Confidence and Focus Are Key to China-EU Relations
Published: Sep 18, 2020 05:50 PM

Photo: Xinhua

A few days ago, the leaders of China, Germany and the EU successfully held their first ever meeting via video conference. This significant meeting was convened at a critical juncture where the leaders highlighted what is important for China-EU relations, charting a course for their relations to brave the winds and waves and strive for new progress post COVID-19.

Our world is going through profound changes unseen in a century, and the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing unprecedented challenges for mankind. Under the current circumstances, how countries will pursue development and where mankind will go from now has become a concern for all. At a time of major crisis where mankind faces a common challenge, China and EU are standing firm with each other and advancing friendly and practical cooperation in an adverse situation. Confidence and focus are key to an ever more mature China-EU relationship which is now 45 years old and counting. The two sides see and appreciate what is the best in the other and are working together to accelerate post-COVID china-EU cooperation across the board.

- As there is a lot to be achieved in China-EU ties, it is important for the two sides to carefully safeguard their relations. Since the start of COVID-19, Chinese leaders have exchanged over 40 letters and had over 20 telephone conversations with leaders of the EU and its member states. Leaders of China and the EU had two meetings via video conference in only three months. The frequent high-level "cloud diplomacy" fully demonstrates the willingness and determination of the two sides to strengthen their comprehensive strategic partnership. China and the EU have deepened their cooperation through the mutual provision of medical supplies. This year marks the 45th anniversary of China-EU diplomatic relationship and the journey of China-EU relations is prove that it is in line with the trend of history, the call of the times and the interests of both sides to increase their mutual strategic trust and advance all-round cooperation. 

China and the EU are neither willing nor planning to decouple from each other. We have the wisdom and capacity to make the right choice between opening and closing the door,between cooperation and decoupling, and to carefully safeguard the hard-won results and sound momentum of stable development. 

- As China and the EU need each other, it is important for the two sides to move forward in the same direction. The past exchanges between China and the EU are prove that instead of zero-sum games, major country relations need to be characterized by mutual benefit. Even though there is competition, it is friendly and fair competition between partners that will achieve faster and stronger growth for the two sides and their relations. From an initial amount of less than three billion USD, China-EU trade volume has grown to 705.1 billion USD in 2019, averaging over 1.34 million USD per minute. China and the EU are the top investment destinations for each other. In 2019, the EU invested another 7.31 billion USD in China and China another 7.58 billion USD in the EU. There have been some recent complaints about the lack of reciprocity and balance between China and the EU in trade and market access. As a matter of fact, Europe both contributes to and benefits from China's economic development. The industrial chains of China and Europe are highly complementary to each other,and an improving business environment in China opens new opportunities for European businesses. As shown by Business Confidence Survey 2020 published by the European Chamber of Commerce in China, 63 percent of the surveyed have expressed that China is still among their top 3 investment destinations and 90 percent of European businesses in China are willing to stay.

At a time of world economic recession due to COVID-19, there is no reason for China and the EU not to join hands in pursuing recovery. It is important for China and the EU to conduct friendly consultations, move forward in the same direction and properly address each other's concerns in market access, FDI screening, government procurement and competition policy.

- As there is a huge potential for China-EU cooperation, it is important for the two sides to further explore practical cooperation. China and the EU have officially signed their Geographical Indications Agreement, marking the first ever comprehensive and high-level international GI agreement that China has signed. A total of 275 high-quality iconic products from each side including Shaoxing Rice Wine, Lu'an Melon-seed-shaped tea, Anxi Tie Guan Yin, French Champagne, Irish Whiskey, Bayerisches Bier and Proscuitto di Parma will enjoy high-level protection and enter each other's market for the first time, so that the two peoples can easily savor products from the other side at home. The High-Level Environment and Climate Dialogue, high-level digital dialogue, and the partnerships on green and digital cooperation will all be new drivers for China-EU cooperation, which sends a positive signal of China and the EU joining hands to address climate change and advance digital cooperation. Negotiations on the bilateral investment treaty is the core issue of China-EU business relations. Once concluded, this agreement will help deliver more investment opportunities, a better business environment, more facilitated market access and better products. Leaders from both sides have agreed on working to conclude the agreement this year, which fully shows the ambition and resolve of China and the EU to upgrade their business cooperation on the basis of mutual benefit.

The meeting between leaders of China, Germany and the EU heralds an exciting chorus of cooperation between the two sides. In order to pursue future-oriented development of an enduring China-EU relationship, it is crucial to have confidence, maintain focus, stand high and adopt a strategic perspective and honor the principles of harmony in our cooperation. It is also important to seize opportunities in crises and open new prospects in times of change, with a view to writing new chapters of China-EU partnership for peace, growth, reform and civilization.

The author is an international issues observer.