In the eight months since I became Vice Foreign Minister in charge of European affairs, I have paid nearly ten visits to Europe. During each visit, I witnessed the tremendous efforts made by Europe to cope with the debt crisis, and I am very glad to see that some of these efforts are showing effect gradually. China has provided firm support to Europe since the outbreak of the debt crisis. We contributed USD 43 billion to the IMF, and provided assistance to Europe within our capabilities through purchasing European treasury bonds and increasing imports from Europe. In my view, this is what we should do as the EU's comprehensive strategic partner.
Next year, we will mark the 10th anniversary of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. In spite of vicissitudes in the international landscape in the past decade, China-Europe relations have stayed on an upward track and scored new and important progress. There have been frequent exchanges between our leaders, leading to enhanced mutual understanding and trust. The China-EU trade topped USD 560 billion, representing a quadruple increase compared with ten years ago. China and Europe have also maintained close consultation and coordination on climate change and other global issues.
China is a staunch supporter of the European integration. It is our consistent view that a united, stable and prosperous Europe is in the interest of the whole world, China included. When the European debt crisis was at its worst, some people in the world, including those from Europe, propagated the ideas of the "Euro collapse" and "EU's disintegration". Yet China has never changed its view toward Europe, and remained confident about the future of European integration. As Premier Wen Jiabao said, "China is EU's trusted friend and cooperation partner."
The future of China-Europe relations will be brighter. As China moves to a high level in its development, the scope of cooperation between China and Europe will only become broader. There will be increasing demand in China for European products, technology and investment. We need to draw new plans for our cooperation in trade, investment, finance, urbanization and sustainable development, and explore the possibility of establishing a China-EU free trade area. At the same time, we need to properly handle our differences and disputes according to the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, and do all we can to translate the huge potential of cooperation into reality, so as to bring more benefits to the people of both sides.
A promising future of China-Europe relations requires our joint effort to uphold a peaceful and stable international environment. Both China and Europe went through the havoc of the Second World War and our people were the victims of wars. No one knows better the preciousness of peace, or cherish today's peaceful environment more than us.
I know that some European friends are concerned over the Diaoyu Dao issue recently. The Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands have been China's integral territory since ancient times, over which China has indisputable sovereignty. Japan stole the Diaoyu Dao from China during the First Sino-Japanese War at the end of the 19th century. After the end of the Second World War, in accordance with the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Proclamation and other international legal documents, all the territories Japan had stolen from the Chinese shall be restored to China, including the Diaoyu Dao.
The current tensions over the Diaoyu Dao were provoked solely by Japan. Last September, the Japanese government abandoned its previous agreement with China on setting aside the dispute and took the so-called nationalization measures regarding the Diaoyu Dao, which in essence are aimed at changing the Diaoyu Dao's legal status. The Chinese side was left with no other choice but to make necessary responses. The Chinese side has been committed to settling the dispute through dialogue and negotiation. It is imperative that the Japanese side correct its wrongdoings and return to the track of negotiated settlement.
After the end of the Second World War, fascist crimes committed on the European Continent were brought into full account. This paved the way for Europe's integration process in the last six decades and more, and has turned Europe from a continent deep in war to one of peace. Regrettably, some political figures in Japan still insist on paying homage to the Yasukuni Shrine where Second World War criminals are worshipped. In blatant denial of the crimes Japan committed during the war, they are trying to rewrite history, challenge the post-war international order and undermine regional peace and stability. These moves should put all peace-loving countries and people on high alert. To safeguard the victory of the Second World War and the post-war international order remains an important and real issue in Asia today, and should be the shared responsibility of the whole international community.
A peaceful and stable Asia-Pacific is in the interest of all parties in the world, including Europe. China will stay committed to the path of peaceful development and friendly cooperation with the people of all Asian countries. China and Europe are two important players in the world and each other's indispensable strategic partners for development. China is ready to work with Europe to make even greater contribution to world peace, stability and development.