|Ambassador Chen Chuandong Upbeat about China Jordan Trade Ties|
Chinese Ambassador to Jordan Chen Chuandong spoke optimistically about China Jordan economic and trade cooperation in a recent interview with the Jordan News Agency (PETRA) published on August 8. The following is a transcript of the interview.
Q: How do you view the economic cooperation between the two countries?
A: Economic and trade cooperation is part and parcel of China-Jordan relations and an important driving force for the bilateral relations. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1977, China and Jordan have always regarded each other as true friends and good partners. Benefiting from the care and guidance of leaders of our two countries, China and Jordan have enjoyed enhanced mutual trust and deepening friendship, and practical cooperation in various fields has yielded fruitful results. This year marks the 100thanniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China and Centenary of statehood of Jordan, for which His Excellency President Xi Jinping and His Majesty King Abdullah II exchanged congratulatory messages, charting the course for future development of bilateral relations.
Jordan is strategically located and has been a vital gateway for commerce in the Middle East since ancient times It is a renowned "oasis of stability" in the region. The economies of China and Jordan are highly complementary with a huge potential for cooperation, which has developed rapidly in recent years. China has become Jordan's third largest trading partner and second largest source of imports, and Chinese companies are actively investing in Jordan, undertaking large-scale engineering projects, making significant progress.
President Xi Jinping pointed out at the APEC Leaders' Meeting in July that China has embarked on a new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country. As China enters a new development stage, we will follow a new development philosophy and foster a new development paradigm. We will build a new system of open economy of higher standards, and work with countries in the Asia-Pacific and beyond towards mutually-beneficial, win-win cooperation of the best quality. I believe that with guidance and support of our governments and concerted efforts of various sectors, China-Jordan economic and trade cooperation will continue to grow in scope and depth bringing greater benefits to the people.
Q: What is the impact of COVID-19 on trade cooperation between the two countries?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic has hit both ends of supply and demand and impacted global trade immensely. China-Jordan bilateral trade has also been significantly affected. In the early stage of the outbreak of pandemic in 2020, disruption of production suffered by Chinese manufactures upended supply chains. Jordan strengthened quarantine of cargo ships at ports and ordered complete lock-downs for some time. Under such circumstances, bilateral economic and trade exchanges were met with considerable difficulties. Global economic downturn caused by the pandemic led to shrinking consumption, coupled with reduced human mobility due to international travel restrictions, have further exacerbates the challenges.
The pandemic's impact on China-Jordan economic and trade cooperation, I am convinced, is only temporary. There are a few reasons. The fundamentals of economic and trade cooperation between our two countries remain unchanged. The political will of our governments in boosting economic and trade ties remains unchanged. The enthusiasm of our business communities for economic and trade cooperation remains undiminished. And economic globalization, albeit with headwinds, remains an irreversible trend of our times. In an op-ed in April 2020, His Majesty King Abdullah II called for return of globalization. At the opening ceremony of the 2021 annual Boao Forum for Asia, President Xi Jinping pointed out that in the era of economic globalization, openness and integration is an unstoppable historical trend.
As long as we stay true to multilateralism, strengthen our confidence in globalization and our belief in win-win cooperation, taking advantage of high-quality development of Belt and Road cooperation, we will be able to overcome the impact of the pandemic and bring our economic and trade exchanges back to normal and achieve greater growth by tapping potentials for collaboration in such areas as infrastructure development, industrial capacity, telecommunications and new energy.
Q: What is the volume of trade exchange between the two countries? Are there Jordanian exports to China and what is its volume? Have they decreased after the pandemic?
A: In the past decade and more, China-Jordan bilateral trade volume has maintained a momentum of rapid growth and hit a record high of 4.11 billion US dollars in 2019. Affected by the pandemic and other unfavorable factors, the bilateral trade volume in 2020 fell to 3.61 billion US dollars, a decrease of 12.08%. Jordan's exports to China suffered a minor loss in the wake of COVID-19, which stood at 426 million US dollars, a year-on-year drop of only 1.92%.
