Press statement Wopke Hoekstra, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Beijing 23 May 2023

Press statement by Wopke Hoekstra, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Beijing 23 May 2023.

Good evening,

State Councilor Qin Gang, thank you very much for the warm welcome I received today. I very much valued the open, and as you said very candid conversation and meaningful discussion we had.

It’s a pleasure to be here again, and I appreciate the opportunity to re-engage after a long period of limited contact, but also to further familiarize myself with China’s history and culture, such as the Forbidden City, which I will visit tomorrow.

Face-to-face meetings like this contribute to maintaining stable and constructive relations, and they help enhance mutual understanding.

For example, Vice President Han recently visited the Netherlands. And I am looking forward to meeting him myself tomorrow here in Beijing.

We, the world, we are facing a number of pressing international issues, and we have a shared responsibility to resolve them.

China can play a pivotal role in finding solutions to global challenges like conflict, climate change, poverty, and inequality.

We need to work together to meet these challenges successfully.

China’s influence is significant in a great number of areas.

It is a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, and has a unique relation with Russia.

The State Councilor and I have talked extensively about the war that Russia started in Ukraine.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine must stop.

Europe and the Netherlands will continue to stand with Ukraine, for as long as it takes, with whatever is necessary.

We welcome that President Xi has spoken with President Zelenskyy.

We hope President Zelenskyy’s views and concerns – including the Ukrainian Peace Formula – will be taken to heart.

As a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, Russia needs to uphold the core principles of the UN Charter, including national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

We assume that China’s special envoy, Li Hui, will advance these points in his contacts with Russia.

We see valuable points in China’s position paper on the war in Ukraine, such as ensuring nuclear safety and security, and implementation of the Black Sea Grain deal. And with China we agree on the importance of preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction.

I’ve also stressed the importance of all countries refraining from delivering weapons to Russia, and the need to prevent the circumvention of sanctions.

Our two countries have a mature relation. We both understand the importance of standing up for our national interests, we acknowledge both our commonalities and our differences, and we use diplomacy to address the issues on which we disagree.

Issues like human rights, which are a cornerstone of Dutch foreign policy.

And in this regard, the Netherlands has shared the concerns expressed also by the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, about the human rights situation in China, particularly in Xinjiang.

I welcome the resumption of the EU-China human rights dialogue. It’s important that we have this forum for respectful dialogue.

Today, State Councilor Qin Gang and I discussed how to make multilateral organisations fit for purpose.

China’s views on necessary reform of the multilateral system are indeed important.

The Netherlands and China both have their own views on global governance, and this forms part of precisely that dialogue. 

The Netherlands is convinced that we have to uphold the principles of the UN Charter, international law and human rights, as the basis of our multilateral system that serves all countries.

Within this framework, we need to continue to collaborate on the challenges we face.

For example when it comes to peace and security.

China made a constructive contribution to the REAIM conference on the responsible use of Artificial Intelligence in the military domain, which was held in the Netherlands recently.

This showed clearly that we can work together successfully.

We are keen to extend our bilateral co-operation to other fields, such as the energy transition.

Climate change is of course a major issue – and co-operation between China and the EU is crucial for successful global climate action.

Today, we also discussed peace and security worldwide, in Europe and in the Indo-Pacific.

Peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait are vital for the region and the world. The Netherlands consistently abides by its One China Policy.

As EU High Representative Borrell has stated recently: any unilateral change in the status quo – and any use of force – would have massive economic, political, and security consequences. And that, in our view, this would be in neither of our interests.

The State Councilor and I also discussed the economic relationship. China is the second-largest economy in the world, and is closely linked to Europe through trade and investment.

This can, and will, help foster peace and prosperity.

Our bilateral economic relations are also strong, and continue to grow. Last year, the total value of trade between our two countries was 84 billion euros.

We both benefit from these economic ties.

However, as the European Commission President said recently: the EU-China trade relation has become increasingly imbalanced.

And our view is that trade works best on a level playing field. That is why we are looking for reciprocity from our trading partners.

We feel that more needs to be done to ensure that European companies enjoy the same level of access to the Chinese market as Chinese companies enjoy in Europe.

We are very much looking forward to discussing our bilateral trade relations in more depth at the Joint Economic Committee meeting later this year.

Safeguarding our open, free, and secure economy and cyberspace is a key priority for the Netherlands.

Like China, we have a responsibility to protect our national security. And just as China protects its core interests, so we protect ours.

In that regard, I raised our concerns about cyber operations conducted from Chinese territory, and reports of foreign interference operations on Dutch territory – including against journalists.

The Netherlands seeks to contribute to solutions, and to engage effectively at every diplomatic level.

Because managing our joint interests, and also managing our differences is crucial, for effective cooperation.

And we need each other to resolve the global challenges we face.

I firmly believe that today’s discussion will foster more mutual understanding. And I look forward to the next opportunity to continue our dialogue, which I truly, deeply value.

Thank you.