Europe shouldn’t miss the opportunity brought by the Chinese Premier: Global Times editorial
Published: Jun 21, 2023 12:02 AM
China-EU Photo: VCG

China-EU Photo: VCG

For Germany, France, and Europe as a whole, the first overseas official visit of Chinese Premier Li Qiang after the establishment of the new Chinese government is not only a journey to carry forward their traditional friendship, and deepen their cooperation, but also an important visit to implement the Chinese top leader's proposition to promote the development of China-Europe ties. It also provides a rare opportunity for them to exclude internal and external interference, and sort out their complex and tangled thoughts on China. Europe should not miss this opportunity.

It should be emphasized that this is not China's so-called charm offensive against Europe, nor has China ever used Europe as "the West's soft white underbelly" to exploit. Such rhetoric is some Europeans' self-objectification and diminishment. Simply put, China's most genuine and simple psychology is that it really does not want to see a strategic partner, with no fundamental conflicts of interest with China, yet under the instigation of outsiders and driven by internal irrational emotions, move toward a direction of mutual loss instead of mutual benefit. To avoid this situation, China is willing to make the greatest effort.

After arriving at Berlin on Sunday evening, Premier Li met German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, held talks with German business leaders, and co-chaired the seventh China-Germany inter-governmental consultation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. He will also make an official visit to France and attend the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact. The Chinese Premier conveyed China's goodwill and sincerity face-to-face, and explained China's position on a series of major issues, which has had a positive effect. 

The most direct manifestation of this effect is that the European public opinion on China has become more pragmatic and rational, at least in the short term. Business leaders are particularly enthusiastic. Scholz said on Tuesday that Germany rejects all forms of decoupling, and that "de-risking" is not "de-sinicization." According to reports, the two countries signed more than 10 cooperation agreements in areas including advanced manufacturing and environmental protection, and forged more consensus for cooperation in addressing climate change and boosting green development, among others. This message has increased people's confidence that China-Europe relations and pragmatic cooperation between the two sides still have bright prospects.

Undoubtedly, there are differences between China and Europe on some issues, some of which are old problems, and some new. The biggest obstacle is undoubtedly at the political and ideological level, and some anti-China forces won't give up until they suffer a dead end. We must do our utmost, but we must also be fully prepared for the complexity and twists and turns of current and future China-Europe relations. In recent days, anti-China forces in Europe have also tightened their strings, not only creating a lot of noise, but also looking for opportunities to cause trouble.

To be honest, government officials in many European countries are afraid of being labeled as "soft on China." This could put them in a politically passive position, so they often choose to cater to populist sentiment rather than defend national interests. They may also have to compromise, which undoubtedly creates unnecessary difficulties for China-Europe relations. To achieve strategic autonomy in Europe and healthy development of China-Europe relations, true politicians and strategists are needed to overcome and transcend this predicament.

In theory, misunderstandings and misperceptions can mostly be resolved through strengthened communication and exchanges, and this also applies to China-Europe relations. During Premier Li's visit to Europe, we felt the strong willingness of both China and Europe to communicate and exchange, which is important and the foundation for the two sides to meet each other halfway. Premier Li said, "the biggest risk is non-cooperation and the biggest hidden security danger is non-development." This statement has received a lot of attention in Europe. Sensible people can easily grasp that this indicates the stance and attitude of the Chinese side toward the development of China-Europe relations.

It seems that the biggest predicament of Europe now is not whether to cooperate with China, but where to position the cooperation. However, in fact, once mutually beneficial cooperation is replaced by pan-politicization, pan-ideology, and pan-security, it will inevitably cause fundamental damage to the cooperation environment. The ultimate result will be political confrontation, security dilemmas, and vicious competition, and the scope of cooperation will be greatly compressed, whether you like it or not. This will be very distressing. Europe needs to address the epistemological problem of "de-risking" from this perspective, and be wary of using the name of "de-risking" to implement de-sinicization, and then to de-opportunities, de-cooperation, de-stability, and de-development.

China is changing, Europe is changing, and so are China-Europe relations. Change is absolute, and there is nothing to be afraid of. China-Europe relationship is not about returning to the past, nor can it go back to the past, but it's about moving forward. Moving forward requires joint efforts from both sides to constantly control the changes and the secret to managing changes is to stick to the important principles that have enabled stable cooperation between the two parties. For example, the principles of win-win cooperation, seeking common ground while reserving differences, and treating each other as equals cannot be changed. As long as these remain unchanged, the future of China-Europe relations is worth looking forward to.