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The Next China is Still China




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In 2023, while the global economic recovery was unstable and losing momentum, China’s economy continued to rebound and China made solid progress in high-quality development despite external pressure and internal challenges - writes Wu Gang, Chargé d'Affaires a.i. of the Embassy of China in Belgium.

At the same time, comments predicting the collapse of China’s economy surged again. Whether it is about “overcapacity”, “debt crisis”, or “stalling economy”, these comments are like old wine in new bottles. After going through various challenges to get to where it is today, China’s development did not collapse as predicted by the “China collapse theory”, nor will it peak as forecasted by the “China peak theory”. The Chinese economy enjoys strong resilience, tremendous potential and great vitality. China has the confidence, resolve and capability to ensure sustained and sound economic development.

The basic trend of China’s economic recovery and long-term growth has not changed. In 2023, China’s GDP exceeded RMB 126 trillion yuan (approximately 16 trillion euros), an increase of 5.2 per cent over the previous year. The growth rate ranked among the top of the world’s major economies. China contributed over 30 per cent to world economic growth, remaining the biggest engine for the world economy. In the past year, China’s final consumption expenditure contributed 82.5 per cent to economic growth, and a long-term mechanism for economic growth driven by greater domestic demand is in place. Last year, China’s total import and export of goods reached RMB 41.76 trillion yuan (approximately 5.3 trillion euros). Exports of the “new trio,” namely, electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries, and photovoltaic products increased by 29.9 per cent year-on-year. China became the world’s largest automobile exporter for the first time. The IMF forecasts global growth of 3.1 per cent in 2024. China will continue to be an important engine for world economic growth, bringing certainty and positive energy to a global economy filled with uncertainty.

The demand of China’s mega-sized market has created huge consumption momentum. China’s per capita GDP reached US$ 12,000. China has a middle-income group of 400 million people, which is expected to reach 800 million people in ten years. The consumption potential brought about is huge. In this year’s Spring Festival holiday, 474 million domestic trips were made, a total of RMB 632.687 billion yuan (approximately 80 billion euros) was spent by travellers, and about 3.6 million people travelled abroad. According to data from relevant tourism platforms, during the Spring Festival, the number of overseas flights booked by Chinese tourists increased by 13 times, and that of overseas hotel bookings increased by four times. As for China and Belgium, during Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo’s visit to China in January, the Chinese side announced the lifting of the ban on Belgian pork products over African swine fever. Belgian pork company Westvless predicts that this will create additional income of 4.5 million euros per year for pig farmers in Belgium. According to Chinese statistics, in January, Belgian exports to China grew by 32.1 percent over the same period of last year. Furthermore, Solvay announced that the Shandong Huatai Interox Chemical site, its joint venture, will expand the production capacity of photovoltaic-grade hydrogen peroxide to 48,000 tonnes by 2025. China-Belgium cooperation, with its tangible outcomes, has become a fine example of win-win results that benefit the people.

China will open its doors still wider, bringing more opportunities to foreign businesses. Chinese Premier Li Qiang sent out an important message in this year’s Report on the Work of the Government that China will pursue higher-standard opening-up and promote mutual benefits. Last year, China attracted RMB 1.1 trillion yuan of foreign investment (approximately 140 billion euros), and the number of new foreign-invested enterprises increased by 39.7 per cent year-on-year. Statistics show that the return on foreign direct investment in China over the past five years stands at around nine per cent, which is about three times that of Europe and the United States. More than 90 per cent of the foreign-funded enterprises surveyed expect that the profit rate of investment in China will remain the same or increase in the next five years. The Chinese market has become increasingly attractive for foreign investors. Recently, China has announced a visa-free policy for six countries including Belgium, and direct flights from Shanghai to Brussels are about to resume. These measures will surely further boost people-to-people exchanges between China and Belgium. The Chinese side hopes that more countries will provide visa facilitation to Chinese citizens. China is ready to work with other countries to build fast-track networks for cross-border travel, make it more convenient for Chinese citizens to travel abroad, and make foreign friends feel at home in China, so as to jointly contribute to the economic development of our countries.

The next China is still China. The continued high-quality development of China’s economy and the advancement of Chinese modernization will bring more benefits to the world and contribute more impetus to global development. Embracing China means embracing opportunities; investing in China means investing in the future. Advocating an equal and orderly multipolar world and a universally beneficial and inclusive economic globalization, China is ready to work with Belgium to continue to uphold openness, strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation, and achieve common development.


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