|Chinese Ambassador to Bulgaria Dong Xiaojun’s Interview with Sofia News Agency|
On September 20, 2022, on the eve of the 73rd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Bulgaria, Dong Xiaojun, Chinese Ambassador to Bulgaria, was interviewed by Sofia News Agency. The full text of the interview is as follows:
1. How would you assess the political and economic relations between Bulgaria and your country?
It has been three and a half years since I started my tour of duty as Chinese Ambassador to Bulgaria. I always feel strongly the friendly attitude of Bulgarians towards China, the enthusiasm and expectations of people from all walks of life for cooperation with China. Bulgaria is the second country in the world to recognize and establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. All successive Bulgarian governments have invariably adhered to the One-China Principle, which is an important political basis for the healthy and steady development of bilateral relations. During the state visit of H.E. President Rumen Radev to China in 2019, the two countries established a strategic partnership, which fully reflects the high level of China-Bulgaria relations in the new era. Our economic and trade cooperation has continued to expand and deepen. China is the third largest trade partner of Bulgaria and the second largest importer of Bulgarian goods outside the European Union. Under the framework of the “Belt and Road Initiative” and Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries, China is actively sharing development opportunities with Bulgaria. Bulgaria is now our second largest trade partner of agricultural products among Central and Eastern European countries and tenth within the European Union. The results of our cooperation in photovoltaic and wind power generation, telecommunication, automotive industry, finance and other fields are notable. Chinese companies such as Huawei, Xiaomi and Tianjin Farm Cultivation Group Company Bulgaria EOOD enjoy good reputation in Bulgaria and have contributed to local economic development.
2. How, in your opinion, could our relations improve in the near and more distant future?
I believe that with the improvement of the pandemic situation, political contacts between the two countries will become more frequent, economic, trade, cultural and people-to-people exchanges will become closer, and the China-Bulgaria strategic partnership will generate new vitality. Bulgaria attaches great importance to regional connectivity and has tabled a number of projects such as building highways and tunnels, and upgrading its railway network. Chinese companies have rich experience in infrastructure construction and are ready to conduct mutually beneficial cooperation with Bulgaria in relevant areas. With the deepening of Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries and the continuous development of relations between the two countries, Bulgaria's popularity in China is expected to grow even more. We welcome the export to the Chinese market of more high-quality Bulgarian agricultural products and will actively promote the "Land of Roses" so that more Chinese tourists come to visit and more Chinese companies to invest in areas such as new energy and innovations. China is ready to work together with Bulgaria to deepen the friendly cooperation between our two countries in various fields.
3. What, in your opinion, is the place of Bulgaria in the modern world?
In my opinion, Bulgaria has a unique and important place in today's world. It is the pearl of the Balkans with its long and glorious history and culture. Bulgarians are people with wonderful character, qualities and legal awareness, and Bulgaria’s rose products and yogurt are known all over the world. There is also great potential in areas such as green energy and innovation. Bulgaria firmly defends and practices multilateralism, actively participates in solving regional hotspot issues and in international affairs, where it plays an increasingly important role. It is among those who build and contribute to world peace and development. We sincerely wish Bulgaria greater development and new achievements.
4. If you had to advertise Bulgaria to investors from your country, what are the five most important advantages that you would point out?
First of all, as a member of the European Union, Bulgaria is a gateway to its large market, with a relatively high degree of inclusiveness to investments and cooperation from countries outside the EU. Second, in recent years, the Bulgarian economy has been growing steadily. The currency is stable. The government is implementing a policy of lev (BGN) convertibility on the current and capital accounts. This enables companies with foreign investments to freely open foreign currency accounts and make remittance freely. Third, Bulgaria has a relatively comprehensive legal and regulatory system, including basic civil, commercial and economic laws relating to investment, as well as the relevant administrative legal system and legal dispute resolution system. Fourth, in Bulgaria there are no special restrictions for foreign and local companies related to merger and acquisition transactions. There are no barriers to the withdrawal of foreign capital, as well as no restrictions on the withdrawal of investments and the transfer of operating profits of foreign enterprises. Fifth, the costs of land use and labor in Bulgaria are relatively low. The country has preferential tax policies, a large number of IT specialists and a strong desire to attract Chinese companies to invest and work here.
We hope that Bulgaria will continue to provide a fair, equitable and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies.
5. Do you think Bulgaria could improve its image or branding and if so, could you share an idea or advice?
Bulgaria has a good national image and branding. It enjoys good reputation as the "land of roses", whose rose oil is famous all over the world. It also has a long history, a special status in Slavic culture, colorful folklore, rich and diverse tourism resources, warm and friendly people and huge investment potential, among many other things.
National image or branding is vital to a country, being the most intuitive way to tell the world about the special features of a country, that are most important to it and of which it is most proud. I noted that the Ministries of Tourism, Culture and Agriculture of Bulgaria will form a joint working group to pool resources and efforts to promote “Brand Bulgaria”. I believe that this is a very valuable experiment that will help Bulgaria create and establish a more distinctive and unified national image or branding before the world. In this sense, we welcome the more active participation of Bulgaria in various expositions in China so as to improve the understanding of it and its brand, both among the Chinese people and around the world.
