Improvement of China-Europe ties requires pulling the continent’s strategy back to rationality
Published: May 11, 2023 08:22 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Since the beginning of 2023, China-Europe relations have gained new momentum, and bilateral pragmatic cooperation has maintained steady development. The recent visits of Chinese Vice President Han Zheng as well as State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang to Europe have again started a new wave of exchanges and dialogues between China and the Europe, sending positive signals of strategic communication between China on one side and Germany and Europe on the other.

However, many external voices are disrupting China-Europe relations, including Europe's talk of "de-risking" of China, which is obviously a false logic. This is because it assumes that China and its development is a "risk" for the European side, which is no different than the "decoupling" theory and the mentality of a "new Cold War." If Europe pursues long-term "absolute gains" instead of short-term "relative gains," it will see China's peaceful rise as an opportunity and have a greater convergence of interests with China.

Europe now has many concerns. On the one hand, it cannot get rid of its dependence on Russian oil and gas, let alone transform its economy based on securing energy security. On the other hand, it finds it difficult to break away from its military dependence on NATO, not to speak of strengthening its defense on the basis of safeguarding geopolitical security. The fear for looming recession, loss of prosperity, and security threats has penetrated into mainstream European society and is shaking the foundations of Europe's order.

Although noises affecting the development of China-Europe relations will continue to exist, the opportunities in the bilateral ties outweigh the challenges, unlike the structural contradictions between China and the US. Since China and Europe are two important forces in the multipolar world, a closer relationship will not only benefit both sides, but also contribute to the development of the global economy and stability. Against the backdrop of a complex and changing international situation, China and Europe should act as two major forces in maintaining world peace, promoting economic globalization, common development and prosperity, and addressing global challenges.

The significance of China-Europe cooperation goes beyond the bilateral relationship. The two sides are facing a shift in the global order and the world economic system, as well as common opportunities, challenges, and uncertainties at the global and regional levels. China's rise is within the current international order that Europe supports. Both China and the Europe advocate civilizational diversity, multipolarity, and global multilateralism, while opposing unilateralism and protectionism. They should promote enhancing cooperation quality and upgrading cooperation in a positive and pragmatic manner.

Moreover, closer China-Europe cooperation can inject more stability into the world and bring more confidence to global prosperity. It will create more favorable conditions for dialogue and negotiations on resolving the Ukraine conflict. Both China and Europe strive to play a constructive role in the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis. They oppose nuclear war, trying to reduce or even avoid the spillover effects of the Ukraine crisis on global governance and on developing countries in general.

In addition, economic and trade cooperation is the closest bond of interests between China and Europe. China-Europe ties have a strong internal impetus for cooperation and development. China-Europe relations not only have a basis of political mutual trust and mutually beneficial economic and trade cooperation, but also there is plenty of room for cooperation on topics such as people-to-people and cultural exchanges, promotion of global security and stability, and tackling global challenges.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership, a relationship that still has a huge room for enhancement. First, amid the global economic recession and drastic changes in the international landscape, it is necessary for China and Europe to support each other and cooperate. Second, the foundation of bilateral economic and trade cooperation calls for the two sides to promote closer cooperation, expand openness and create a favorable international environment. Third, both sides are committed to improving the current international order and bound with each other more tightly in globalization to prevent a global disorder.

Nevertheless, the stability of China-Europe ties requires pulling Europe's strategy toward China back to rationality, reducing Europe's misunderstandings and concerns about China, and increasing strategic mutual trust. Thus, the improvement of China-Europe relations depends on how much Europe can regain its rationality toward China.

The author is a research fellow with the Institute of European Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn