The Covid-19 pandemic drags on, geopolitical conflicts are resurging and the recovery of the economy remains sluggish and depressed. The peace, security and development in the world are facing grave challenges. Despite the complex international and regional situation, the China-Nepal relationship led and cared for by the two heads of state, has maintained steady growth. The Strategic Partnership of Cooperation Featuring Ever-lasting Friendship for Development and Prosperity between us has been deepening and yielding solid results.
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Nepal from March 25 to 27 and had in-depth discussions and communications with Nepali leaders on implementing outcomes of President Xi Jinping’s visit and promoting China-Nepal cooperation in various fields. This is the highest bilateral visit between China and Nepal since the outbreak of the Covid-19. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and had a very friendly and in-depth meeting with Foreign Minister Dr Narayan Khadka. During the meetings, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi clearly pointed out that China supports Nepal in a development path suited to its national conditions. China supports Nepal in pursuing independent domestic and foreign policies. China supports Nepal in participating in BRI to a greater extent.
The “three supports” has sent a very positive signal, which is China’s friendly policy towards Nepal and it is for all Nepali people and political parties. The policy has maintained continuity and stability and will never change no matter how the political situation of Nepal changes. During the visit, the two sides signed nine cooperation documents, including development assistance, infrastructure connectivity, energy and medical and health cooperation, which injected fresh impetus to the implementation of the outcomes of President Xi Jinping’s visit and bilateral cooperation in various fields.
Progress on China-Nepal cooperation
In recent years, the extension of China-Nepal’s BRI cooperation has been continuously deepened and expanded. A multi-dimensional promotion pattern featuring “hard connection”, “soft communication” and “heart exchange” and the all-around participation of the government, market and society is taking shape. The Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network has gradually moved from a blueprint to reality. Since last year, the two sides have worked hard to overcome the huge difficulties caused by the pandemic and promoted the construction of BRI cooperation in various fields to achieve new progress.
The Chinese side attaches great importance to the desire of the Nepali side to resume export to China through land ports.
First, anti-pandemic and health cooperation deserve to be mentioned. Until now, China has provided around 20 million vaccines through grant assistance, commercial purchase and other channels, making China the biggest supplier of Covid-19 vaccine to Nepal. Those vaccines have helped Nepal to fight against the pandemic and restored Nepali people’s life and work back to normal. A few days ago, a new batch of medical materials granted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China including 5.7 million syringes and 9 X-rays were handed over to the Nepali side through the Kerung-Rasuwagadhi border point. China will continue to provide vaccines and material support according to the demand of the Nepali side so as to help Nepal completely defeat the pandemic. Besides, with the aid from China, the second phase project of the Civil Service Hospital has been completed, and the two sides have renewed the protocol of sending a China Medical Team to work in Nepal. They are important parts of jointly building a community of health between China and Nepal.
Second, economic and trade cooperation scored steady progress. According to the Chinese side’s statistics, the total volume of trade between China and Nepal increased by 67 percent and reached 1.977 billion USD in 2021, of which Nepal’s export to China increased by 63 percent. Those data prove that the so-called “soft blockade” on Nepal is totally baseless. We noticed that now Nepal’s economy has encountered some difficulties, mainly as a result of the slow recovery of the global economy and the shock of the pandemic. Many other countries are facing similar problems. During the visit of the State Councilor and Foreign Minister of Wang Yi, the two sides signed the Protocol on the Safety and Health Conditions for the Export of Haylage from Nepal to China and the exchange of letters on duty-free treatment to be provided by China to goods of Nepali origin covering 98 percent tariff lines. Those are the efforts made by the Chinese side to increase Nepal’s export to China and will help relieve Nepal’s trade imbalance problem. We also welcome Nepal to attend China International Import Expo and actively promote the products that meet the demands of the Chinese market.
