Chinese president visits Volvo Ghent, gives speech in Bruges


Chinese president Xi Jinping visited the Chinese-owned Volvo plant in Ghent yesterday and delivered a speech to College of Europe students in Bruges, in which he emphasised Chinese-European relations

Chinese president Xi Jinping waves to the crowds gathered in Bruges before his speech in the Concertgebouw

President encourages students to visit China

The Chinese president Xi Jinping ended his visit to Belgium with a speech in the Concertgebouw in Bruges, where he emphasised the growing bonds between China and the EU and encouraged the audience, made up of students and staff from the College of Europe, to visit his country.

“The College of Europe has, in recent years, placed in increasing importance on China,” said the president. “It has started courses on European-China relations and is also preparing the launch of a Europe-China research centre, devoted to the studies of European-China relations. China plans to work with the College of Europe to build a library on China, the first of its kind in an EU member country.”

The president, who assumed office one year ago, continued by talking about his country’s relationship with the EU. “China and the European Union have one of the most important bilateral co-operations in the world,” he said, “and there is still much more potential. Because of that, we need to get to know each other better. … I am inviting you all to my country. What you hear can be false, but what you see is true.”

The Chinese embassy had arranged for buses to take hundreds of Chinese people living in Belgium – mostly students from Flemish universities – to Bruges to get a glimpse of their president as he entered the Concertgebouw. “You can imagine that in a country of more than 1.3 billion people, it is a lot more difficult to get anywhere near the president,” 24-year-old student Huyu Wang told Het Nieuwsblad. The streets were also full of locals, who took the opportunity to see King Filip and Queen Mathilde, who accompanied the Chinese couple to Bruges.

Earlier in the day, Xi visited the Volvo plant in Ghent, along with the king and queen and several politicians, including Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters and Ghent mayor Daniel Termont. While Volvo is a Swedish brand, the company is owned by the Chinese auto manufacturer Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.

President Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, met Belgian and Chinese trainees at Volvo and attended a ceremony to mark the production of the 300,000th car constructed in Ghent for the Chinese market – a Volvo XC60.

Also during his visit, Xi signed several co-operation agreements between the Brussels Free University (VUB) and five Chinese universities – Sichuan, Renmin, Fudan, Northwestern Polytechnic in Xi’an and the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. The agreements will lead to jointly organised study programmes and the creation of a mutual laboratory in audio visual signal processing.

During the signing ceremony at VUB, professor Jan Cornelis was awarded the Sanqin Friendship Award. VUB’s vice-rector of International Policy, Cornelis has been instrumental in arranging co-operations between VUB and Chinese institutions. The prize is given by China’s Shaanxi province to foreigners who have made outstanding contributions to the region’s economic and social development.

It was Xi’s first trip to Europe; Belgium was his fourth and final stop after the Netherlands, France and Germany. He is the first Chinese president to pay an official visit to the EU. 

Photo by Corbis