Remarks by Ambassador Tan Jian at the Witheerenlezing Event

Netherlands information | 2022-04-14

Remarks by Ambassador Tan Jian at the Witheerenlezing Event (22 March, 2022, Roosendaal)

A very good evening to all of you.

I am so happy to meet with you all in person. This is the largest offline gathering I have ever attended since my arrival.

How we are longing for face-to-face exchanges.

And I haven’t seen lion dances for over two years.

My heartfelt thanks to the Lions Witheeren Roosendaal for organizing this event.

To all friends, thank you for your interest in and contribution to Sino-Duch relations. I also appreciate your social consciousness in attending this fund-raising evening.

North Brabant is the second largest province in the NL, known for its industrial centre and “Brainport”, locating at the crossroads on European trade route.

North Brabant and Jiangsu became sister provinces in 1994. The two provinces have twined 5 pairs of sister cities.

I was born and raised in Jiangsu province, and I know the five Chinese cities very well and lived in two of them.

(Impression of the NL)

I arrived in the NL on 25th December, 2020. You may ask how I feel.

Well, I had a very good first impression.

When I set foot on this land, getting out of the plane, taking a rest at the Airport lounge, I saw the porcelains in blue and white. The colour, the painting, the shape, were very Chinese.

My colleagues told me they were made in the NL, called the Delft blue.

I felt at home.

Over the past year, I have come to appreciate the greatness of this country.

At the Tokyo Summer Olympics, you outperformed other EU countries. At the Beijing Winter Olympics, you did equally well and ranked the 7th in the medal table.

I share your happiness.

The NL is a country with global footage, a near one trillion dollar GDP economy.

More importantly, it is full of vitality.

It has a lot of world renowned big brand companies, innovative SMEs and start-ups.

The NL is a power in trade & investment, a major player in the world economy.

PM Mark Rutte said the NL is larger than its relative size would suggest.

I fully agree.

As ambassador, I feel both the honour as well as the heavy responsibility.

(On the 50th anniversary)

Today’s gathering is special, because this year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations.

You may have watched the video clips on the TV in the room. Beside me is the logo for the anniversary.

Let me give you a brief introduction.

-The lines make up the number 50.

-The logo features national colors of Chinaand the NL: red and orange.

-The lines symbolize water streams. Water islife, water is power. Our two peoples have built major water conservancyprojects, the NL is well known for its “polder model”. Our two countriesestablished contacts more than 400 years ago thanks to the maritime silk road.

-Please note these are unfinished lines,flowing into the future.

Hope you like it.

The Dutch Embassy in Beijing coordinated the design, taking into consideration our suggestions. It is in a position to take the credit — and royalties if any.

You can see that we have a very strong sense of IPR protection.


After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the NL was among the first Western countries to give it official recognition. Our two countries officially established diplomatic ties at the ambassadorial level on May 18, 1972.

Over the past five decades, our cooperation has been expanding and deepening.

Both support multilateralism. Our two countries maintain consultations on major international and regional issues within the frameworks of the UN, G20, WTO, WHO, etc.

There are a large number of Chinese students in and tourists visiting the NL.

Many Dutch people are fans of Chinese culture. The most famous Chinese classic novel, the Dream of the Red Chamber, was translated into Dutch recently and immediately became a best seller.

In 2020, the two pandas living here gave birth to a baby panda Fan Xing, which is the fruit of our friendship.

We cooperate closely on climate change, sustainable development goals and many others high on the international development agenda.

As tonight is a business event, allow me to focus on the economic cooperation.

In the past 50 years, our trade volume has grown nearly 1,700 times, from less than 69 million to over 116 billion US$. Over the past two years, against all odds of the pandemic, our trade increased by 7.8% and 27% respectively.

The NL is China’s second largest trading partner only after Germany within the EU. China is the NL’ largest trading partner outside the EU. Among all the EU countries, the NL is the largest destination of Chinese investment, and the second largest source of investment to China.

