China and Europe need each other more than ever in erratic era
Published: Sep 10, 2020 03:46 PM

File photo: People's daily

The huge impact of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic can be felt everywhere in the world now. Some prestigious economists predicted that the world economy will inevitably suffer negative growth for this year. Developed economies, such as those in Europe, will be the ones that bear the heaviest blows from the economic slowdowns and recessions. 

Under such circumstances, it seems to be more important than ever for big powers and major economies to cooperate and coordinate with each other to reinvigorate the lost momentum of economic development for the welfare of billions of common people. 

Therefore, the upcoming China-Germany-European Union (EU) leaders' meeting on Monday is of great significance. It holds the potential to create a new driving force that pushes forward and upgrades China-Europe relations enormously. 

From a strategic viewpoint, it is safe to conclude that China and Europe, two of the largest economies as well as long-time strategic partners in world and regional affairs, still need each other earnestly. There is still promising potential for bilateral cooperation to enrich mutual benefits and global prosperity. 

The sheer sizes of both China's economy and the European common market cannot be neglected by entrepreneurs of either side. The already intertwined bilateral networks of production, trade and investment are based on naturally formed divisions of labor and have already brought tremendous benefits to businessmen, investors and workers of both sides. They have become an indispensable part of daily economic operations and need to be further improved for higher levels of efficiency. 

China and Europe have been collaborating in many fields of research and development of new and high technology. They are already respectable partners. Both China and Europe are carrying forward with new initiatives to construct more technologically advanced and environmentally compatible economies. 

 Second, both China and Europe need mutual support to uphold the process of global governance and regional integration. The international community has been repeatedly shocked to see the edifice of global governance and regional integration torn down piece by piece. This has all been done by the destructive forces of anti-globalization and radical populism within the West. 

Particularly, the institutional structure of the global governance that was arduously constructed over decades of hard-won endeavors is being gradually dismantled by unilateral measures of economic nationalism, state mercantilism and trade protectionism taken by the US. Encouraged by a turning tide in the US, Eurosceptics are making louder voices and establishing their own power bases across the Europe. They are threatening the foundations of the European project of integration. 

Against such a gloomy and unpredictable prospect, it is more urgent than ever before for China and Europe to join hands together to resist these dangerous currents. They need to work out practicable plans to renovate and rejuvenate the existing system of global governance and processes of regional integration. 

Third, China and Europe share a need to promote the connectivity of the third-party regions for the common benefits of facilitating transcontinental trade and investment. Obsolete and insufficient infrastructure in the remote hinterlands of Eurasia and Africa has seriously impeded the local economic growth. They have also obstructed the flows of goods and capital of the whole world. This has created extra costs for interregional trade and finance. Chinese and European policymakers, businesses and experts have already reached a consensus that more external assistance should be provided to those hinterlands through regularized or even institutionalized international cooperation frameworks to speed up flows. 

China has consistently promoted the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), while in September 2018, the EU issued its own grand plan of geoeconomic cooperation: the Euro-Asia connectivity strategy. This plan shares the same objective of the BRI to improve infrastructure of the Eurasian continent's remote areas in order to facilitate long-distance trade. 

In this sense, there is a great potential for China and Europe to cooperate with each other with a joint platform and framework that combines the BRI with the EU-Asia connectivity platform. 

All in all, China and Europe need each other. There is still plenty of room for both sides to push forward bilateral cooperation for their respective benefits. They also stand shoulder to shoulder for the prosperity and stability of the world. Their bilateral collaboration will lay the foundation for the long-term progress of the globe and will shape the big-power relations in the future. 

The author is executive deputy director of the Center for European Union Studies, Shanghai International Studies University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn