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China and the EU Stabilize World Order

2019-01-10 10:03:00 Source:China Today Author:By CHEN XIAOJING
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THE year 2018 marks the 15th anniversary of establishing a comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the European Union (EU). According to the joint statement of the 20th China-EU Summit in Beijing in July 2018, the two sides clearly stated that they are firmly committed to building an open world economy and improving trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, resist protectionism and unilateralism, and promote a more open, balanced, inclusive and shared globalization.


The joint statement has been affirmed by many parties. According to former EU Ambassador to China Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, at a time when geopolitics is uncertain, the China-EU Summit can show that China-EU cooperation is not only important for the two sides, but also for other countries. Open, rule-based global governance system is the foundation of economic prosperity and sustainable globalization. He believes that the two sides need to make progress on issues such as climate change, foreign policy, and Eurasian connectivity. According to Jo Leinen, chairman of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with China, the EU and China should stabilize the new world order.


Jointly Defending Multilateralism, Building an Open World Economy


In the face of the growing unilateralism and trade protectionism of the U.S., the joint statement has sent a strong political signal. On the one hand, it reaffirms support for multilateralism and the rule-based, UN-centered international order, calls for diplomatic and security policy dialogues and cooperation, and promotes resolution of the Korean Peninsula issue, Iranian nuclear issue, and the Middle East peace process. On the other hand, it firmly supports the WTO-based, rule-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system, is committed to complying with the current WTO rules and cooperating on WTO reform, and affirms the role of high-level economic and trade dialogues in guiding and promoting China-EU economic and trade relations.

The 2018 EU-China Tourism Year is a hot topic at the China International Travel Mart 2018, held in Shanghai in November 2018. 


In response to the Iranian nuclear issue, Federica Mogherini, high representative of the EU foreign affairs and security policy, called on all parties to maintain close coordination after the U.S. withdrew from the Iranian nuclear agreement and work together to maintain a comprehensive agreement. She thanked China for its significant contribution to the conclusion of the comprehensive agreement, and hoped that China will continue to play a positive role in maintaining the effectiveness and seriousness of the comprehensive agreement. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi responded that compliance with international agreements is the basic common sense of international law. In particular, great powers should play a leading role in this regard, not the other way around. China will work with the EU to continue to firmly uphold the seriousness and authority of the comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue. China is willing to work with all parties to promote the formation of a common position and turn positive political will into a rational and effective response.


In reply to the WTO reform issue, the two sides pledged to establish a joint working group at the vice-ministerial level. The first formal meeting was held in Beijing in October, 2018. The EU affirmed China’s recent initiatives to improve market access and investment environment, strengthen intellectual property protection, and expand imports. The two sides are committed to ensuring fair and mutually beneficial cooperation in bilateral trade and investment, and will cooperate to solve the market access problems faced by their respective companies.


Enhancing Mutual Trust, Deepening Pragmatic Cooperation


In 2018, high-level exchanges between China and the EU were more frequent, such as the eighth round of the China-EU High-level Strategic Dialogue, the seventh China-EU High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue, the 20th China-EU Summit, and the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting. There were also a number of exchange visits at the national level: in January, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May visited China; in February, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited the Netherlands; in May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited China; in July, Li and Merkel presided over the fifth round of China-Germany inter-governmental consultation in Germany; in late November and early December, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Spain and Portugal; in December, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited China.


The high-level reciprocal visits have enhanced political mutual trust and promoted pragmatic cooperation in various fields.


An example of this is the docking between Belt and Road Initiative and the European development strategy. According to the joint statement, the two sides will continue to promote the Belt and Road Initiative to link with EU initiatives, including European investment plans and an expanded pan-European transportation network, and promote connectivity through transportation, energy, and digital networks. The China-EU interconnection platform has made progress, and the third meeting of the chairperson, the third inter-connectivity expert group meeting and the third meeting of the investment and financing cooperation expert group were successfully held. The two sides will implement the EU-China Connectivity Platform Short-Term Action Plan, formulate an annual work plan, and accelerate the implementation of the contracted pilot projects.

The Seventh China-EU High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue is co-chaired by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen in Beijing on June 25, 2018.


Another example is jointly addressing global issues. The year 2018 coincided with the 20th anniversary of the signing of the China-EU Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement. The two sides welcome the progress made in science and technology cooperation, and especially hope to strengthen cooperation on issues such as energy shortage, environmental degradation, and climate warming. The two sides will continue to carry out the annual energy dialogue, welcome the UN resolution to establish the Global Pact for the Environment, sign the China-EU Leaders’ Statement on Climate Change and Clean Energy, the Memorandum of Understanding on Circular Economy Cooperation, as well as the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of the People’s Republic of China and the European Commission on Strengthening Carbon Emissions Trading Cooperation. Besides, the European side welcomed China to hold the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020.


