By Kim Seung-ho
The first ray of the sun in 2022 did not simply signal the beginning of a new year, but also the first full year of China’s endeavor to realize the second centennial goal, while marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Korea and China.
As an old Chinese saying goes, a man is steadfast at the age of 30. Similarly, after 30 years of diplomatic and economic exchanges, China-ROK relations have matured. And both the ROK and China have made remarkable achievements in the past three decades.
Thanks to reform and opening-up, China has made huge economic and social progress, becoming the second-largest economy in the world. But China’s accomplishments did not fall from the sky; it was earned by the diligent Chinese people, through their unremitting efforts.
I take this opportunity to thank the Chinese people for their dedication and hard work because a considerable part of the ROK’s economic success in the past 30 years is owed to China’s reform and opening-up.
Over the past three decades, bilateral trade has increased by about 50 times and countless ROK companies have started operations in China, which would not have been possible without China’s reform and opening-up policy.
Economically, the two countries have, to a certain extent, become interdependent. It’s hard to tell if a product is made in the ROK or China, because the two countries’ supply chains are inextricably linked. This state of economic interdependence can be seen as the biggest achievement of the two countries on the economic front. But I’m afraid we are yet to make such an achievement on the political, social or cultural front.
Delivering a speech at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May 2017, President Xi Jinping said friendship, which derives from close contact between the people, holds the key to sound state-to-state relations.
People can buy and sell goods to total strangers. But when it comes to political, social and cultural exchanges, they need to meet and interact with each other. If there is no interpersonal communication between the people, the relationship cannot be strong and lasting.
I firmly believe that in the next 30 years, people in the ROK and China will establish heart-to-heart exchanges, and the key to achieving that is to have more people-to-people communication. As another Chinese sayings goes, celebrate other people’s joy, and they will also share your happiness.
The factors that help develop a strong friendship between people are the same that build good relations between countries－more communication and consultations.
The fact that 2022 has been earmarked as the Year of Cultural Exchanges between the Republic of Korea and China to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of China-ROK diplomatic relations will help the two sides to consolidate their economic partnership and boost their cultural, political relations. And the two countries’ similar cultural backgrounds mean they will find more common grounds than differences to take their relations on all fronts forward.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has severely restricted face-to-face communication, we should continue to explore more alternative ways of regularizing communication.
Having good and friendly neighbors makes it easier for a country to safeguard its national security. Take Europe for example. From unifying tariffs to forming the European Union, and from using a common currency (in most EU countries) to coordinating domestic affairs and social policies, the economic integration of Europe has almost ruled out military conflicts.
Similarly, the interconnection between the ROK and China shouldn’t be confined to trade. Instead, it should also cover investment, personnel exchanges, connectivity and more, which will contribute to promoting lasting peace in Northeast Asia.
Since both the ROK and China believe in peaceful coexistence, they should work together to create a better tomorrow. Countries cannot choose their neighbors, but they can make efforts to develop friendly relations. As the Chinese people are now striving to achieve the second centenary goal of developing China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful by the middle of the century, they can count on the people of the ROK to be reliable and trusted partners in their endeavor.
-The Daily Mail-China Daily News Exchange Item