Why China-EU relationship matters
Updated 18:49, 04-Apr-2023
Fu Cong
Why China-EU relationship matters

Why China-EU relationship matters.mp3


Editor's note: Decision Makers is a global platform for decision makers to share their insights on events shaping today's world. Fu Cong is China's Ambassador to the EU. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron are traveling to China for talks with Chinese leaders this week. Despite differences, top European politicians are paying intensive trips to Beijing recently. This demonstrates China's growing importance in the global arena.

As a major power, China's influence is getting stronger. The country has repeatedly proved its significant role in mediating disputes and addressing global challenges. The China-brokered rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, for instance, has had repercussions for not only the Middle East but also the entire world. After years of mutual animosity, the arch-rivals' restoration of diplomatic relations is a huge breakthrough that has stunned the world. As a result, there is an increasing call on the European side to work with China to promote world peace and stability, including finding a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian crisis.

The intensity of China-EU exchanges also reflects the desire of European countries to profit from the Chinese market. The Chinese economy is staging a robust rebound between January and February and is believed to have performed better in March. The country has set its GDP growth target of around 5 percent this year, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has raised its projection for China's economic growth to 5.2 percent in 2023. This means enormous economic opportunities for the world. Against this backdrop, European leaders' trips to China are also about the exploration of business opportunities in a huge and thriving market.

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, April 3, 2023. /Xinhua
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, April 3, 2023. /Xinhua

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, April 3, 2023. /Xinhua

In the past three months, I have been communicating with different stakeholders in Europe, and I'm very encouraged by European people's enthusiasm towards China. With the relaxation of COVID-19 policies in China, business communities in Europe are anticipating more cooperation with China. European politicians, on several occasions, have also voiced support for a good relationship with the world's second-largest economy. The European leaders' visits to China are expected to create a sound political atmosphere for China-EU ties.

Against this backdrop, it is encouraging that an increasing number of people are showing interest in resuscitating the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) between China and the EU, which was put on ice in 2021. The deal will, according to many EU experts, create great opportunities for both European and Chinese companies. China welcomes the CAI and sincerely hopes that EU politicians could also master enough courage and political strength to push forward this mutually beneficial agreement.

The importance of improving China-EU ties cannot be overstated. Some politicians from the EU side, however, have been politicizing China-related issues including the CAI, trying to prevent any compromise from being achieved and undermine the momentum of the resuscitation of the agreement. This is not in the interest of the European side.

It is worth noting that President von der Leyen called on Europe to have a "clear-eyed picture" of "risks" in her latest speech on the China-EU relationship. "Our relations are not black or white – and our response cannot be either. This is why we need to focus on de-risking – not de-coupling," the EU chief said ahead of her Beijing journey.

It seems to me the speechwriter for President von der Leyen failed to have a good understanding of China and its policies. In fact, the biggest risk for the China-EU relationship is weaponizing trade issues for geopolitical or even ideological purposes. If we really want to de-risk the China-Europe economic ties, it is important that we treat each other on an equal basis and reduce the possible political interference in trade and economic interactions. China's consistent message is loud and clear: China does not seek domination of the global supply chains. What China has been pursuing is the globalization of the economy so that all countries can benefit.

Joint efforts are needed to maintain a healthy relationship between China and the EU. The way Beijing and Brussels manage their relations will, to a very large extent, determine the future of the world. There are many things that China and Europe, as great powers and large economies in the world, can do together for mutual benefits and the common good of the world.

China stands ready to improve its ties with the EU. With von der Leyen's and Macron's travel to Beijing, the world is watching and waiting for more positive messages and concrete results coming out from this trip.

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