Today, more than 700 Chinese enterprises have direct investment in the NL, among them more than 150 have based in North Brabant.

Our two countries are geographically far away from each other, yet closely connected by sea, air and land.

The port of Rotterdam is the first stop for nearly half of China’s deep-water freight routes to Europe. One third of Rotterdam port goods come from China.

Schiphol Airport is one of the busiest terminals in Europe for passenger and cargo transport to and from China;

There are now 6 trips of China-Europe Railway Express each week between our two countries. The value of CERE has been highlighted thanks to the Covid.

These are really remarkable progress and achievements.

How come?

I have three explanations.

First, the leading role of governments.

Leaders and governments of our two countries place high priority to our ties.

In 1977, Princess Beatrix became one of the first European royal family members to visit China.

In 2014, President Xi Jinping visited the NL, and together with His Majesty King Willem-Alexander, defined Sino-Dutch relations as “an open and pragmatic partnership for comprehensive cooperation”.

There have been frequent exchange of visits by heads of state and government.

No sooner had the new Dutch cabinet taken office than our two Prime Ministers had a video conference.

Second, the important contribution from the business.

In modern history, the Dutch business people have showcased their talent in commerce and innovation, their perseverance in the face of difficulty.

The past two years of the pandemic have again witnessed your resilience and entrepreneurship.

Here, I wish pay you my tribute and gratitude.

Third, our two peoples share a lot of pro-business similarities.

The Dutch people are seen as both the merchants and missionaries. Well, you know that we like the former more than the latter.

Both our peoples are action-oriented, results-based, to get things done.

Both are practical, pragmatic, open, and sometimes very direct.

Little wonder we both like the blue and white porcelain, and the black and white panda.

No wonder our relationship is termed as “an open and pragmatic partnership for comprehensive cooperation”.


Dear friends, it is these virtues of openness and pragmatism that bring me to the next topic — the challenges.

When celebrating the accomplishments, we are fully aware of and will not hide from the challenges.

Let’s face them squarely.

The first major one is geopolitics.

China is the second largest economy that differs from Western countries in many ways. It is our view that some economic issues are politicized.

Politics interferes with economics at many levels.

At the global level, there are so much rhetoric about decoupling, isolation, even a new cold war. Banning or blacklisting Chinese companies is not of a rare occurrence. In the eyes of some, China is an imaginary enemy.

At the regional level, EU is now pursuing a three-tiered policy of cooperation, competition and systemic rivalry towards China. EU has stalled the ratification of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, is developing anti-coercion instrument and supply chain due diligence legislation on grounds of human rights violation. Hope they listen to and take care of the concerns of the business community.

At the national level, there have been motions in the Dutch parliament, lawsuits in the Dutch court that could have negative impacts on our economic cooperation. Like the motions calling on the government to:

– make an inventory of Dutch companies that are directly or indirectly linked to human rights violation or forced labour;

– investigate into the influence of Chinese companies in Dutch companies,

The second major challenge is the negative media report and negative public opinion.

In the reporting of BBC, CNN, Dutch media, there is near-zero positive coverage about China. Nowadays if I happen to read a balanced report, I will take a second look, just to make sure.

This challenge may explain the vicious cycle.

How we see the challenges? Here are some of the perspectives from our side.

Perspective One: those accusations of China’s human rights violation are not fact-based.

We have released relevant statistics. You may visit the websites.

Here let me take the forced labour issue for example, with which the business may be more concerned.

Elon Musk, Tesla chief executive, said the following, I quote: “The work ethic, just the sheer number of hard-working, smart people in China is a wonder to behold – both amazing and slightly scary.”

“Slightly scary”? That means China’s labour force must be very competitive.

Given the quality and quantity of China’s labour force, it just makes no sense, politically or economically, to use forced labour.

We are open to equal-footed dialogue on issues like human rights. China welcomes Ms Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to visit China in May and take a trip to Xinjiang.

