Eastern Europe, China Concord Sets Example

Global Times, November 6, 2016 | 作者: Cui Hongjian | 时间: 2016-11-21 | 责编: Wang Jiapei
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During Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Latvia to attend the latest 16+1 meeting of heads of government of Central and Eastern European countries and China over the weekend, pragmatic promotion and the promising outlook of collaboration between the two sides has once again been put under the spotlight.

A few days ago, Sigmar Gabriel, German vice chancellor and economics minister, who has just concluded his visit to China, urged the EU to adopt a tougher approach with China since he believes that Beijing is buying up the West's strategically important key technologies to protect its own enterprises against foreign takeovers. It seems that not every part of Sino-European cooperation is going smoothly.

Since the first 16+1 summit was held in Warsaw, Poland in 2012, joint work between China and the 16 Central and Eastern European countries has grown from nothing at all to innovatively close sub-regional cooperation amid skepticism from many Western European nations.

Especially in recent years, given the appeal of jointly realizing the "One Belt, One Road" initiative, Central and Eastern European countries have become more proactive in working with Beijing by connecting their strategies with China, boosting trade volumes and financial cooperation and promoting collaboration in infrastructure constructions.

In the meantime, however, cooperation between Western European countries, which enjoy more chances, capital, technologies and experience in terms of working with China than those in Eastern Europe, and Beijing is not that satisfactory. This is because in the name of reciprocal trade and investment, some Western European countries have unrealistic complaints about China but less enthusiasm to actually work with Beijing. They made more compromises with their own domestic interests groups but have been less focused on the long-term interest of Sino-European cooperation.

After China became the world's largest trading nation in 2013, the EU, which has been entangled with its declining global influence and the emergence of China's economic might, adopted a protectionism mind-set against China.

Two years ago, German companies took the lead in applying for an investigation into the trade spat with Beijing over the "dumping" of Chinese-made photovoltaic installations on the European market.

Yet after a settlement was reached over the case, Western European nations made another complaint. They accused China's overcapacity in the steel industry for their own industry's poor management and lack of competence. On the contrary, China's cooperation with Central and Eastern Europe such as Serbia in the iron and steel sectors has been fruitful.

It indicates that overcapacity is not an issue between China and Europe and that as long as the two sides can treat one another open-heartedly, they can boost bilateral cooperation in this regard.

With China's investment to Europe flourishing, Western European countries have become unsettled with this investment. Gabriel's concern came from the fact that China's investment to Germany in the first half of this year is almost twice of that in the past decade, and China purchased or held shares in a dozen German companies during this period of time. It is puzzling that the enthusiasm of Chinese investors did not make German politicians proud but anxious.

What is worrying is that when Europe, especially Western Europe, is facing a series of major challenges, some politicians tend to consider their relationships with China with a more political and conservative mentality. Doing so will not only create an imaginary enemy for those countries' populists to charge toward, but also find a scapegoat for their people to vent their anger against.

The EU is likely to become more protectionist after
Brexit. When China is cooperating well with Central and Eastern European nations, it is hoped that countries in the western part of the continent can find some experience and inspiration from their eastern neighbors.


Source: Global Times, November 6, 2016.


The author is director of the Department of European Studies, China Institute of International Studies.