Visit to Beijing by PM De Croo

Intense program

I was honored to be present on 11 January 2024 for the visit to Beijing by PM De Croo.
The reception was in the afternoon with H.E. Alexander De Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium, H. E. Hadja Lahbib, Minister of Foreign Affairs and H.E. Mr. Bruno Angelet, Ambassador of Belgium.
See below details of the program as I managed to figure out on my own.
Contrary to the traditional protocol to introduce the local Belgian community we were ignored by the large delegation composed of many Belgian government officials, businesspeople and journalists. Nobody was interested to have feedback from us on the business environment. The PM kept busy with the dozens of journalists.

The PM actually mentioned in his speech the project I did in the eighties, Yaomeng Pingdingshan Power Plant, the first soft loan to China. I was in charge of the project from 1980 to 1988.
I had wanted to mention to him how I received his father in 1986. On 3 November 1986 I welcomed Belgian ambassador Jan Hollants Van Locke and Herman De Croo, Minister of Foreign Trade.

See also the official reception for the opening of the Beijing office on 26 October 1981.
Also Renaat Morel was not introduced to the PM. All while President Xi Jinping mentioned Morel’s restaurant to the PM later on.

I did have the chance to meet again H.E. Jan Hoogmartens, Bernard Dewit and the author Veerle De Vos (I have her book).


– 11 January afternoon – inauguration of the new embassy – attended by H.E. Alexander De Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium, H. E. Hadja Lahbib, Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Mr. Bruno Angelet, Ambassador of Belgium and H.E. Wang Yi, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and Foreign Minister. Performance by Peter Ritzen and Liu Guangyu (we had dinner later together). Unveiling of the nameplates for three spaces in the new building, honoring three figures that played a crucial role in Belgian-China relationship: Father Ferdinand Verbiest – Tian Bao Courtyard (Panda Garden) – Qian Xiuling Hall.

– 11 January evening – dinner and panel discussion in Kempinski Hotel for the Belgian business people, panel by Joerg Wuttke (and possibly others but none of us).
– 12 January 2024 – Belgian PM De Croo and Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lahbib met with Chinese and Belgian entrepreneurs during an event organized by the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC) and CCPIT in Beijing.

– 12 January 2024 (afternoon) – PM De Croo and Minister Lahbib had a meeting with the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, Zhao Leji, then with the Premier of the PRC Li Qiang, and then with the President of the PRC Xi Jinping. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the whole business delegation were also invited by Premier Li Qiang for a banquet during lunchtime.

= The Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Belgian ambassador also visited the Forbidden City, closed for the public.

Results of the visit

Overall the impact was positive and it is certainly a boost for Belgium-China relations.
I collected many of the media articles, English, Dutch and Chinese (with Google translation). Anybody interested contact me. See the overview: mediaarticles
The import of Belgian pork meat is now again allowed.
The hoopla around the import of Belgian endive was a bit of a joke.
The vegetable that we call witloof or chicon or endive is mostly translated in English as “endive”. More about this famous vegetable in my post.
Indeed Renaat Morel launched in China the culture of endive around 1997, in Northeast China. He also imported samples of the transport containers with blue paper – to cover the endive that cannot have light so it remains white.

Since then we all enjoy endive and the famous Morel dish of endive au gratin. Just this week I had it served as a salad in the Sichuan Mansion during a Chinese banquet.
While citizens of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia, Ireland and Switzerland will now be allowed to enter China without a visa, Belgium did not receive the same favor.

Belgian conductors in China

Peter Ritzen

Belgian conductors in China are lately in the news. I have mentioned several times my friend Peter Ritzen. You can search for him in this website, see this post among others.
Peter also performed in Suzhou on 22 November 2023, see the announcement and the introduction in Chinese. In November he had one more TV interview, on CCTV4.
He has concluded his contract in Chongqing and is now relocating to Beijing but he will perform in Chongqing and Chengdu in January 2024.
He also plans to perform at the Belgian embassy during the visit of the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, in January 2024.
I am also happy to congratulate Peter for his nomination as Foreign member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts.