In 2021, despite the raging pandemic, under-recovered demand, surging shipping costs on a global scale, bilateral trade between China and Jordan has rebounded significantly, reaching 2.004 billion US dollars in the first two quarters, a year-on-year increase of 21.4%. Jordan's export to China was 235 million US dollars, a year-on-year increase of 14.1%.
With a total population of 1.4 billion and a middle-income group of more than 400 million, China is the world's most promising big market. Cumulative import of goods in the next 10 years is estimated at over 22 trillion US dollars. We welcome Jordanian companies at various trade exhibitions and fairs such as the China International Import Expo to expand export of Jordanian goods to China.
Q: What is the volume of Chinese investments in Jordan, and in return, are there Jordanian investments in China?
A: Mutual investment is a new area of growth in economic and trade cooperation between China and Jordan, with many success stories in recent years. SDIC Mining Investment of China invested in Arab Potash Company and became its biggest shareholder, resulting in growing strategic partnership. In 2020, Arab Potash Company, weathering the pandemic, made historical gains in the production and sales of potash fertilizer. Jerrash Holdings, owned by its parent company in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, became the first NASDAQ listed company in the Arab world. Jordan's Talal Abu Gzala Group (TAG) invested in manufacturing in China and its electronic products are already marketed in the Middle East.
According to the 2019 Statistical Bulletin of China's Outward Foreign Direct Investment issued by the Chinese government, the flow and stock of China's direct investment in Jordan significantly increased compared with the level 10 years ago. In 2018, the flow of China's direct investment in Jordan reached a record high of approximately 85.62 million US dollars, and the stock amounted to approximately 312 million US dollars in 2019. Statistics for 2020 are expected to be released in the second half of this year.
President Xi Jinping has reiterated on many occasions China's unswerving adheres to the fundamental national policy of opening to the outside world. The Chinese government welcomes more Jordanian companies to invest and do business in China, at the same time encourages competent Chinese companies to invest in Jordan, scaling up two-way investment. It is hoped that the Jordanian side will continue to provide Chinese companies with a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory business environment.
Regarding the amount of Jordanian investment in China, please check with the relevant department of the Jordanian government.
Q: What about Chinese support and grants to Jordan?
A: With constantly increasing inter-linkage and interdependence among countries, human beings now live in the same global village. Achieving common development is the shared aspiration of people all over the world. It is also a moral obligation of humanity. As a developing country, while committed to its own development, China provides assistance within its capacity to other developing countries in need, helping recipient countries to enhance their capacities of self-sustained development, improve people's lives, and achieve common development. China's foreign aid is based on the principles of equality, mutual benefit, honouring commitments, delivering solid outcomes and development-centred, with no political conditions attached. It is an important part of global South-South cooperation and a vivid showcase of building a community with a shared future for mankind.
Jordan is also a benevolent country, hosting a large number of refugees from the region, and is widely acclaimed by the international community.
China has provided various types of assistance to Jordan for years, including grants, concessional loans, infrastructure projects, and human resource development. China also provides assistance to refugees hosted by Jordan through multilateral institutions such as the World Food Program. After the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, China donated batches of supplies to Jordan. Overcoming its own difficulties, China donated and provided much-needed vaccines to the Jordanian people, supporting Jordan's fight against the pandemic, its economic recovery and return to normal life. We will continue to provide Jordan with assistance within our capacity on the basis of full consideration of Jordan's needs and full consultation with Jordanian partners.
Q: How will the Belt and Road Initiative affect economic cooperation between the two countries?
A: Since President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative(BRI) in 2013, thanks to wide participation and joint efforts of all parties, this important initiative has grown from concept to practice, and achieved positive results and progress, bringing huge opportunities and dividend to countries around the world. The cumulative trade volume between China and BRI partners has exceeded 9.2 trillion US dollars, and the cumulative direct investment of Chinese companies in partner countries has exceeded 130 billion US dollars. A World Bank report says that full implementation of the BRI will increase global trade volume and global income by 6.2% and 2.9% respectively. By 2030, it is expected to lift 7.6 million people around the world out of extreme poverty and 32 million people out of moderate poverty.
