By Chen Tianhao
(ECNS) – The 2023 Ceremony of the Chinese Government Friendship Award was held on Sunday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Erik Solheim, former under-secretary-general of the United Nations, is one of the laureates this year. During his acceptance speech, he highlighted the rise of China in global affairs since 1978 and that respect and dialogue must be the basis for cooperation between China, the West and other civilizations.
Having stayed in China for years, Solheim has been dedicated to promoting exchanges and cooperation. During his term as the under-secretary-general of the United Nations, China has signed the Green Belt and Road Strategy with the UN Environment Programme and promoted the establishment of the BRIGC (Belt and Road Initiative International Green Development Coalition), which won recognition and praise across the international community for China's Belt and Road Initiative.
Solheim also praised China's contribution to creating an ecological civilization, saying "China is the undisputed leader”, with “60% of solar, wind, hydropower, electric batteries, electric cars and buses, high-speed rail come in China alone, and China is also the world's biggest tree planter and the leader in conservation of nature by far”.
In addition, he pointed out that there are differences between the systems of the West and China, but they should not hinder collaboration. “It’s a no-brainer that any important issue for the 21st-century climate action, environmental protection, and prosperity, are easier to achieve if working together.”
Before receiving the award, Solheim praised the improvement of air quality in Beijing on his social network. “Now the sun is bright and the skies are blue in Beijing most days. I am more than happy to go jogging, even when the winter is cold,” he said.
The 2023 Ceremony of the Chinese Government Friendship Award commended 50 foreign experts from 26 countries for their outstanding contributions to China's reform and development. The event that officially began in 1991 has honored nearly 1,900 foreigners from over 80 countries and regions.