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Remarks by Ambassador Xu Erwen at the Video Conference on Sports Cooperation between China and Croatia
2020-09-16 02:59

Honourable Mr. Mateša, President of Croatian Olympic Committee,

Ms.Jeričević, Head of the Sector for Sports Support in the Ministry of Tourism and Sport of Croatia,

Mr.Pospiš, President of the Croatian Table Tennis Federation,

Ladies and gentlemen:

Good Morning, everyone!

It is a great pleasure to attend the Video Conference on sports cooperation between China and Croatia. This year is a "big year" for China-Croatia relations and coincides with the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership between our two countries. China-Croatia cooperation faces hard-won opportunities and broad prospects for development. Today, we are gathered here to tap the potential of sports cooperation between China and Croatia and take our sports cooperation to a new level. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the development of sports in China and the opportunities for cooperation between China and Croatia in sports field.

China is a major country in sports, and its sports cause has gone through an extraordinary hard-working journey. There was a time when the hat of the "Sick Man of East Asia" was like a mountain on top of the Chinese, and sports seemed like a luxury that many people had never heard of, let alone participated in. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China on Oct 1st 1949, sports, like all other fields in China, have been given new opportunities and have made great achievements. From 1952, when the People's Republic of China participated in the Olympic Games for the first time, to 1984, the breakthrough of "zero" Olympic Gold medal was achieved. From the first time entering the top three of the Olympic Gold Medal Table at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games to the first time topping the Gold Medal Table at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, China's competitive sports have created a miracle in the history of world competitive sports.

Today, national fitness has become a common practice in China, with more than one-third of the population regularly taking part in physical exercise. Football, basketball, table tennis, badminton and other sports all have a large number of fans, and the "hit of marathon" has become a phenomenal event. When China's first urban marathon was born in Beijing in 1981, only 86 runners took part. Now, the popular "Beijing Marathon" has to allocate 30,000 participating places through a lottery system. A lot of provinces and cities are actively creating a "15-minute fitness circle" to promote the national fitness to "get moving". At present, China has more than 3 million sports venues, with an average of 23 venues per 10,000 people. Sports and fitness programs for farmers cover more than 90 percent of the country's administrative villages. Whether you are young or old, urban or rural, sweating it out through fitness has become the latest fad.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Sport is an integral part of the daily life of the Croatian people. Croatia also has rich experience in sports development, and has outstanding advantages in football, tennis, water polo, handball, skiing, ice hockey, table tennis and other sports. In the summer of 2018, Croatia's men's football team blowed a whirlwind of check patterns in the World Cup when they finished runners-up. In the same year, Croatia defeated France to win the Davis Cup tennis team championship. The Chinese people are very interested in Croatia's successful experience in sports. Many Chinese friends often ask me since I became the Chinese Ambassador to Croatia how Croatia, a country with a population of more than 4 millions, can produce so many excellent athletes?

Ladies and gentlemen,

China and Croatia have their respective strengths in the field of sports, which are worth learning from each other. Last year, the General Administration of Sport of China and his Croatia counterpart signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation, laying a solid foundation for further cooperation between the two sides. In recent years, approximately 100 students and athletes from Beijing Sport University have come to the Faculty of Kinesiology University of Zagreb to study football, basketball, handball and other sports. Many Croatian football players and coaches are working for Chinese football clubs. In a recent football match of Chinese Super League, Croatian player Ivan Santini scored a hat-trick, helping the team to defeat the opponent by 5-2. Our Embassy has also maintained friendly exchanges and cooperation with the Croatian Table Tennis Federation. The Croatia Table Tennis Federation actively promotes the sport of table tennis, so that more and more table tennis fans can shorten the distance through table tennis and strengthen their bodies. Many people also opened a window to know China because of their love for table tennis.

Looking forward to the future, China-Croatia sports cooperation enjoys broader prospects and China earnestly looks forward to closer and deeper cooperation with Croatia. In my view, the two sides should focus on three major opportunities:

First opportunity is that China-Croatia relations are in a period of "diamond development". This year marks the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership between China and Croatia, and bilateral relations have entered one of the best periods in history. Political mutual trust between the two countries has been deepened, major breakthroughs have been made in infrastructure and energy cooperation marked by the Peljesac Bridge and the Senj Wind Farm, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges have been deepened. In the face of the COVID-19 epidemic, our two countries and peoples have helped each other and fought side by side. Our friendship and mutual trust have been strengthened in the fight against COVID-19. The sports communities of China and Croatia should fully seize the historical opportunity of the rapid development of bilateral relations, further expand the breadth and depth of sports cooperation and inject new vitality into China-Croatia friendship.

Second opportunity is the development of China's economy and sports industry. In the face of the epidemic, the Chinese economy has shown great resilience and potential. The latest data shows that Chinese economy bounced to 3.2% growth in second quarter after shrinking in first. China has sound economic fundamentals, a complete industrial system and an improving business environment. Its 1.4 billion population and over 400 million middle-income groups have brought it significant advantages in the super-large market. China will promote high-quality international cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative, implement the win-win cooperation advocated by China, and provide valuable opportunities for the two countries to strengthen practical economic and trade cooperation and exchanges in sports, education, culture and tourism. At present, with the upsurge of national fitness in China, the sports industry has gradually become nexttail wind in the background of Chinese consumption upgrading. Croatia has obvious advantages in sports training technology and management experience, which is worthy of China's reference and learning. Enterprises of the two countries can jointly explore new ways and methods to strengthen cooperation in sports and other industries to achieve mutual benefits and win-win results.

Third opportunity is the Beijing Winter Olympic Games and other major sporting events. China is actively preparing for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, which is the first Winter Olympics to be held in China and Beijing will be the first to have hosted both the Summer and Winter Games. China has put forward the vision of "300 million people participating in winter sports". We hope that more and more people will gain health and happiness from participating in winter sports. With Croatia's strong strength in winter sports, it is timely for China and Croatia to deepen cooperation in Winter Olympics and winter sports. The two sides should step up exchanges and cooperation, focus on complementing each other's strengths and create new growth points for the "white economy".

Ladies and gentlemen,

I sincerely hope that members of the sports community of China and Croatia will seize this hard-won opportunity to jointly promote sports development of the two countries and write a new chapter in China-Croatia friendly cooperation. Here, I also sincerely invite all of you present and my friends from Croatia to attend the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games and share the joy and friendship of the Winter Olympics with the 1.4 billion Chinese people and many friends from all the world!

Thank you!

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