Third, the border-related cooperation has been conducted in a friendly and smooth manner. The Chinese side has made a continuous effort to improve the capacity of one-way cargo transportation at the Kerung and Zhangmu (Tatopani) border ports and tried our best to ensure the supply of materials for production, living, anti-pandemic, elections, and others to Nepal while fighting the pandemic. Xizang (Tibet) Autonomous Region has also actively provided material assistance to the people who live in the mountainous areas of northern Nepal such as Humla district. The competent authorities of both sides have been in communication for a long time. We hope the Nepali side could also improve the efficiency of loading and unloading, and further improve the conditions of customs clearance. The Chinese side attaches great importance to the desire of the Nepali side to resume export to China through land ports. The relevant authorities, neighboring provinces and border port authorities of the two sides are in communication and coordination in this regard. The two sides are also coordinating to hold a consultation on border affairs at an appropriate time through the diplomatic channel, systematically summarizing and planning border-related affairs and cooperation between our two countries.
Fourth, the project cooperation between Nepal and China achieved fruitful results. The China-aid Kathmandu Durbar High School, Civil Service Hospital, the Public School Recovery Project in Dolakha have completed or finished their mid-term inspection and acceptance. A batch of projects that aims to improve people’s livelihood such as the Public School Recovery Project and Hospital Recovery Project in Sindhupalchok are about to start construction. The third phase of the Araniko Highway Maintenance Project has been completed successfully. Prime Minister Deuba and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the virtual completion ceremony of the Pokhara International Airport together with Foreign Minister Dr Khadka. When the economy and society return to normal in Nepal, I believe that the cooperation between China and Nepal will speed up and improve efficiency. I also hope that the Nepali side could provide a fair and transparent business environment, fully protect the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese enterprises, and help to solve their practical problems.
Fifth, connectivity cooperation enjoys broad prospects. The China-Nepal Cross-Border Railway Project carries good expectations from the people of the two countries. The two sides have signed the technical assistance plan for the feasibility study of the China-Nepal Cross-Border Railway Project, marking another solid step in advancing the project. As Nepal’s electricity production gradually turns to surplus, China is willing to work together with Nepal to complement each side’s advantages, actively promote the power grid interconnection, and build a new channel for Nepal’s power export. It must be pointed out that these projects will come across many difficulties such as complex geological conditions, frequent natural disasters, and high construction costs. This requires both sides to formulate practical plans on technical standards, funding sources and so on in the spirit of seeking truth from facts.
The people-to-people exchanges between Nepal and China are rich and colorful. The pandemic has not cut off the friendship between our two peoples. People from all walks of life in Nepal have actively participated in the painting competition, video clips collection, and online knowledge contest of the Beijing Winter Olympics held by the Chinese Embassy in Nepal. I was deeply moved by the participants’ sincere love for China and the friendship between the two countries. The Chinese embassy in Nepal actively helped the Nepali primary and secondary schools to improve their operation conditions, and implemented projects such as Rural Education Support Program in Pokhara and the “Panda Book Corner” Program. Those were warmly welcomed by the teachers and students. The Chinese side will continue to pass on the friendship between the two countries by providing government scholarships, and educational equipment among others.
The people-to-people exchanges between Nepal and China are rich and colorful. The pandemic has not cut off the friendship between our two peoples.
I understand that there are concerns about the resumption of direct flights between China and Nepal and the return of Nepali students to China. It is a common problem internationally for students to go back to schools in the face of the pandemic. Previously, in order to prevent and control the pandemic, the Nepali side unilaterally announced the suspension of international flights with most countries, which has also led to the suspension of direct flights between China and Nepal till now. The personnel exchanges between the two countries, including international students, have since become more difficult. The Chinese side has always cared about the study and life of these Nepali students. Chinese universities have maintained close contact with them and kept providing online education and psychological consultation. The ministries of foreign affairs of the two countries are closely coordinating for the orderly return of the Nepali students to China and the gradual resumption of direct flights between our two countries. I’m also looking forward to early positive progress in this regard.
BRI and Nepal
The BRI cooperation between China and Nepal has not been bogged down because of the Covid-19. On the contrary, it has become a road of hope that bolsters resilience and boosts confidence. I would like to point out that BRI has never been a “geopolitical strategy”, but a road of development that helps countries along the road, especially developing countries to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and promote common development and prosperity. China and Nepal are good neighbors, good friends and good partners. The cooperation between the two countries in various fields enjoys a long history, solid foundation, outstanding advantages and broad prospects.
