Distinguished Greek Shipping Minister, Mr. Nicholas, Honorable Delegates and Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning!
It is a pleasure for me to be in this beautiful Port of Piraeus and to attend the meeting held by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). At first, I wish to express my gratitude for the kind invitation of the sponsors and to the host, the Greek government, for the arrangements made for this conference.
As is well known, Beijing has just hosted the 29th Olympic Games, and the Olympic Games promoted communication between China and the world, carrying forward and disseminating the Olympic spirit of solidarity, friendship and fair competition. Just as International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge said, “Through this Olympic Games, the world has known more about China, and the Chinese have known more about the other parts of the world.” Many international friends coming themselves for Olympic Games in Beijing saw the great changes in China. And these changes happened in the recent 30 years of reform and opening up, especially in the past 10 years. In the process of the great changes, China's ports, coastal ports in particular, are constantly growing and have made great achievements, which also becomes one of the most important factors for the connections between China and other parts of the world. Now, on the request of the assembly, I will introduce the development of port industry with Chinese characteristics and the experience we have made.
Transportation is not only one of the very important infrastructural industries, but also a major service sector. Ninety percent of China's foreign trade goods are shipped by sea. According to the need for China's economic development, specialized seaport transportation system mainly for coal, oil, iron ore and container has been established. From 1997 to 2007, China's port container throughput reached 100,000,000 TEUs from 10,000,000 TEUs, with an average annual increase of 26%. Six seaports including Shanghai have been among the world's 20 largest container ports. During the rapid increase of the port throughput, China's ports repeated broke the world records of cargo-handling efficiency, with smooth operation and no big jam.
At present, China is accelerating the construction of an environment-friendly and resource-saving society. The Chinese government sets transportation industry as a priority to build a convenient, unblocked, efficient, comprehensive and safe transportation system under the principle of unified planning and rational distribution. In a future period, China will further improve the port layouts along the seas and rivers and enlarge the throughput capability of the ports. Meanwhile, in order to further the strategies of the precedent modernization of the east China, the development of the west China and the rise of the middle China, and to promote the harmonious development between the eastern coastal regions and the middle and western regions, we will improve conditions of inland waterway navigation and propel the river-sea intermodal transport. We will attach more importance to the efficiency of the logistics and the multimodal transport, especially increasing the connection of high way, railway and port, thus to realize the aim of the economic development of the port hinterlands and the middle and western regions.
Looking back at the course of Chinese ports' development, we got several pieces of experience and are willing to share them with the members of the UNECE.
The first is adhering to the policy of reform and opening up to the outside world, and taking a good command of the trend of economic globalization to realize win-win situation through cooperation. The rapid development of Chinese port industry and sea transportation is an important achievement of the economic globalization and China's reform and opening up policy. On the one hand, the further development of economic globalization promotes the adjustment of global economic pattern and industrial transfer, which made China a world factory. Chinese economic prosperity and the great development of foreign trade has supplied the ports of China and the rest of the world with broad development space, as well as a big stage for the global sea transportation industries. On the other hand, after the practice of 30-year reform and opening up, China has built a financing, investment and management system with Chinese characteristics, which is in accordance with China's actual conditions and the international standard. The Chinese government encourages investment to the ports from the private and foreign capital and protects the legitimate rights and interests of foreign funded enterprises according to Chinese law. We fulfill our commitments to the WTO and unceasingly expand the opening up, with foreign enterprises taking part in the investment and management of nearly 60% of coastal container ports. The top 20 big shipping service companies in the world have opened their international shipping routes connected with Chinese ports. The foreign companies account for 80% share of the sea transportation market in China.
The second is adhering to a demand-led principle, preparing advanced plans and moderately going further than the need of the development. China's port development orients at the domestic and international transportation markets, with the purpose of meeting the needs of national economy, social development and foreign trade. We have made the plan of national ports layout, making the eastern coastal area and Yangtze River—the main inner river—as the focus of port development. According to the layout, we have worked out a more detailed overall plan of each port. We advocate to prosper the cities with the ports, develop the ports with the cities and greatly develop the port-related industries. Meanwhile, we insist on a principle of an appropriate advance of the ports construction to coordinate with the regional economic development.
The third is exerting fully the bridge role of ports to realize a positive economical interaction between the coastal areas and the inland. The eastern coastal ports are not only China's gateway to the outside world, but also the link and bridge of the economy between China coastal region and the central and western inland region. Chinese government is devoting itself in accordance with prepared plans to the five coastal port groups, including Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta, the Pan-Bohai region, the southeast coast and the south-west coast, as well as eight transportation systems, including coal, oil, iron ore, container, food, automotive goods, roll-on-roll-off cargo between land and the island and passenger service, which covers the east of China and the southwest coastal region and radiates to all the central and western regions. It plays a positive and effective role in boosting economic and social development of the central and western region, and in a positive interaction and balanced development of regional economy.
The fourth is adhering to the scientific concept of development to realize a sustainable development of port industry. Chinese government encourages the energy-saving and emission-reducing technology, implementing the environmental assessment of the ports construction and evaluation of energy-saving to promote the port development coordinate with the environment, which results a sustainable development initiated by the international community and also in line with our self-interest. China encourages the application of advanced science and technology in the field of port, and our port handling equipment manufacturing has reached the international advanced level. We value the improvement of the working conditions of workers through technological innovation and protect the legitimate rights and interests of workers according to the law. China's international air routes to all ports strictly carry out the relevant international conventions of International Maritime Organization and other relevant international organizations, to assure the safety transport operation in line with the requirements of environmental protection.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have decided on the theme of this meeting, that is, “The Role of the Harbor—a Bridge to Connect the Inland and the Sea Transportation”, which fully demonstrates that the UNECE attaches great importance to the important role the harbors have made in the international trade and economic development. European continent and nearby islands is a vast region with many countries, whose economic development is not so balanced, similar to the Far East region with China. But we have a common sense in an irreplaceable role of harbors quickly boosting economic development. Port is a starting point of large number of countries towards the sea and the other part of the world and the sea transportation can be regarded as the first global industrial sector. The Chinese government attaches great importance to and actively participates in the port and maritime international cooperation, and we have maintained good cooperative relations with the world's major maritime countries. China-EU maritime transport agreement has come into effect on March 1, and China has carried out substantive cooperation projects in the maritime, port investment, shipbuilding, ship inspection and other aspects with Greece and other European countries.
We clearly see that at present, the development of the ports in the world is facing the challenges of the greatly changing climate and increased world economic slowdown, the world's financial assets shrinking, and states alone with their own wisdom and strength cannot effectively deal with the situation. We hope that through this conference we can fully share and exchange the experiences of ports development, expand and deepen the areas of cooperation to meet common challenges, and try our best to promote the sustainable development of the port industry and global economic prosperity. At the same time, welcome to China and we sincerely hope that you will benefit us with some advice and valuable suggestions.
Finally, I wish the conference a great success. Thank you!