Yearender: China, Europe tighten exchanges to promote global stability

By Fu Yiming (Xinhua) 10:56, December 18, 2023

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, who are in China for the 24th China-EU Summit, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 7, 2023. (Xinhua/Huang Jingwen)

In 2023 -- the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the China-European Union (EU) comprehensive strategic partnership -- Europeans saw a rapid restart of exchanges with China in various fields as the world began to walk out of the shadow of the pandemic.

BRUSSELS, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- On a sunny morning in July, a group of 14 visitors from Guangzhou, China, were shown around the iconic landmarks of Park Guell and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.

The excitement was perceptible on the faces of their guide, Chen Tingting, whose business thrived again after three years of COVID-19-related hiatus. Chen said she and her peers in Spain were "optimistic" that their businesses would soon be back on track.

In Budapest, Hungary, two students -- Bonita Varga and Imre Tamara -- at the Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school, received a reply from Chinese President Xi Jinping to their letter, in which Xi gave a "thumbs-up" for their dedicated studies and commitment to promoting China-Hungary friendship.

In 2023 -- the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the China-European Union (EU) comprehensive strategic partnership -- Europeans saw a rapid restart of exchanges with China in various fields as the world began to walk out of the shadow of the pandemic.

Chinese tourists take selfies near the Arch of Constantine in Rome, Italy, May 1, 2023. (Xinhua/Jin Mamengni)


The boom in China-EU tourism and cultural exchanges gained momentum this spring, when China relaxed its travel restrictions and resumed group tours to 41 European countries.

Spanish tourism agency Turespan said the number of Chinese tourists visiting Spain increased by 420 percent in the first six months of 2023, which was also the China-Spain year of culture and tourism.

"The return of visitors from China has been long-awaited here in Italy, and it's bringing huge benefits to our tourism industry," Cristiano Varotti, chief representative of the Italian National Tourist Board (ENIT) in China, said.

To revive businesses amid the sluggish global economy, numerous companies, organized by Chinese cities and provinces, rushed to Europe to meet with their European clients, while the first post-pandemic China-EU High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue held in Beijing achieved a host of "win-win results."

On the highest levels, EU leaders and top officials teamed up to visit China.

In April, President Xi held a trilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Beijing.

During the 24th China-EU summit in December, the first in-person summit since 2019, Xi, when meeting with von der Leyen and Charles Michel, president of the European Council, called on China and the EU to "step up dialogue and cooperation for the good of our people."

Chinese Premier Li Qiang also visited France and Germany and co-chaired the seventh China-Germany inter-governmental consultation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, as Europe's largest economy is tackling recession.

Journalists make report on a BYD Atto 3 electric car during a media preview of the 100th Brussels Motor Show in Brussels, Belgium, Jan. 13, 2023. (Xinhua/Zheng Huansong)


Mutual interests and inseparable economic ties between the world's two major markets paved the way for the tightened exchanges.

"China is the EU's most important trading partner," von der Leyen said at the 24th China-EU summit. Statistics show that over the past 20 years, the volume of China-EU trade has increased almost nine times.

Iconic European enterprises, such as Airbus, Germany's Volkswagen and Bosch Group, Spain's Danobat Group, and the Franco-Italian Stellantis, boost investments and collaboration in China this year.

China's leading electric vehicle (EV) companies, such as BYD, NIO, Xpeng, Hongqi, and Lynk & Co, are also making a name in Europe at motor shows, in showrooms and out on the road.

A survey conducted by the China Chamber of Commerce to the EU (CCCEU) in November showed that 90 percent of the Chinese enterprises operating in the EU reported an increase in revenues, and about 80 percent of them said they planned to invest more.

However, these developments encountered headwinds of the EU's "de-risking" policy and anti-subsidy probe into Chinese EVs. These, experts and business executives say, are likely to take a toll on the EU's own economic growth.

Germany, Europe's automotive powerhouse, strongly opposes the probe. The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) said that an exclusive reliance on anti-subsidy investigations does not address Europe's pressing competitiveness challenges.

Describing the Chinese and European economies as "interdependent," Bruno Guigue, a French international affairs expert, warned that "either we succeed together or we fail together."

A poll conducted in June by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) in 11 European countries, including France, Germany, and Spain, shows that Europeans are reluctant to "de-risk" from China. The prevailing view in almost every country is that China is Europe's "necessary partner."

Giant panda twins Bao Di (L) and Bao Mei have birthday meal at the Pairi Daiza zoo in Brugelette, Belgium, on Aug. 16, 2023. (Xinhua/Zhao Dingzhe)


As global turbulence continues and uncertainty still looms large, China and Europe demonstrated a strong desire to communicate and cooperate, despite certain differences.

The coming year will usher in the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France, which is expected to create a good atmosphere for promoting closer ties.

From the Swiss Alps to Roman relics, London metropolis to the Nordic nature, Chinese tourists are again pouring in, as direct flights linking China and these destinations multiplied, and local accommodating businesses flourished.

In June, Eric Domb, president and founder of the Pairi Daiza Zoo in Belgium, wrote to Xi on his understanding of China's vision of the relationship between man and nature, and China's development. He soon received Xi's reply, encouraging him to push for stronger China-Belgium and China-Europe ties.

Now, over 7,000 km from Budapest, Varga and Imre realized their dreams of studying in China. This autumn, the two students began their undergraduate studies at the Capital Normal University in Beijing.

"I am willing to be a warm-hearted envoy of China-Hungary friendship," Varga, who wishes to be a Chinese teacher or a translator after graduation, said at the university's opening ceremony of the 2023 freshmen class.

(Xinhua reporters Li Jizhi and Kang Yi in Brussels, Chen Hao in Budapest, Meng Dingbo in Madrid, and Shan Weiyi in Frankfurt contributed to the story.)

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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