Human rights protection has been written into China’s Constitution.

Using forced labour is forbidden by China’s law.

Perspective Two, competition should be fair.

Some leaders, politicians and media in the west have been accusing of or speculating on Chinese companies’ spying activities. But they have produced no evidence whatsoever.

On the contrary, it is everyone’s knowledge that some country has been spying. Yet there has been little investigation, and the media has been quiet on that.

Just imagine:

if China has been spying on the leaders of Europe,

if the Pegasus spyware is developed by a Chinese company and sold to other countries,

if China practices exceptionalism in international affairs,

if China is conducting spying flights off the coast of Western countries on a regular basis and military exercises in this part of the world,

if China has been conducting drone attacks causing a lot of civilian casualties,

this “if” list could go on and on;

Then, what would be the reaction?

Tsunami of condemnations from the West, followed by sanctions.

Yes, economies compete, but they should compete as athletes in the track and field, not like gladiators that kill each other.

Some leaders in the West loudly announce that, if China plays by the rule, protects the IP, then China will never be their match.

We are all equal, are we? Of course, we will play by the rules, and we must.

But for any fair competition, there should be no forgone conclusion.

It can’t be “heads I win tails you cheat”.

Perspective Three, We hope that Europe could move beyond the “partner-competitor-rival” characterization of its relations with China.

This approach of EU towards China is confusing and self-conflicting.

How to maintain the oasis of cooperation that is threatened by the desertification of rivalry?

I haven’t heard EU officials bother to strike a positive note after listing cooperation, competition and rivalry, by saying they want the cooperation to be the mainstay for which EU and China should strive.

It is sad to see that after seven years’ negotiations, the text as good as the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment has been shelved.

Even when China-America relations were at a very low point during the Trump administration, the confrontation didn’t prevent China and the US from signing the first-phase trade deal.

China and Europe, two age-old civilizations, two major economies, are both for multilateralism, globalization, free trade, etc.

We are ready to strengthen China-EU economic cooperation, especially in the two priority areas of green economy and digital economy.

It also requires efforts on the Europe side, like ratifying the CAI, depoliticizing economic issues.

Highlighting systemic rivalry may rock the boat of China-EU relations.

We have more common interests; no fundamental conflict of interest.

We are partners.

Perspective Four, we are for win-win economic cooperation.

China needs the world, needs Europe, needs the NL, and vice versa. It is in our mutual interest to work for double wins.

The NL may not be large in size, yet its business are really competitive, competitive because they go global.

In this regard, China is important for Dutch business.

Its market is the largest in the world. Besides, China has the talents, labour force, the complete and efficient supply chain, that are instrumental for Dutch companies to maintain its competitive edge and make money.

Apple, Tesla, are the two largest and most valued share holding companies. Both companies have benefited greatly from China’s A. manufacturing power and B. market size.

Likewise, the NL is important for Chinese companies. Their success in the NL can prove that their products meet all the requirements of a very developed country. Moreover, the NL is regarded by China as the “gateway” to EU market. A large part of China’s export to the NL is for a third country. Many Chinese companies have chosen the NL as a base for investing in European market.

China and the NL, if we can’t say we love each other at this point, at least we know we need each other. Partners.

(On China’s policy for peace and development)

China is a peace-loving nation.

In the ancient times, the Chinese built the Great Wall for defense purpose.

In the early 15th century, Admiral Zheng He made seven maritime expeditions reaching as far as the east coast of the Africa continent, 87 years before Christopher Columbus sailed to America, yet no colonization ensued.

Among all the countries in possession of nuclear weapons, China is the only one who undertakes no first-use under any circumstance.

When it comes to peace and security, China has the best track record among major countries. We have never invaded other countries or engaged in proxy wars, nor have we ever sought sphere of influence or participated in military bloc confrontations.

Can you recall that China has done anything that harmed the interest of the Europeans?

