Closer China, EU partnership sets pace for stability, prosperity
Published: Sep 13, 2020 03:14 PM

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

As respected partners, China and the European Union (EU) share a common responsibility to resolutely support free trade, multilateral cooperation and Euro-Asian continental economic integration - bedrocks for the prosperity and peace of billions of people across this enormous landmass. The China-Germany-EU leaders' summit scheduled on Monday will become a pace-setting moment. 

Facing an increasingly volatile world and the unpredictable US presidential election in November, China and the EU, as two prime forces of stability and drivers of economic growth, need to jointly oppose US unilateralism, economic nationalism and political coercion in dealing with affairs of global importance.

An old Chinese idiom says that friends in need are friends indeed. The EU and China ought to support each other persistently in order to uphold a multipolar world order, and to diminish the American unipolar domination. 

Whether it be the Nord Stream-II pipeline project transporting over 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually from Russia to Germany and other EU countries, the world-leading ultrafast wireless 5G innovated by China's Huawei Technologies, or the landmark Iran nuclear accord which was reached after arduous "six-partite" talks over many years, China and the EU should continuously support one another, and say "no" to the reckless attacks and long-arm jurisdictional sanctions of the Trump administration. 

Since 2016, the world has been thrown into disarray, chaos and danger thanks to the "America First" policy enthusiastically pursued by the White House. The evolutionary fabric of international cooperation, economic integration and technological advance have been severely undone by the destructive US forces of anti-globalization, ruthless trade wars and incessant purging of multilateral treaties and accords. 

At the same time, we have seen America itself being hamstrung by rising radical populism, ultra-rightist white supremacy, anti-black racism and growing social inequality between the haves and have-nots. 

The EU, a political and economic bloc of 27 countries led by Germany and France, is a major and indispensable force in tackling concurrent world affairs. Together with China and Russia, the three forces could make the Euro-Asian continent a stable, peaceful, increasingly affluent and environmentally-friendly place. 

Furthermore, as candid and inseparable stakeholders of the planet's largest landmass, the three forces must further align in pursuing their citizens' common interests and squarely refuse to allow the US to plant wedges between them. 

China and the EU, as time-weathered strategic partners, have their economic ties intertwined in each industrial line. Bilateral trade is hovering around $800 billion per year. Their already closely linked bilateral networks of production, innovation, trade, investment and finance are based on naturally formed divisions of labor that have brought tremendous benefits to businessmen, investors and as many as 1.9 billion people on both sides. For example, Chinese consumers are avid buyers of high-quality German-made cars and luxury French cosmetics, bags and wine.

There remains promising potential for the EU-China bilateral partnership to enrich mutual prosperity. The sheer size of both China's economy and the European common market speak volumes. 

As partners, not rivals, Beijing and Brussels ought to quicken their negotiations to reach an early agreement on a bilateral investment treaty and act increasingly as a more cohesive common voice to counter the muscle-flexing and protectionist posturing of the Trump government. 

Looking to the near future, China and the EU could strengthen cooperation in three specific areas. Firstly, Beijing has steadfastly promoted the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and in September 2018, Brussels issued the EU's grand plan of geo-economic integration -- the Euro-Asia continental connectivity strategy. Actually, the two plans are of rising significance and they could form a joint framework that would work broadly to uplift infrastructure throughout the huge continent and beyond, in Africa. 

Secondly, as strong believers of green development and signatories of the iconic Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the two sides could learn from each other to construct more technologically-advanced and environmentally-compatible economies across the continent. Both have made strides in utilizing non-fossil fuel renewable energies and China in particular has inspired a wave of consumption of electric cars and electric bikes. As a result, major Chinese cities are no longer the world's most polluted urban areas. 

Thirdly, the two forces need to enhance cooperation within the digital economy and technology innovation, which will prove to be the most effective weapon to support both the EU's and China's economic recovery and rejuvenation, following a distressful coronavirus onslaught. Thanks to Huawei's advanced 4G and 5G technology, in the coming years China is expected to reap significant profits from its "digital blitz", thanks to Beijing's ample efforts to transform traditional, low-efficiency business models. For instance, paychecks and wallets in China have mostly given way to paperless e-payment now. 

China has proposed the "global data security" initiative, aimed at opposing the use of information technology to steal others' crucial data, or to harass and damage others' important telecom infrastructure, including mobile networks, undersea cables, leading apps and cloud solutions. Beijing and Brussels need to strengthen collaboration to form a set of global standards and rules to govern the evolving digital industry, including a taxation regime on charging all powerful internet companies - American, Chinese or European. 

The author is an editor with the Global Times.