11月4日，荷兰首都阿姆斯特丹著名的地标性建筑——世界上第一家股票交易所Beursvan Berlage举行了有关于中国专题的系列讲座。本次活动的主办方是荷兰的The BeleggersFair（投资展会），这是荷兰投资者们一年一度的“内部信息”交流大会。荷中友好协会（VNC-China）与《中荷商报》收到活动主办方的邀请，首次在活动现场增设了“中国场”主题讲座。活动邀请了多位荷兰政界、商界人物发言，也有优秀的中国企业家与会。荷兰前外交大臣Ben Bot（本·博特）为本次活动致开场辞。
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a good sign that so many of you have come here today to discuss diversity and connectivity in relation to doing business with China. It is also an auspicious moment, a week after the 20th party congress of the communist party in Beijing. The ink of the five-year program is barely dry, so to speak. Therefore, it is difficult to assess precisely the impact of the many decisions taken, but one thing is sure: after three decades of opening China to foreign firms and promoting investment, China has become more closed and careful how to shape its relationship with the world at large.
All the same it is not entirely clear what that means in practice. Will China open up further only as far as certain aspects of foreign trade are concerned? Or will it adopt a more careful and selective approach in general? Mr. Xi’s control ambitions may make the communist party stronger but may make it otherwise weaker than it would have been under previous regimes. More than a year ago, for example, Mr. Xi still exuded confidence, suggesting that the country’s economic growth would surge ahead of Western competitors. But unfortunately, the two-month covid lockdown disrupted global supply chains, led to a slump in the housing market and undermined a long-term healthy growth. It notably stifled consumer spending on everything from simple everyday products to high end luxury goods. And the Economist recently pointed out that zero covid policies have curbed movement into and out of the country, that Chinese scholars have stopped attending conferences abroad, that business executives barely get a chance to travel abroad and that an economic firewall may slow down the influx of foreign ideas. And I may add that possibly China will become a less hospitable place for foreign businessmen.
On the positive side I notice many signals underlining China’s ambition to accelerate its rise as a technological superpower. China is heavily investing in semiconductors, aircrafts and cars. As such it will need the support of foreign technocrats, but also of foreign investment, technological products and sophisticated materials. And the West, of course, will need to continue to rely on the import of basic materials and many other products from China. Whatever the near future may bring, China remains undeniably the largest producer of manufactured goods and many basic materials the west cannot do without. Still, the most lucrative business sectors may also be the most politically sensitive. To overcome stagnation, it is important that we engage in an open and constructive dialogue in the months ahead. And that presupposes a relationship of trust between the West and China, between sellers and buyers, investors and producers, from both sides.
Recently the Central Bank of China governor Yi Gang said: “Despite some challenges and downward pressure, the Chinese economy has remained broadly on track. China’s potential growth rate is expected to remain in a reasonable range.” These are positive signals but what counts are the results over the coming months.
As a former diplomat I have always lived by the maxim : never close the door to other countries or your adversaries and opponents. You never know when and under what circumstance you will need them again. At present it may not yet be entirely clear which course China will choose for the coming five years, but I expect that for the Dutch business community the door will certainly remain open. As such the Netherland may look forward to many opportunities for investing in- or trading with China. As such it should prolong, in a positive spirit, an age-old tradition of beneficial contacts between our two countries.
I may bring to your attention here that soon we will celebrate the fact that 50 years ago we established diplomatic relations between our respective countries. So, for the long-term investor and for the serious businessman there will remain many good opportunities.
I believe that essentially China will continue to operate a market economy and demonstrate an open mind towards constructive proposals from our side. For that reason, The Netherlands expects its attitude of interest and willingness to invest to be reciprocated by China.