China-Europe ties need stronger momentum

Global Times | 作者: Cui Hongjian | 时间: 2018-10-23 | 责编: Wang Jiapei
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Premier Li Keqiang is currently visiting Belgium and attending the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit, bringing China-Europe relations into the spotlight once again.

This year marks the ninth anniversary of the European debt crisis, which is still changing and reshaping Europe, making Sino-European relations more important yet more complex. It needs adaptation and careful management from both sides. 

Trade has been the cornerstone of China-Europe relations. In the past decade, it has been able to withstand the debt crisis and China's economic "new normal". It is more mature and extensive. The interdependence between China and Europe in a spectrum of fields such as markets, industries and capital has reached an all-time high. 

On this basis, the two have attached more strategic importance to each other. They have more consensus over politics and security and engage more at regional and global levels. Being the two great forces, two great markets, and two great civilizations, China and Europe have raised the strategic vision of building a partnership for peace, growth, reform and civilization. 

But at the same time, bilateral relations have become more complicated in this decade. Ten years ago, Europe was not ready to cope with a debt crisis, while now it is not ready to accept a more confident China. Beijing wants to be on a politically equal platform with Europe, while the continent seeks equality in trade and investment rules. China sticks to its path of reform and opening-up, but Europe has concerns about it and even does not look at China favorably due to differences on some issues. The previous consensus of seeking common ground and shelving differences is in danger of being politicized or even falling prey to certain ideology.

To manage the complicated bilateral relations, China and Europe need to re-affirm their common interests and enhance mutual trust. Bilateral trade with a volume of $1.5 billion every day is undoubtedly of common interest. Therefore, maintaining and reforming the multilateral trade system that has benefited both should form the bedrock of a consensus. 

The prosperity of China and Europe relies on peaceful and stable international and regional dynamics, and therefore avoiding nuclear proliferation and ensuring regional security are also of common interest. They should also jointly work on maintaining the Iran nuclear deal and cultivate their abilities to defend multilateralism. 

Even in areas where China and Europe hold different views, they should realize that it is not because they lack common interests but because of the policy environment and different priorities. 

Both should firmly believe that there is no China conspiracy to split Europe and Europe has no intention of overthrowing China. 

China-Europe relations should have more profound and irreplaceable driving forces, which can better serve the welfare of peoples from both sides and maintain stability and sustainability of bilateral relations. Their cooperation on innovation, energy transformation and urbanization has unique characteristics. The ongoing cooperation on artificial intelligence, space and aviation, and microelectronics is leading the trend. 

The uniqueness of China-Europe relations lies in wide, multi-level and multifaceted cooperation between the two. The advancement of bilateral relations lies in their pursuit of innovation and pragmatism. Uniqueness and advancement comprise the driving forces of China-Europe ties. 

Based on common interests and mutual trust, China and Europe will not only consolidate traditional cooperation, but also engage in the Belt and Road initiative and connectivity between Asia and Europe. The Netherlands and Belgium move faster than other European countries in terms of cooperation with China, which will inspire other countries on the continent and take China-Europe cooperation forward.

With international dynamics changing, China and Europe will face tough tests on enhancing common interests, managing differences and competition and coping with relations with a third party. As long as both sides can clarify common interests and strategic consensus, they can work toward their goals despite a bumpy road ahead.



Cui Hongjian is director of the Department of European Studies, China Institute of International Studies. 



Source: Global Times, October 18, 2018.