Teamwork, trust seen as key in EU ties

By Zhang Yunbi (China Daily) 08:51, December 07, 2023

Summit expected to expand pragmatic cooperation, reject confrontation

As the 24th China-EU Summit is set to take place in Beijing on Thursday, scholars and officials have expressed hopes that the world's two major economies could take the opportunity to step up their pace in resuming and expanding collaboration in the post-pandemic era and better address global challenges together.

Rejecting impulses for economic decoupling and curbing attempts that fuel antagonism should be high on the bilateral agenda to ensure that the Eurasian region does not move toward Cold War-style confrontation, they added.

Thursday's summit will be the first face-to-face one held since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The previous summit took place via video link in April last year.

President Xi Jinping will meet with President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Premier Li Qiang and the two European Union leaders will jointly chair the summit.

Beijing said earlier this week that the summit will touch upon "strategic issues critical to the direction of China-EU ties and global issues of mutual interest".

"Be it solving the outstanding problems facing Europe or effectively responding to global challenges, China is a trustworthy and indispensable partner of the EU," Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday.

He noted that "tackling differences properly through dialogue and consultation is an important lesson learned in the development of China-EU relations". He called on the EU to work together with China to "create a good atmosphere" for the success of the summit.

In an earlier statement on its website, the EU said the summit "will be an opportunity to engage with China at the highest level and to pursue constructive and stable EU-China relations".

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.

From 2002 to 2022, annual total trade between China and the EU expanded from $86.8 billion to $847.3 billion, and the EU's exports to China have supported about 4 million jobs in Europe, according to the Foreign Ministry.

"The upcoming summit will help deepen China-EU cooperation in the transformation toward a stronger green economy and digital economy, as well as in tackling global climate change," said Feng Zhongping, director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies.

China-EU cooperation "enjoys strong resilience", as exchanges at all levels started resuming quickly in the post-pandemic era, and economic and trade cooperation continued to develop, he said.

Chinese officials noted that as a sign of the good momentum in high-level exchanges, since the end of last year, President Xi has met with Michel and von der Leyen, as well as leaders of EU countries including Germany, France, Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands, Italy and Greece.

In the past few months, eight commissioners of the European Commission have visited China, while high-level officials from China also visited Europe.

Zhang Jian, vice-president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, noted that bilateral face-to-face exchanges between officials and scholars have increased remarkably this year, and "many European countries are willing to improve bilateral relations with China and seek cooperation".

Cui Hongjian, director of the China Institute of International Studies' European Studies Department, said that "this creates inconsistency in Europe's detailed positions".

"For its own interests, the EU needs China, but it fears that there will be some losses if it needs and engages with China, so it seeks to take some measures," he said.

"The two sides need to come to anew consensus that China and the EU should prioritize cooperation," he said. "Only in the context of their stable cooperation can the impulses of seeking competition and confrontation be effectively controlled."

Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with a group of diplomats from the EU and its member countries based in China on Monday, and underlined the need to uphold mutual respect, keep a cool head, and maintain pragmatism and strategic thinking with regard to China-EU ties.

He said "a new Cold War will never break out as long as China and the EU choose peace and stability".

In a recent speech at a forum, Fu Cong, head of the Chinese mission to the EU, noted the resurgence of the Palestine-Israel conflict and the continuation of the Ukraine crisis, saying that China and the EU should strengthen coordination and "play a positive role in cooling the situation and safeguarding world peace and stability".

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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