculture and social security. We may also increase coordination and cooperation at the UN and other multilateral organizations and in international affairs, work for the peaceful settlement of international disputes and promote stability in the world.

- Expanding people-to-people exchanges. With the signing of the new cultural cooperation agreement, the establishment of the Chinese cultural center in Bern and the launch of the year of tourism, we are well placed to expand people-to-people and youth exchanges, facilitate personnel visits, and beef up cooperation in tourism, winter sports and vocational education and at the subnational level. All this will help cement public support for China-Switzerland relations.

- Improving our Free Trade Area. We may actively explore the possibility of upgrading the Free Trade Agreement, and set a good example of promoting the free and open international trade and investment system. We may also step up China-Europe cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative through the AIIB and the cooperation mechanism between China and Central and Eastern European countries.

II

In September 2016, the G20 Hangzhou Summit took place by the picturesque West Lake. During the summit, China worked with other parties to strive for consensus and inject momentum into the efforts to build an innovative, invigorated, interconnected and inclusive world economy. As I make my first trip to Davos for the WEF annual meeting, I look forward to candid and in-depth exchanges with the participants. It is a good opportunity to boost confidence in rising to challenges and re-energize world economic growth.

Davos is a well-known town. At the start of each new year, people from different regions, countries and backgrounds would come and meet here. Such a meeting of minds has always been under international spotlight. This has been especially so in the wake of the global financial crisis, when the WEF annual meetings have emerged as a major platform for brainstorming, dialogue and cooperation. Sticking together in times of difficulty, this is the very spirit that has helped to put the world economy on the path of recovery.

We meet at a time of angst about the prospects of the world economy, growing backlash against economic globalization, and rising populism and trade protectionism. There is a stronger call for revisiting and changing the current paths of development, systems of wealth distribution and models of governance. The direction of the world economy is a subject of heated discussion.

China has been working with European countries, among others, to address the challenges facing global development. We have taken the initiative to adapt to the fluid external environment and the "new normal" of the Chinese economy. We have followed the vision of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development, and made good progress in deepening supply-side structural reform and fostering new growth drivers. China will continue to be a huge market supporting world economic growth, a hot destination attracting foreign investment and a contributor to the well-being of people around the world.

III

Geneva has a prominent place in the international relations of the modern era. The city has witnessed the development of inter-governmental organizations such as the UN and its specialized agencies, served as the venue for negotiating key agreements on hotspot issues, including the Iranian nuclear issue, Syria and the Middle East peace process, and facilitated the adoption of many international treaties and legal instruments, notably the Geneva Convention and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

After regaining its lawful seat in the UN and returning to various international organizations in Geneva in 1971, China has deepened its involvement in the governance of peace, security, development, human rights and social agenda, making its due contribution to the lofty cause of peace and development. Decades of hard work, especially multilateral diplomacy practised here in Geneva, has inspired the people in China and elsewhere to establish the notions and principles of sovereign equality, peaceful reconciliation, the rule of law and justice, openness and inclusiveness, and humanitarianism. These reflect both the Geneva spirit of multilateralism and the fine tradition of Chinese diplomacy.

I will visit the United Nations Office at Geneva with the following goals in mind: reviewing our shared historical journey, championing the widely accepted principles of diplomacy, exploring ways to realize the vision of building a community of shared future for mankind, and seeking ideas on how we can make the world a better place.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized UN agency dedicated to global health issues. It has done its best to improve global health governance and safeguard the well-being of all people. Health is a high priority on China' s development agenda and a key area of its international cooperation. Cooperation with the WHO has helped to improve China' s national health programs and represents a contribution to global health endeavors. I look forward to an extensive discussion with Director General Margaret Chan on this subject.

The International Olympic Movement, in its over 100 years, has played a positive role in enhancing all-round human development, deepening friendship between nations and promoting peace, development and progress. China, a long-time supporter and member of the Olympic Movement, has hosted the Beijing 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, and is actively preparing for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. I am glad to visit the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and learn from President Thomas Bach and the IOC their ideas about promoting the Olympic spirit and advancing the Olympic Movement.

In short, I look forward to my upcoming trip to Switzerland, where I will meet people from different walks of life to promote cooperation and innovation. Hopefully, the trip will give a strong impetus to China' s relations with Switzerland, Europe, the UN and the Olympic Movement in the year ahead.

(Xinhua News Agency January 14, 2017)

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