The Slovenia Times

Partnership from Afar



"There isn't a country in the world that has build as much infrastructure in the last 30 years as China has," Fu Ying was quoted as saying by the Slovenian newswire. "We have the most modern technology in infrastructure building and this is what is most needed in the Balkans."
"The question for [China] is how to transfer the good political relationship into concrete business ties," Fu said on the sidelines of the Bled Strategic Forum, adding that this would be the priority area for the Chinese embassy in Ljubljana.

Many opportunities

According to Ying, this has topped the agenda of her two visits to Slovenia this year. On both, she was accompanied by strong business delegations. Talks explored possible cooperation in the development of roads and ports.
The deputy foreign minister believes that Slovenia could act as a springboard for Chinese investments in the Western Balkans, as well as being a partner to Chinese companies in joint ventures in the region. "Slovenia has extensive regional outreach and is competitive in auto parts manufacturing, chemical and pharmaceutical industries," she argued.
The delegation accompanying Fu to the Bled Strategic Forum included representatives of energy, machinery, telecommunications and financial sectors. "This shows the great interest of the Chinese business community in Slovenia and the region," said Fu.
As part of her discussions at the Bled Strategic Forum, the Chinese official highlighted that "Europe as a whole needs to learn how to accept investment from developing countries" such as China, which are only now beginning to invest abroad.

Partnership is key

Ying participated in a roundtable discussion at the forum that tackled the issues of what is to be expected in the future in terms of shifting world powers and the economic crisis. She said that conferences such as the one in Bled are an opportunity for Chinese businesses to learn about the ways of investment in the West and for domestic business officials to get acquainted with Chinese investors.
Ying explained that China's guiding principle in international relations is partnership, emphasising that her country does not believe the current trends represent a power shift from West to East but a diffusion of power.
"We see the world is in a period of diffusion - you see the capital, technologies, the market is diffusing from the centre to the wider area," she said, highlighting the growing role of the BRIC and African countries in international relations and trade.
As part of this, Ying sees a need to "reform the [economic model] which was built after World War II, which accommodated only one billion people. We need to accommodate more now."
But she stressed this must be done by peaceful means. "We don't believe in a shift through a form of revolution or war or conflict... The reforms that are necessary will have to take place through negotiations and dialogue," she said, highlighting the G20 as an important forum in this direction.

A strong West

Moreover, she added that such a process cannot succeed without a strong West. "For negotiated dialogue changes, we need to have strong partners. The weaknesses in the older developed countries are not going to benefit the newly emerging countries at all."
"That's why we are part of the effort to promote economic recovery in those countries," Yu continued. "We provide charter bonds, we invest, we promote trade. It is important that these countries come out of the difficulties as soon as possible in order to join this trend of peaceful development."

Lessons to learn

She said that the current financial predicament of the West is also an important learning exercise for China as it progresses down the road of development.
"We want to learn the lessons from these countries, because most of the countries in trouble are post-industrial countries. The problems they confront might occur in China one day. So we need to see how they come out of it and how they address the problems."
Chinese government is also keen to help Slovenians learn lessons about its own country. A November trip to the country has been organised by the Chinese Confucius institute in Ljubljana in cooperation with the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade.
Those participating in the trip will have a chance to visit the cities of Shanghai, Nantong and Suzhou. The excursion is designed primarily for company owners, directors and employees of small and medium-sized Slovenian companies that are already operating internationally or are thinking about expanding their business. Those who decide to take part in the trip will most certainly make valuable contacts as well as learn about doing business in the Chinese market and with Chinese partners.
Many of the world's countries are ahead of Slovenia in exploiting the opportunities presented by China. But if Fu Ying's recent visit is anything to go by, there is a dedication in both countries to strengthening what could be a very fruitful relationship.


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