This year in May, we will celebrate 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the People's Republic of China.
The Netherlands was one of the first Western countries to recognize China shortly after the founding of the People's Republic of China on Oct 1, 1949. On May 16, 1972, the ministers of foreign affairs of the Netherlands and China signed a declaration to elevate the existing mutual diplomatic representations to the ambassadorial level. Both countries agreed to live up to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence between nations.
Over the past 50 years, the Netherlands and China have come to understand each other better. There are now many areas in which there is close cooperation, such as trade and investment, research and education. The two countries' economies have gradually become more and more intertwined. We have not only strengthened each other's economies, but also learned to better understand each other's policies, perceptions and cultures.
I have had the opportunity to live and work on the Chinese mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for 20 years. I have had the privilege to witness the re-emergence of the nation from within. What has struck me most was the eagerness, tenacity and drive of the Chinese people to develop themselves, learn new techniques and help build up their country.
The Netherlands is a small country with only 17 million inhabitants. The country is centrally located and has good access to the rest of Europe through integrated road, railway and water networks and excellent connections with the rest of Europe. That is why the country is called the Gateway to Europe.
What is lesser known is that the Netherlands is the second-largest exporter of agricultural products in the world and the fifth largest exporter of goods. Exports account for 60 percent of its GDP.
The country is proud to be one of the world leaders in agriculture, food and horticulture and is also famous for its value added integrated logistics to the rest of Europe. Fifty percent of all European trade goes via one of the three main ports: Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe, Amsterdam port and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Also high-tech industries, energy, creative industries, life sciences and health, chemical industry, environmental technology and water management belong to the nation's top sectors. Some of these top sectors are quite similar to the sectors highlighted in China's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), so there are plenty of opportunities for cooperation and trade between the Netherlands and China.
The Netherlands is also the second-largest investor in China and the third-largest trading partner among the European Union member states. Bilateral trade volume and two-way investment both increased against all odds last year. The Netherlands, following Germany, has become China's second-largest trade partner in Europe with bilateral trade surpassing $100 billion in 2021. This fully reflects the great potential of cooperation between the Netherlands and China.
The more than 100-year-old Chinese community in the Netherlands comprising ethnic Chinese people originating from the Chinese mainland, the Hong Kong SAR and Taiwan, and the countries of Indonesia, Suriname and Singapore, is highly regarded and has a good reputation.
The Netherlands China Business Council has played a pioneering role in deepening contacts and understanding between the business communities of the two countries. Founded in 1964, the NCBC is one of the oldest and largest independent non-profit bilateral business councils in the Netherlands. Its mission is to actively promote and expand two-way trade and investment, economic cooperation and mutual understanding between the business communities and public sectors of the Netherlands and China.
For more than 50 years, we have jointly associated with many Chinese entities, assisted hundreds of Dutch and Chinese enterprises to successfully engage with selected counterparts when entering or expanding their business in China or in Europe by organizing all kinds of business-focused activities. During these years, the NCBC has had the honor to host, or co-host, many conferences in the Netherlands and in China, among others for President Xi Jinping and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, and receive many visiting officials and high-level business delegations from China.
We are looking forward to celebrating this milestone and to assisting and receiving many more delegations and individuals from China, facilitating even more business opportunities and promoting mutual prosperity of our two peoples for the next 50 years.
The author is vice-chairman of the Netherlands China Business Council. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.