Closer Sub-Regional Cooperation with Fruitful Results


In 2018, China continued to strengthen cooperation with 16 countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Not only did the first round of political consultations with the Visegrad Group in Beijing take place, but also the seventh China-Central and Eastern European Country Leaders Meeting in Bulgaria. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and leaders of countries in Central and Eastern Europe have fully affirmed the results of their cooperation and are looking forward to the future.


Li delivered an important speech at the Bulgaria meeting to fully affirm the role of 16+1 cooperation – consolidating the foundation of mutual trust, realizing mutual benefit, and promoting the development of China-EU relations. He proposed five suggestions on strengthening cooperation: maintaining economic globalization and free trade; maximizing the potential of industrial parks, cooperative zones and innovation cooperation; expanding financial cooperation channels; increasing the level of local cooperation; and strengthening cultural and people-to-people exchanges.


The seventh China-Central and Eastern European Country Leaders Meeting achieved remarkable results: 42 documents were sealed, covering areas such as energy, transportation and infrastructure construction, insurance and financing cooperation, agricultural development, quarantine, food safety; a review was made on the implementation of the Budapest Guidelines for Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries that was adopted in 2017; the participants issued the Sofia Guidelines for Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries, and agreed to strengthen overall coordination of the 16+1 cooperation, deepen practical cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, and interconnection, foster new kinetic energy for cooperation in science and technology innovation, finance, environmental protection, agriculture, energy, forestry, and health, and expand cultural and people-to-people exchanges.


During his meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in his visit to Germany at the end of May, Wang Yi clarified the Chinese position: China has always firmly supported the process of European integration, hoping to see a more united, stable, and prosperous EU. The 16+1 cooperation is a cross-regional cooperation platform independently created by China and Central and Eastern European countries. It has become an integral part of China’s relations with Europe and a useful supplement. China has always adhered to cooperation with Central and Eastern European countries under the framework of China-EU relations and relevant EU laws and regulations, and considers inviting representatives of the EU and member states to attend a new round of 16+1 leaders’ meeting, and carry out third-party cooperation with Germany in Central and Eastern Europe, in order to achieve mutual benefit and a win-win situation. Interestingly, Wang’s elaboration coincided with the answer to a reporter’s question by Angela Merkel during her visit to China in late May. She said that the 16+1 cooperation is conducive to promoting infrastructure construction in Central and Eastern European countries. The Central and Eastern European countries have complementary advantages with China, and cooperation is a useful supplement to the internal construction of the EU, not to divide the EU.


Diversifying Cooperation Content


The Belt and Road Initiative has been promoted for more than five years, constantly enriching the cooperation between China and the EU. It is no longer limited to infrastructure construction, but also achieves breakthroughs in finance, environmental protection, and advanced technology. The progress in cooperation between China and the U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries in 2018 is proof of this.


In the financial sector, China and the U.K. reached a consensus on Shanghai-London Stock Connect on the occasion of Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to China in 2018. It is an interconnection mechanism between the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange. Eligible listed companies issue depositary receipts and trade in the other market in accordance with the laws and regulations of the other market. At the same time, through the cross-border conversion mechanism between depositary receipts and basic securities, the market interconnection between the two places will be realized.


In the field of environmental protection, China and France have taken the French-Chinese Year of Ecological Transition as their starting point to promote global ecological progress, and have laid the foundation for greening the Belt and Road. The French-Chinese Year of Ecological Transition originated from the decision of the heads of state of the two countries at the beginning of the year, and was officially launched in November 2018. The two sides will conduct dialogues and exchanges on ecological and environmental protection, climate change, and biodiversity conservation. Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment Li Ganjie said that China is willing to use this project as a starting point to share its green development experience with the international community and formulate a solution for world environmental protection and sustainable development.


In the new- and hi-tech field, Premier Li Keqiang visited the Netherlands in February 2018 to witness the signing of a multi-billion dollar agreement between Chinese and Dutch technology companies. In July, Li and Merkel attended the ninth Sino-Germany Economic and Technology Cooperation Forum in Berlin and signed a number of high-level cooperation agreements in fields such as autonomous driving. The Dutch battery manufacturer Vaux decided to invest US $1.85 billion in China to set up a lithium battery engineering project in the Yangtze River Delta region and establish a China research and development (R&D) base. It is said that the lithium battery factory will be put into operation in 2021, with an annual output of 8 GWh, which can provide batteries for 160,000 electric vehicles. Premier Li stated that China will further open up market access in the automotive sector, welcome German companies to expand investment in China, welcome Germany’s leading autopilot technology to enter China, and promote Sino-German cooperation from traditional manufacturing to intelligent R&D.


China-EU relations in 2018 have been steady and inspiring. Looking forward to 2019, there are still many opportunities and challenges for both sides, including how to effectively promote the alignment between the Belt and Road Initiative and European development strategies in a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary manner, how to refine the cooperation with the 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe while taking into account the vested interests of Western European powers, and how to further improve the capacity of both sides to coordinate and cooperate in international affairs.



CHEN XIAOJING is an assistant research fellow at the Europe Research Institute of China Institute of International Studies.


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