China-EU cooperation can have more '1+1>2' effects
Qian Feng


Editor's note: Qian Feng is a senior research fellow at the National Strategic Institute, Tsinghua University and Taihe Institute. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Since the end of last year, exchanges between China and the European Union (EU) have been in full swing, and high-level exchanges have warmed up. On the one hand, the list of top European political figures visiting China, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, European Council President Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, is getting longer and longer. On the other hand, from Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang to Chinese Vice President Han Zheng, China's diplomacy with Europe has significantly accelerated. These exchanges fully show that although the two sides have differences, they have a strong desire for communication and extensive and profound common interests.

Frankly speaking, in the past three years, some normal cooperation between China and the EU has been impacted and affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitics, eroding the basis of bilateral cooperation. In the current post-pandemic era, the international political, economic and security crises are intertwined, becoming a major test for both sides. Where China-EU relations go is testing the political wisdom of the leaders of both sides. 

A review of recent China-EU interactions shows that both sides have chosen high-level and candid exchanges, discussing topics covering bilateral, regional and global areas, including major challenges such as world economic recovery, global governance reform and geopolitical conflicts. The contacts between the two sides are all-dimensional and multi-level, including bilateral meetings, trilateral meetings and interactions between China and the EU institutions. This shows that both sides hope to eliminate misunderstandings, manage risks, return to normal conditions as soon as possible, and restore trust and cooperation.

China and the EU share broad common interests. Cooperation outweighs competition, and consensuses are more than differences.

In the political field, China has always regarded Europe as its comprehensive strategic partner, supported Europe in strengthening its strategic autonomy and playing a positive role on the international stage, and maintained that China-EU relations are not targeted at, dependent on, nor subject to a third party. 

A sound China-EU relationship can provide Europe with the necessary economic development, the balance of major powers and the ability to effectively participate in global governance. Especially at present, with the deterioration of EU-Russia relations and the deep bundling of European and American security, the improvement and development of China-EU relations is undoubtedly a key step for Europe to maintain its international status and realize its strategic autonomy.

Chinese Vice President Han Zheng meets with Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa in Lisbon, Portugal, May 8, 2023. /Xinhua
Chinese Vice President Han Zheng meets with Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa in Lisbon, Portugal, May 8, 2023. /Xinhua

Chinese Vice President Han Zheng meets with Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa in Lisbon, Portugal, May 8, 2023. /Xinhua

In the economic field, the European economy is currently facing severe challenges such as inflation, an energy crisis and financial risks. In this context, the importance of China as Europe's major economic and trade partner has been further highlighted. China has shown strong resilience, both in terms of trade and investment. Strengthening cooperation with China can give Europe more confidence to meet the challenges in the economic and trade field and can also provide more tangible benefits to European enterprises in its economic recovery.

In the field of security, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues, and the negative impact on European society is still deepening. China has proposed the Global Security Initiative and issued a 12-point position paper on a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis. These proposals, which have focused on global and regional security governance, have received positive responses from many European countries. Europe also expects China to play a more important role and hopes to further understand China's position and work together with China to find effective solutions to the geopolitical crises in Europe and overcome real or potential supply chain instability, food crises and energy issues.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the EU, and the first year of the second decade of the China-Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) cooperation mechanism. As two global forces, two markets, and two civilizations, China and the EU have long been seen as key parts of the global political and economic order. And the relationship is not only about the wellbeing of both sides, but also about global stability and prosperity. 

In the face of the complex and volatile international situation, China and the EU have fully resumed exchanges at all levels and activated mutually beneficial cooperation in all fields. This shows that China and the EU attach great importance to each other and are willing to further promote bilateral relations through enhanced interaction, which is conducive to ensuring the stable development of China-EU relations.

It is hoped that China and the EU can seize the opportunity, continue to maintain the current momentum of exchanges and avoid politicizing economic and trade issues. By expanding the cake of cooperation and narrowing differences, mutual cooperation will bring more "1+1>2" results, and continuously inject the light of hope into the turbulent world.

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