6. What will be the three most important events that the embassy will organize by the end of the year?
The three most important events before the end of the year will be the online celebration of our National Day, the 10th anniversary of the China-CEEC Cooperation Mechanism, and the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
October 1 marks the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, and we will celebrate it online on the embassy's Facebook page on September 28 at 7:00 p.m. (https://www.facebook.com/chineseembassyinbulgaria). We warmly welcome Bulgarian friends from all walks of life to join us in the celebration.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the cooperation mechanism between China and Central and Eastern European Countries. During the 10-year period, it matured and yielded fruitful results, becoming a vivid example of transregional cooperation and multilateralism. The other event, the upcoming 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), is a conference of great significance, as it will be held at this crucial moment when we embark on the new journey to build China into a modern socialist country in all respects and achieve the Second Centenary Goal. The Congress will lay out goals, tasks, and major policies for developing the cause of the Party and the country in the next five years or even longer periods to come. In connection with these events, our embassy will be organizing relevant events. And again I would like to invite all those interested to follow and participate when we announce them.
7. To what extent did the Covid-19 pandemic affect Bulgaria-China relations?
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic is still wreaking havoc around the world. The economic recovery is difficult and uneven. Various challenges and uncertainties have accumulated. All this has a certain impact on bilateral economic, trade and people-to-people exchanges. However, it is gratifying that the traditional friendship between China and Bulgaria has stood the test of time. The foundation for our cooperation is solid, and economic and trade relations in general show a trend towards sustainable growth. In the first half of 2022, the total volume of bilateral trade between our two countries was 2.14 billion dollars, a growth of 13.1% over the same period last year. I believe that as the pandemic subsides, people-to-people exchanges on both sides will catch up and have a “retaliatory” growth. China is ready to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with Bulgaria, implement more joint projects related to people's welfare and create more benefits for the peoples of our two countries.
8. What advice would you give to Bulgarians who want to do business with Chinese citizens?
China, with its 1.4 billion population, represents a huge market. We welcome the investments of foreign companies and the import of more high-quality Bulgarian products. There are differences in the laws and regulations between China and Bulgaria, so whether it is Bulgarian or Chinese companies, we recommend that before engaging in trade and business activities, they familiarize themselves with the laws and regulations of the other country, hire lawyers, accountants, consulting agencies, so that they go through the necessary procedures smoothly and avoid misunderstandings or losses due to unawareness of local legislation. At the same time, we recommend that the two sides conduct cooperation on the basis of the principles of mutual benefit and mutual gain, as well as be proactive in providing the necessary support to their partners, especially to those who come to Europe for the first time or do business for the first time in China. Finally, it is important to verify information such as the qualifications, professional experience of the other party, so as to keep the funds safe. In this regard, the embassy will continue to actively play its role as a bridge.
9. Tell us about yourself - what was your professional diplomatic career, how long have you been in Bulgaria and what are the most interesting places or even dishes in Bulgaria for you?
I joined the diplomatic service about four decades ago. Besides working in the Chinese Foreign Ministry, I was posted in Afghanistan, the Gambia, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States. Afterwards, I served as Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica (concurrently China’s Permanent Representative to the International Seabed Authority), and then to Uruguay. I’ve been working and living in Bulgaria-the beautiful land of roses since February 2019. Besides Sofia, I’ve also visited some other regions. It might not be fair for me to say which places I like the most because I like all the places I’ve been to. Wherever I went, I was warmly received, and was fascinated by the rich culture and beautiful scenery, among many other things. I was particularly overwhelmed by the hospitality of the friendly Bulgarian people. As for the local delicacies, there are so many dishes that I like a lot, such as Shopska Salad, Tripe Soup, and Banitsa, just to name a few.
10. If you had to describe Bulgarian in just three words, what would they be?
INCLUSIVE, FORTITUDINOUS, AMBITIOUS. Bulgaria has a long history and brilliant culture. Different ethnic groups and religions co-exist in harmony, and the people and society are characterized by a high degree of inclusiveness. This makes Bulgaria both an excellent tourist destination and an attractive place for investment and property purchase. In its history, Bulgaria experienced sufferings and slavery, but it has managed to preserve its language and writing, and this is something to be very proud of. This would not have been possible without the fortitude of the Bulgarian people - something we can feel even today. Bulgarians are also very ambitious. The Bulgarian government actively participates in regional and international affairs and is playing an increasingly important role. The Bulgarian scholars, artists and athletes are getting more and more prizes and awards in all kinds of international competitions. Of course, three words are too few to be able to describe the Bulgarian people, and there are many more, such as sincere, friendly and eager for knowledge. If I had to summarize my attitude, I would say that I very much like to make friends with Bulgarians.