Kris Stroobants

Other conductor is Kris Stroobants who is also well-known. He headed the Royal Belgian Philharmonic Orchestra during a tour in China in December 2023, a large group of 60 who performed in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Yantai, Zibo, Suzhou, Zhengzhou, Jiaxing and other cities. The tour was successful until most caught a cold and performance in Shijiazhuang (I think) had to be canceled… Details of the tour remained a bit confusing. The Belgian embassy had no idea about it all.

Royal Belgian Philharmonic Orchestra

The Royal Belgian Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1740. Its predecessor was the Cracow Royal Vatican Music Ceremony Choir in Rome. After Belgium became independent, the orchestra became the only European-level national court philharmonic orchestra in the Kingdom of Belgium with a history of more than 400 years in Europe. At the same time, it is also the only large-scale symphony orchestra designated by the Pope to professionally perform the music of the Royal Holy See, and the only symphony orchestra in the Kingdom of Belgium selected as the EU-level royal orchestra!
As a representative of the Belgian royal music, the Royal Belgian Philharmonic Orchestra serves the Belgian royal family in national projects such as visits, receptions, and banquets, and participates in various artistic diplomacy of European royal families.

UGent and Sinterklaas events


In two days our Belgian embassy hosted UGent and Sinterklaas events.
On 1 December 2023 we had the reception of CPAF 2023, the Closing Ceremony to celebrate the 3rd China Partners Academic Forum by Ghent University in the Residence of Belgian Ambassador.
Moderator was Chi Zhang, Representative of Ghent University.

H.E. Mr. Bruno Angelet, Ambassador of Belgium gave the Opening Speech.
Other speeches by Mr. Baoyi Yu, Representative of Beijing Alumni Chapter and by executive members of Beijing Alumni Chapter,  Mr. Gilbert Van Kerckhove (that’s me),  Prof. Jun Zhang (Tsinghua University) and Prof. Mingmei Yu (University of Chinese Academy of Social sciences).
After the group picture there was networking with walking dinner and Belgian beer. Catering was by a specialized Chinese company, nicely done.
I had to leave a bit early as I was expected at the German Christmas Charity Bazaar…


On the afternoon of 2 December Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) and his helpers visited the residence of the Belgian ambassador to meet with many Belgian children. Sinterklaas called one by one the children to comment on their recent behavior and give a present. None of the children was hurt. For privacy reasons no closeups of the children.

Snacks provided by Morel’s Restaurant, drinks by the embassy and Morel’s, sweets by the embassy.
I was on duty to serve the drinks (as usual).
See here the official article by the embassy: A Joyful Weekend with Saint-Nicholas.

Cuberdons – neuzekes

One of the sweets provide by the embassy were the famous cuberdons from Ghent.
A cuberdon is a cone-shaped Belgian candy and a popular local delicacy in Ghent. In Dutch it is also known as a neus (“nose”), Gentse neus (“Ghent nose”), or neuzeke (“little nose”) for its likeness to a human nose. In French, cuberdons are also called chapeau-de-curé and chapeau-de-prêtre (priest’s hat).

Cuberdons are traditionally made with gum arabic candy crust with a soft, raspberry-flavored filling. Their color is mostly purple.
The outside is relatively hard, whereas the inside is gelatinous.
There are two hypotheses about its origins:

  1. A clergy member living in the city of Bruges created it — which might explain other names in use for the cuberdon such as “cleric’s cap” (bonnet de curé) and “young nun’s belly-button”
  2. In 1873, pharmacist De Vynck in the city of Ghent discovered the recipe of the cuberdon by chance. In order to increase the shelf life of drugs at the time, many were packaged in the form of syrup. When the pharmacist examined a failed preparation after a few days, he found that it had formed a crust, while the core was still liquid. From this discovery came the idea to use such a technique to manufacture candy.

Source: Wikipedia

Other post about the Cuberdon of Gentse neus, see here.
While the origin 2 above seems to be the overall winner, TEMMERMAN, a household name since 1904 has a different view of the shape.
Temmerman has a rich tradition spanning over a century. The first store in Ghent opened in 1904 and since then, has become known as the grandmother of sweet shops. Today, the fifth Temmerman generation continues the legacy with a passion for confectionery, gingerbread, chocolate, and tea.
Their cuberdons have a different shape, with a face. They claim it is the “original cuberdon shape”. But generally the shape is said to be cone-shaped.
Other sweet shop I had the chance to taste is Geldhof. They simply claim “De énige échte neuzekes –  Sinds 1954 – Onbetwiste marktleider – Vlaams streekproduct”.
Never mind the sweet polemic, let’s simply enjoy!