Of course, China will defend unswervingly its sovereignty, security and right to development. All countries should respect each other’s core interests and major concerns. China will continue to stick to its way of development that fits its own national conditions.

Allow me to say a few words on Ukraine.

There have been claims that China had prior knowledge of Russia’s military action and demanded Russia delay it until the Winter Olympics concluded. Recent rumors further claimed that Russia was seeking military assistance from China.

Not true. Had China known about the imminent crisis, we would have tried our best to prevent it.

China decides its position on the basis of the merits of the issue. China holds that the purposes and principles of the UN Charter must be fully observed; the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, including that of Ukraine, must be respected; the legitimate security concerns of all countries must be taken seriously; and all efforts that are conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis must be supported.

Like you, we are deeply grieved over the evolution of the situation in Ukraine, and we all are for an early ceasefire and cessation of war.

China is focused on development.

The goal of the governing party and the government of China is to meet the growing needs of the Chinese people for a better life.

China is now pursuing the new development philosophy. It is people-centered, aiming for high quality development.

China is not shying away from attacking hard issues.

Some are old, existing for thousands of years, like poverty, food security, anti-corruption, common prosperity;

Some are new, arising in our current time, like climate change, artificial intelligence, high-tech monopoly;

Some are persistent and painful, like the structural reform.

Indeed, so many tough nuts to crack. And we say China is currently in the primary stage of socialism, and will remain so for a long period to come.

Development is our central task. The way is very long and work very hard.

These vindicate our consistent message: we have no interest to rival or overtake the superpower for dominance.

To replace any other country is never our national strategy.

We export goods, not political system.

China is a major force for international cooperation.

China has become the second largest contributor to the budget of the UN and other international organizations.

China firmly supports the international system with the UN as its core, the international order with international law as its basis, the multilateral trading system with the WTO as its corner stone.

Cooperation is more needed now than ever. We are confronted with serious issues like: Covid, climate, energy security, food security, sustainable development, nuclear proliferation, cyberattacks, emerging technologies getting out of control, etc.

These are unprecedented challenges that require unprecedented cooperation.

We all share our fate in the same boat. China will not rock the boat, it will help steady it.

We aim to build a community of a shared future for mankind.

The Belt and Road Initiative is for international cooperation, not for geopolitical gains. It is basically about building and strengthening connectivity: namely policy connectivity, infrastructure connectivity, trade connectivity, finance connectivity, people-to-people connectivity.

We are proposing the BRI to complement other initiatives, like EU’s Global Gateway, for synergy, thus maximizing the benefits.

If, instead of suspecting and fearing each other, we could work together, to advance development in developing countries especially in Africa, then there might be less economic migrants risking their lives and heading for Europe.

For many years, China’s contribution to global economic growth has been more than 30%.

Today, China is closely integrated into the global economy. Its trade to GDP ratio is more than 34%, much higher than that of the US, which is 23%.

China is the largest trading partner for more than 120 countries and regions.

China will continue to listen to the suggestions and complaints from the business, and improve its ease of doing business, including enhancing the protection of IPR.

China will not waver in its resolve to reform deeper and open up wider.

As the most populous country, with a per capita GDP of US$ 12,000, a middle-income group as strong as 400 million, annual importation of goods and services standing at 2.5 trillion US$, China is determined to share development opportunities with the rest of the world.


I have been here as ambassador for over a year.

We regard the economic cooperation as the ballast stone to our overall relations. Thank you for what you have done.

I will continue to work closely with you, and count on your support.

When China and the NL join hands, with a combined population of 1.417 billion, located at the two ends or terminals of the EuroAsia continent, we can bring more practical benefits to our two peoples and to the rest of the world.

Together, let’s build on the 50 years of Sino-Dutch friendship, learn the lessons, strengthen our partnership and produce more concrete results in the years to come.

Thank you for your attention.

I look forward to our interactive exchanges.