Bernard Dewit: China is a very good example of dynamism and vitality

Indeed, at a time of economic recovery, we need foreign investments. And of course, when we speak about foreign investments, China is important.

Editor’s Note: Despite the Covid-19 impact, China’s economy rebounded in the second quarter with GDP growth of 3.2 percent, reflecting its economic dynamism and potential. How to evaluate China’s economic resilience? What does it mean to China and Belgium as well as the EU? David Gosset, the founder of Europe-China Forum, discussed with Bernard Dewit, Chairman of Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and a lawyer by profession. Dewit was honored with the Chinese Government Friendship Award in 2017 for his contribution to promoting China-Belgium and China-Europe economic cooperation.

A Time of Resilience, hosted by Mr. Gosset, is a high-level dialogue with international veteran diplomats, business elites and outstanding scholars. The serial interviews are presented by China Focus in association with DG2CI Limited.

David Gosset: Bernard, as a lawyer, what resilience means to you?

Bernard Dewit: At the beginning, resilience is more of a term for psychologists, psychiatrists, because it’s to start a new development after a psychological agony. I think at all level in Europe, China can be an inspiration for us. China is one step forward because they were hit before, and they were recovered before us. So, we should like, in a course with cyclist, keep within the wheel of the people in front of us.

David Gosset: There is a very important topic, when you look at the EU-China relations, it’s the Chinese investments in Europe for also jobs in Europe which are so needed at the moment. With your experience, with your expertise, your knowledge of the Chinese companies, and of the European context, what we should do in Europe in order to attract Chinese, more Chinese investments to the European Union?

Bernard Dewit: I think your question is very important. Indeed, at a time of economic recovery, we need foreign investments. And of course, when we speak about foreign investments, China is important. I think we have to give a better knowledge to the Chinese companies, to the Chinese businessmen, of all economic and legal environment in Europe. Europe is not easy. We have 27 countries, 27 legal systems which are different, with some rules that are different. So, we need to make an effort first to make it better known to the Chinese to avoid that they, being afraid, would say Europe is too complicated for us, we go somewhere else. We need also to be a little bit attractive to them in the sense that we have some policies favoring foreign investment, tax policies or whatever. We need to make that better known.

David Gosset: One can see there is clearly the mistrust between China and the West. How do we make sure that the European people, they know more about China, where it comes from, what China is doing today, and where China is going?

Bernard Dewit: I think you’re fully right. The knowledge about each other, I would say, that is from Europeans about Chinese, but also from Chinese about Europeans, is very important. It can be at several levels. It can be first at the level of high schools in teaching about the history of China and in China about the history of Europe. It can be at university level. It can be also about the learning of each other languages, because that is also very important. We see more and more young Europeans now interested in learning Chinese language. That is also the key, because more and more we will know each other, there will be more trust. I think if we are confronted in the world to the same problems, the problems are climate change, the problems are economic recovery, these kinds of problems, we are all facing it. All Chinese friends are facing it. Let’s see what they do to solve that. All Chinese friends can see what we are doing to try to overcome this economic situation, so we can inspire from each other.

David Gosset: This crisis should be an invitation for all of us to go at another level of collaboration and cooperation, we can turn this crisis into an opportunity. After such a long time of interacting with China and the Chinese friends, what are the three ideas you would like us to remember about your understanding of China?

Bernard Dewit: First, China is a very good example of dynamism and vitality that can be an example for other nations aiming at going back. Second, China is a country still offering huge possibilities in economic cooperation, but that needs to be studied carefully. So, that is also something that we’d have to take into account. Last but not the least, China is not our enemy. China is a partner. And both partners need to treat each other with respect. That is the three characteristics I would like to mention.

David Gosset: Thank you very much. We will meditate on that, the energy, vitality, indeed. By the way, allow me to interpret what you just said, China is about life, because it has always been, Bernard, one fourth or one fifth of mankind. So, vitality, there has been, there is, and there will be, when we think about China. The market, absolutely, Bernard, and I personally believe that the “secret weapon” of China is 1.4 billion consumers. It means that, as you said, it is not easy, but these 1.4 billion consumers, they are waiting also to consume European services or products. As you said, Bernard, your third point that, here again, we converge very much, clearly, China is not our enemy, and China does not want us to see it as an enemy. China is about peace as you know and collaboration.

Bernard Dewit: Thank you very much, David. Congratulation for all your action you’re doing to bring that bridge between Europe and China.

David Gosset: Thank you, Bernard.