Belgium King’s Day in Beijing

A full house

Belgium King’s Day in Beijing was celebrated on 17 November 2023. the official date is actually 15 November.
It was full house with over 400 guests. For the first time part of the new embassy was used. See further.
Always a great opportunity to meet Belgian and other friends. In my case, meeting Peter Ritzen, Jim Nobles, the team of (Belgian) Dewit Lawyers Office and many more.
Our host, the Belgian ambassador, was joined by the EU ambassador in China and Chinese VIP. The embassy did a great job.
Also the opportunity to showcase some of our Belgian products, of course beers, waffles, Belgian fries.

Food was done by chef Renaat Morel of Morel’s Restaurant. Corinne and Hongjie serving drinks. Yes I enjoyed my plate of the delicious food!
We were lucky with the weather, it was chilly outside but still pretty nice.
See here the report by the embassy.

The new embassy

Belgium King’s Day in Beijing also gave us a glimpse of the new embassy. I had mentioned the project in an earlier post.
See again the link to the architect and to the embassy project. Do not use VPN…

The Embassy and Consulate General will be closed and the consular services will be temporarily suspended from 11 until 15 December included, due to the move into the new premises. We are advised to apply for documents one might need (e.g. passports, eID, …) on time and preferably before 8 December to avoid problems during the Christmas holidays.
I hope (not really) the new embassy will be more “visitor friendly”. I miss the old embassy of the time when we had direct contact with the staff. Now, forget it. I have NEVER been invited into the temporary embassy, just into the lobby. Sadly times have changed, everywhere. Also in Belgium public services, banks and other have become very remote from the public.

Top beer exporters

Dutch ahead in Europe

In 2021, the top Beer exporters were Mexico ($5.49B), Netherlands ($2.11B), Belgium ($1.98B), Germany ($1.38B), and United Kingdom ($513M).
According to figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the Netherlands is still Europe’s biggest exporter of beer, and globally is second only to Mexico.
In 2020, Dutch breweries exported more than two billion euros worth of (non-alcoholic) beer. According to CBS, Heineken is, unsurprisingly, the largest exporter.

In Europe, Belgium comes in a close second; while the Netherlands has been the largest European exporter since 2000, Belgium is quickly closing the gap between the two countries. The Dutch neighbor exported 1,8 billion euros worth of (non-alcoholic) beer last year, climbing ahead of Germany and France who occupy third and fourth place respectively.

Top beer exporters, other source

Below are the countries that exported the highest dollar value worth of beer during 2020.

  •     Mexico: US$4.3 billion (28.4% of total beer exports)
  •     Netherlands: $2.1 billion (14.1%)
  •     Belgium: $2 billion (13.3%)
  •     Germany: $1.3 billion (8.4%)
  •     United States: $645.6 million (4.3%)
  •     United Kingdom: $525.5 million (3.5%)
  •     France: $386.4 million (2.6%)
  •     Czech Republic: $297 million (2%)

Source: Beer exports by Country

Belgian beer for everyone

Abbey beers, Trappists, doubles, triples, brown, blonde, or white Belgian beers are known worldwide for their variety. We estimate there are around 3000 different beers in our country spread out over more than 200 breweries. With so much variety, there’s bound to be a type of beer for everyone, whether you like sour, bitter, or sweet. If a traditional blonde “pilsner” doesn’t do it for you, check out which unique beers Belgium makes, maybe there will be one for you!

International Beer Day – 4 August 2023

Or Journée Internationale de la bière – Internationale dag van het bier.
Belgian beer is an excellent cultural export for Belgium and plays an essential role in our economy. Every year, Belgium exports over 6 billion pints! What’s more, our country brews at least 1,500 different beers in over 400 breweries. Internationally, we’re best known for the excellent flavor of our beer. In short, we can be proud of our Belgian beer!Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Belgium