Last year, despite the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, Belt and Road cooperation did not come to a halt. It braved the headwinds and continued to move forward, showing remarkable resilience and vitality. According to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce of China, in the first half of the year, trade of goods between China and Belt and Road partners hit 5.35 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 27.5%, outpacing the overall growth rate of China's foreign trade and accounting for 29.6% of the total trade volume. Non-financial direct investment was 62 billion yuan, an increase of 8.6%, lifting the proportion out of total national foreign investment to 17.8%.
It can be said that the pandemic has exacerbated the predicament of global economic and trade cooperation, but it also reflects the significant role of the BRI. On the one hand, it has promoted inter-connectivity. China has launched "Silk Road E-commerce" cooperation with 22 partner countries, which has enabled smooth flow of trade during the pandemic. The number of China-Europe freight trains connecting the Eurasian continent has reached a record high, hailed as "steel camel caravans". On the other hand, it has promoted inclusive growth. Belt and Road cooperation is guided by the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. It practices the concept of openness, greenness and cleanliness. And it is aimed at high-standard, people-centered and sustainable growth, providing new thinking, new ideas, and new paths for global economic recovery and transformation of growth dynamics.
China appreciates Jordan's active participation in the BRI and is ready to work with Jordan for continued high-quality development of the initiative, better aligning development strategies of the two countries, further promoting economic trade and investment exchanges, increasing the level of connectivity and launching more cooperation projects to help Jordan overcome the pandemic, revive the economy, and improve people's livelihood and well-being at an early date.
Q: Why is the Jordanian Chinese University program suspended?
A: The Chinese Jordanian University is a major collaboration project between the two countries, involving teaching arrangements, student training, employment guidance, construction and operation, management mode, etc. It is neither an ordinary economic cooperation project nor an ordinary project of cultural and educational cooperation. It requires in-depth and comprehensive examination as well as close consultations and coordination between the two sides.
Since the establishment of the project, China and Jordan have worked hard to advance the project and made some progress. However, the two sides have yet to reach full agreement, especially on some specific details. They not only include technical issues, but also call for alignment of education doctrines and policies. Further exchange of views are needed to find solutions. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, personnel exchanges between the two countries have encountered great difficulties, which has also hampered progress of the project.
I wish to emphasize that the Chinese government attaches great importance to the Chinese Jordanian University project and has been trying every means to push forward the project. Even in the absence of full agreement, the Chinese government established the "Special Scholarship for Chinese Jordanian University" in 2016 to support Jordanian students to study in China in a bid to train a pool of talents for the project. The scholarship has enrolled students for 6 consecutive years, and enrollment for 2021 has just completed with 132 students enrolled. Therefore, the project has not been suspended, but rather advanced steadily. I would take this opportunity to encourage more Jordanian high school graduates to apply for the "Special Scholarship for Chinese Jordanian University" in the future, so as to gather momentum and create favourable conditions for the launch of Chinese Jordanian University.
Q: Anything the Ambassador would like to add?
A: COVID-19 is a common challenge for all countries in the world. It reminds the world in a special way that mankind is a community with a shared future, and that no country can stay immune from a major crisis, solidarity and cooperation is the right way forward for mankind. In the fight against COVID-19, China and Jordan have stood together and helped each other through thick and thin, demonstrating deep brotherly friendship between our people and long-standing good relationship between our two countries.
We should seize the opportunities and take proactive steps to translate our confidence and resolve into greater energy for cooperation. We need further promote steady growth of bilateral trade, vigorously promote mutual investment, make human resources training more effective, and do our best to facilitate mobility of businesses, jointly opening up brighter prospect for economic and trade cooperation between our two countries.
Jordan is a country of unique status and important influence in the Middle East. China views Jordan as a major partner in the region and is ready to work with Jordan and other Arab brotherly countries, taking advantage of the first China-Arab Summit scheduled for 2022, to advance Belt and Road cooperation. We should work together to safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East, uphold fairness and justice, promote common development, and learn from each other, in a joint effort to build a China-Arab community with a shared future in a world undergoing profound and historic changes.
News media is an important bridge for exchanges between countries and a bond for dialogue among civilizations and enhancing mutual trust and friendship. I hope that Chinese and Jordanian media will make positive contributions to deepening mutual understanding and friendship between our peoples, promote exchanges and cooperation in various fields, and make the common voice of developing countries better heard.