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.