President Xi Jinping says the relationship between China and the EU has become one of the most important in the world. He was speaking at the College of Europe in the northern Belgian city of Bruges. Last year, the two sides formed their 2020 Strategic Agenda for cooperation. President Xi has called for building "bridges" of peace, growth, reform and progress, and cultural prosperity.
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium, April 1, 2014. (Xinhua/Ma Zhancheng)
Speaking to an audience of China’s largest trade partner, President Xi Jinping said the best is yet to come.
"We should not forget that there’s still great room for the growth of China-EU relations, and the potential is yet to be fully tapped," Xi Jinping said.
Bilateral trade in 2013 reached just over 559 billion US dollars. And trade aside, China and the EU have established a dialogue and consultation mechanism in over 60 areas.
China-EU overseas students number nearly 300,000.
"China is the world’s biggest developing country. China has made historic progress in development. It is now the second largest economy in the world. It has achieved in several decades what took developed countries centuries to achieve. This is without doubt a proud achievement for a country whose population exceeds 1.3 billion," Xi Jinping said.
President Xi said China’s moves to deepen reform will both provide strong momentum for the country’s modernization and bring new development opportunities to the whole world.
And he called for understanding why China works the way it does.
"China cannot copy the political system or development model of other countries. Because it would not fit us, and it might even lead to catastrophic consequences," Xi Jinping said.
The President mapped out the future direction for the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership, highlighting the 2020 Strategic Agenda for cooperation.
He used the metaphor of building bridges in four areas: peace and stability, growth and prosperity, reform and progress, and cultural development.
"We need to build a bridge of growth and prosperity linking the two big markets of China and Europe. China and the EU are two most important economies in the world, with our combined economies accounting for one -third of the global economy," Xi Jinping said.
Xi Jinping listed the sectors that would benefit from such a bridge-- open markets, investment deals, a possible free trade area, and the ambitious target of a trillion US dollar two-way trade volume by 2020.
He promoted the development of a Silk Road Economic Belt to integrate the market of Asia and Europe. President Xi said turning the blueprint into reality needs both sides working together in the coming decade.