China should attach more importance to partnership with Europe
Published: Jun 20, 2023 09:16 PM
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (right) receives Li Qiang, Premier of China, at Bellevue Palace to kick off the Chinese government's visit to Germany on June 19, 2023. Photo: AFP

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (right) receives Li Qiang, Premier of China, at Bellevue Palace to kick off the Chinese government's visit to Germany on June 19, 2023. Photo: AFP

Just when China-US diplomatic talks attracted global attention, Chinese Premier Li Qiang made an official visit to Germany and France, a trip that could affect the situation of relations between China and Europe. Chinese public opinion can't just focus on the US. Germany, France and Europe have long been regarded by Washington as key chess pieces to determine the outcome of China-US competition. In the past two days, US public opinion has intensively advocated that Germany and Europe should stay away from China and tried their best to magnify Germany's proposal to "de-risk" from China, in a bid to induce Germany to move from "de-risking" to "decoupling."China has a lot of resources and tools to fight back against the US for undermining China's relations with Germany, France and Europe. Just as Premier Li said in Germany, "There is no fundamental conflict of interest between China and Germany." This is a crucial truth. Germany, France and Europe have many ideological differences with China, but we have no geopolitical disputes and do not pose a threat to each other. China is the largest, or one of the largest single trading partners of European countries. Confrontation between European countries and China does not conform to the basic logic of international politics. It will make them hurt themselves and pay for the interests of the US. Why should Europeans be taken advantage of?

China's approach is very simple, which is to respect the interests of Europe, including respecting their strategic autonomy. We do not pose a danger to Europe and do not take the initiative to exert any pressure on those countries. What we want to maintain is equal cooperation and mutual benefit between China and Europe. What the US is doing to Europe is to promote a values-based alliance between the US and Europe. At the same time, it requires Europe to reduce or cut off cooperation with China, and to align with the US in everything it says and does to China. 

This will not only damage Europe's sovereignty, but also impact Europe's economy. Therefore, once the demands of the US exceed Europe's actual vigilance against China, it will inevitably arouse resentment and resistance. Don't think that the US can easily pull Europe over to fight against China. Cutting off Europeans' economic benefits, and making Europeans make enemies abroad - how can this be done smoothly? Please bear in mind that Europe is the true birthplace of Western geopolitics.

European countries such as Germany and France have genuine concerns about China. They are worried about China's rapid rise and fear that their manufacturing industries will be replaced by China's. For example, major German car brands sell more than 30 percent of their cars in China, so they are very concerned about the rise of Chinese electric cars. In addition, they have a traditional sense of superiority and a complex attitude toward China's growing wealth. We need to understand these emotions and take measures to create a win-win situation between China and Europe, reduce the imbalance in European attitudes, and narrow the space for the US to incite negative emotions toward China in Europe. Although it is not easy to achieve this, it is worth our attention and efforts.

We must be clear that in the game between China and the US, we need to make more friends, strengthen friendships, expand cooperation, and dismantle the US' strategy of containing China. Europeans now say "de-risk", but there is a lot of room for maneuvering. "De-risking"  can be a kind of vigilance, a precautionary measure to expand cooperation, or it can be a rigid reduction or even severance of some important and mutually beneficial cooperation. The US wants to lead Europe's "de-risking" toward "decoupling," but we should push Europe to calmly think about what "de-risking" really means.

It is important for China and Europe to expand personnel and cultural exchanges. Recently, someone wrote an article pointing out that there are fewer Europeans and Americans in China, and this trend deserves our high attention. In the past, Westerners in China were mostly from European countries. It is important to have more Europeans come to China, understand us, and develop a favorable impression of China. This issue should be given strategic-level attention. Premier Li's first visit after taking office is to Germany and France, reflecting the Chinese government's high recognition of the strategic importance of China-Europe relations. Chinese society should also actively follow this strategic focus. 

"The West" is more of a cultural and ideological concept. However, in terms of geopolitics, it is not a monolithic entity. Europe is our partner, and although there are various frictions and misunderstandings, we must not waver in this strategic decision.

The author is a commentator with the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn