Beijing urges 'unbiased' approach after EU report calls China 'strategic competitor'
Updated 20:49, 14-Mar-2019
By Abhishek G Bhaya
02:13

Beijing on Wednesday urged the European Union to view China's progress and opening-up in a "reasonable and unbiased way" after a new EU policy document described China as a "strategic competitor" and a "systemic rival" but also simultaneously as a "cooperation partner."

"China always views its relationship with the EU from a strategic and long-term perspective. We stand ready to enhance mutual understanding and practical cooperation with Europe," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a press conference in Beijing.

"We hope that the European side could view China's development and the new round of reform and opening-up in an objective, reasonable and unbiased way, and work with us to continuously promote the sustained, sound and stable development of China-EU relations," he added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang addresses a press conference in Beijing, March 13, 2019. /Photo via China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang addresses a press conference in Beijing, March 13, 2019. /Photo via China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Stating that competition between economies and countries are natural, Lu, however, stressed that this should be handled in a judicious manner.

"Some competition may exist between economies and countries, but it should be approached with a correct attitude. Virtuous competition, instead of vicious competition, should be encouraged. Otherwise, no party's interests, not those of the Chinese side nor those of the European side, will be served," he remarked.

Noting that the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership has been developing quite well lately, Lu stressed that the mutually beneficial cooperation serves the common interests of both sides. "Of course, we hope that on the basis of mutual respect, a relationship featuring greater well-being, mutual benefit and win-win outcomes can be established between our two sides."

The cover of the policy document released by the European Commission and EU foreign policy chief in Brussels, Belgium, March 12, 2019. /CGTN Photo

The cover of the policy document released by the European Commission and EU foreign policy chief in Brussels, Belgium, March 12, 2019. /CGTN Photo

The Chinese response came a day after the European Commission (EC) and EU foreign policy chief released a joint document titled "EU-China: A Strategic Outlook" to review the 28-nation bloc's relations with Beijing against the backdrop of China's growing economic power and political influence. The report also set out ten concrete actions to rebalance EU's ties with China.

"China is simultaneously a cooperation partner with whom the EU has closely aligned objectives, a negotiating partner, with whom the EU needs to find a balance of interests, an economic competitor in pursuit of technological leadership, and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance," the report stated.

"The EU will use links across different policy areas and sectors to exert more leverage for its objectives. Both, the EU and its member states can achieve their aims concerning China only in full unity," it added.

Partners or competitors

Source: Factsheet on EU-China Relations. /EU Photo

Source: Factsheet on EU-China Relations. /EU Photo

While the document highlighted that the EU and China are strategic markets for each other, trading on an average over one billion euros per day and that China's growing domestic market and economic weight create important opportunities; it also noted that "China has also increasingly become a strategic competitor for the EU."

"EU and China are strategic economic partners as well as competitors. Our economic relationship can be hugely mutually beneficial if competition is fair and trade and investment relations are reciprocal," EC Vice President Jyrki Katainen said in a statement accompanying the release of the policy document.

"With, this communication we make concrete proposals on how the EU can act to strengthen its competitiveness, ensure more reciprocity and level playing field, and protect its market economy from possible distortions," he added.

Source: Factsheet on EU-China Relations. /EU Photo

Source: Factsheet on EU-China Relations. /EU Photo

Meanwhile, asserting that "China is a strategic partner of the European Union," EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini expressed to build on that partnership with "mutual respect."

"We pursue strong bilateral and multilateral cooperation on files where we share interests, from trade to connectivity, from the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) to climate change. And we are willing to keep engaging robustly where our policies differ or compete," she remarked.

"This is the aim of the 10 actions that we are proposing to strengthen our relations with China, in a spirit of mutual respect," she said referring to the proposals made in the policy document.

'Opportunities and problems'

Source: Factsheet on EU-China Relations. /EU Photo

Source: Factsheet on EU-China Relations. /EU Photo

The document stated that it is necessary to consider "opportunities and problems" related to the relations of the parties and suggested that EU leaders should hold discussions on how to make the European approach "more realistic, assertive and multi-faceted."

According to the authors of the initiative, the EU should deepen its interaction with China to promote common interests at the global level, but also look for more balanced conditions governing economic relations. In addition, the EU considers it necessary to adapt to the changing economic realities and strengthen its domestic policy and industrial base.

The commission also called on China to deliver on existing joint bilateral commitments, including the World Trade Organisation (WTO) reform, in particular on subsidies and forced technology transfers. It also urged Beijing to conclude bilateral agreements on investment by 2020, on geographical indications swiftly, and on aviation safety in the coming weeks.

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson asserted that "as for the issues specified in the ten actions of the report…, China and the EU maintain constructive dialogues in all these areas."

The document will be presented to the European Council on March 21-22, with the member states having the first opportunity to exchange views at the foreign affairs council on March 18. The next EU-China Summit is scheduled for early April.