Hope Borrell's visit will be like a well-cooked meal, worth the wait: Global Times editorial
Published: Oct 12, 2023 11:03 PM Updated: Oct 12, 2023 10:56 PM
China EU Photo:VCG

China EU Photo:VCG

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, is visiting China from October 12 to 14. The two sides will hold the 12th round of China-EU High-level Strategic Dialogue. This is his first visit to China since taking on the role of EU foreign policy chief. Interestingly, Borrell's initial plan to visit China in mid-April this year was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test, and a later trip planned for July was also canceled at the last moment. This rollercoaster process mirrors the ups and downs in China-EU relations over the past year or two.

Borrell's visit undoubtedly presents a significant opportunity for candid communication, mutual understanding, resolution of differences, and enhanced cooperation in the context of the currently relatively subdued China-EU relationship. Both sides should seize and make the most of this opportunity. As two major global powers, markets, and civilizations, China and the EU do not have fundamental conflicts, and their interests are deeply intertwined. They also share same or similar stance on issues such as supporting multilateralism, a multipolar world, and democratic international relations. This solid foundation of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the EU, established over the past 20 years, has not weakened or wavered; to some extent, it has even strengthened.

Using this foundation as a mirror to reflect on the difficulties and problems that China-EU relations have encountered in the past two years, we can clearly see that a considerable portion of them is unnecessary and should not have arisen. Some of the contradictions are not as sharp as they appear and can also be resolved through enhanced communication and mutual efforts by both China and the EU. Borrell's visit to China and the China-EU High-Level Strategic Dialogue, as long as they operate within the framework established by this foundation, can yield positive results.

In a pre-trip media interview, Borrell stated that his first objective is to reaffirm to the Chinese side that "Europe takes China seriously" and has no "hidden agenda" aiming at derailing China's rise. He expects China to "take Europe more seriously" and stop looking at Europe "through the lens of its relations with others." He particularly emphasized that the EU has been making its assessments "independently." Since it is considered a "first objective," it indicates that this is a point of concern for Borrell and many Europeans regarding China. From the perspective of the Chinese side, this concern is not difficult to address because it is largely based on misunderstandings and misjudgments.

There is no doubt that China places great importance to its relationship with Europe. The level of seriousness China treats Europe with is no less than the level of seriousness Europe treats China with. China regards Europe as an independent global power and sincerely hopes to support Europe in achieving true strategic autonomy and diplomatic independence.

We also believe that there are many European elites, like Borrell, who value European independence. A paradox is that the more European political elites emphasize independence, the more likely European strategic autonomy and independence will be compromised. Although few Europeans are willing to be political vassals of the US and are wary of American political interference, Washington's actual intervention in European politics and diplomacy has clearly crossed the line and even exerted a dominant influence in many aspects.

To be honest, many people in Chinese society also believe that the EU's strategic autonomy is mostly just talk, and its actual actions toward China still follow Washington's lead. For example, its performance in issues related to China's internal affairs such as Xinjiang and Hong Kong in the past two years, its current attitude toward the Taiwan question, and its protectionist measures in trade under the pretext of "de-risking" all seem like a replica of Washington's policy toward China.

In other words, it is not China that views its relationship with EU from a competitive perspective with the US, but rather it's the US that increasingly views its relationship with Europe from a competitive perspective with China. In this situation, Europe does need to emphasize, maintain, and strive for its independence, but this does not depend on what it says to China, but rather on what it does, including how it balances its relationship with China and the US. If EU truly achieves strategic autonomy and diplomatic independence, others will definitely see it, and there is no need to prove it further.

The transatlantic relationship is fundamentally unequal, but the China-EU relationship can become a model of equal treatment. As long as it breaks free from the strong influence and interference of third-party factors, the China-EU relationship will certainly become much smoother, and some problems will not be as serious and will be dealt with more easily. Some specific points of disagreement or controversy can actually become new areas of cooperation when viewed from a higher perspective. For instance, the Global Times once published an op-ed in which the author called on China and EU to join forces to make the pie of the electric vehicle market bigger. For the current China-EU relationship, this kind of wisdom and innovative thinking is greatly needed.