The projects under BRI serve to promote mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries and improve people’s livelihood and well-being. While selecting and implementing specific projects, both governments and enterprises are required to follow the principles of openness, transparency and friendly consultation with each other. In recent years, we have also paid more attention to the high-quality, green and sustainable joint construction of BRI. I believe that over time, the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network will keep developing steadily, achieving new results.
The projects under BRI serve to promote mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries and improve people’s livelihood and well-being.
President Xi Jinping has delivered via video link a keynote speech titled “Rising to Challenges and Building a Bright Future Through Cooperation” at the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2022 held in Boao, Hainan Province on April 21. He pointed out that over the past two years and more, the international community has been working extremely hard to respond to the Covid-19 challenge and boost global recovery and development. The hardships and challenges are yet another reminder that humanity is a community with a shared future where all people rise and fall together, and that all countries need to follow the trend of the times featuring peace, development and win-win cooperation, move in the direction of building a community with a shared future for mankind, and rise to challenges and build a bright future through cooperation.
Together for Asia
He emphasized that over the past decades, Asia has enjoyed overall stability and sustained rapid growth, making possible the Asian miracle. When Asia fares well, the whole world benefits. Therefore, we need to continue developing and strengthening Asia, demonstrate Asia’s resilience, wisdom and strength, and make Asia an anchor for world peace, a powerhouse for global growth and a new pacesetter for international cooperation.
First, we should resolutely safeguard peace in Asia. We should honor such principles as mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence, follow a policy of good neighborliness and friendship, and make sure that we always keep our future in our own hands.
Second, we should vigorously advance Asian cooperation. We should seize these opportunities to foster a more open Asia-wide market and make new strides in mutually beneficial cooperation.
Third, we should jointly promote Asian unity. Countries, no matter their size and strength, and both in and outside the region should all add splendor rather than trouble to Asia. All should follow the path of peace and development, seek win-win cooperation, and contribute to an Asian family of unity and progress together.
President Xi noted that the fundamentals of the Chinese economy—its strong resilience, enormous potential, vast room for maneuver and long-term sustainability—remain unchanged.
China keeps rising
China’s national economy has continued to recover in 2021, and its development has reached a new stage. The GDP of China has increased by 8.1 percent to 114 trillion yuan, and China maintained its position as the second-largest economy in the world. People’s living standards have steadily improved. The actual per capita disposable income of residents has increased by 8.1 percent. The achievements in poverty alleviation have been consolidated and expanded. In the first quarter of this year, China’s economy overcame multiple challenges including the changes in the international situation and the domestic epidemic, its GDP topping expectations and rising by 4.8 percent year on year. At the beginning of this year, we also presented a simple, safe and wonderful Beijing Winter Olympics and Winter Paralympics to the world, which was well appreciated by the international community.
China has always been the main stabilizer and power source of world economic growth. Its average annual contribution rate to world economic growth has exceeded 30 percent. Any denigration, suppression or containment on China’s development is doomed to fail. China’s development is historically inevitable and unstoppable. As China enters a new stage of development, we are actively implementing the new development philosophy and building the new development dynamic. This will provide more development opportunities for countries around the world including Nepal. China’s development is also a contribution to the progress of all mankind. This is a common consensus of the international community, supported and appreciated by the vast majority of countries.
Communicating through social media
Social media is an important link and bridge for the Chinese Embassy in Nepal to communicate with Nepali people, especially the youths. I opened my Twitter account in 2019 to share my work and life in Nepal, and received the enthusiastic support of tens of thousands of fans. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks for this.
In 2020, the Chinese Embassy in Nepal opened a Facebook page to introduce the latest progress in bilateral relations and practical cooperation between China and Nepal, as well as China’s domestic development achievements. At the beginning of this year, the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Nepal also opened a Twitter account with the account name “Spokesperson of Chinese Embassy in Nepal”. Through this platform, we will timely release important positions of the embassy and important information on bilateral cooperation, and I welcome all of you to follow it. Both the Embassy and myself will continue to use social media platforms to interact with media friends and netizens, enhance mutual understanding and trust, and promote cultural mutual learning and people-to-people bonds.
The above content is the speech delivered by Hou Yanqi on the online media briefing on April 21. Hou Yanqi is the ambassador of China to Nepal.