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'Landslide' EU vote not what it seems

By Fu Jing | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2016-05-22 14:37

The bloc should recognize that more opportunities will occur as China continues to push forward its market-oriented reforms

On May 12, the European Parliament passed a resolution refusing to treat China as a market economy. The resolution, which is not legally binding, is intended to help the European Commission make a final decision.

Out of the members present, 546 voted against treating China as market economy, 77 abstained and only 28 members voted in favor. As a result, many hailed it as a landslide decision.

Despite the numbers, the vote is actually not convincing at all.

First, trade rules, anti-dumping and cost calculations are extremely technical, and to some extent most MEPs are no different from passers-by on the street in terms of their knowledge of the issues involved.

They are prone to be influenced by biased reports (bear in mind one of the widely circulated reports on this topic is from a think tank based in the United States) and many of them have not set foot in China. They don't know the reality of the Chinese economy or that market-oriented reforms are being advanced.

Second, European businesses, especially those investing and trading in China, won't agree with the parliamentarians who voted against market economy status for China.

Of course, some European industries that are struggling may be happy about the vote. But statistics indicate that more than 80 percent of European businesses in China are profitable. If China is not a market economy, how are those European investors managing to survive, and indeed prosper, in the increasingly sophisticated market environment there?

Third, the voting result does not have to be accepted by the member states. Although there are no official figures, more than half of countries in the European Union, including the Nordic countries, Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and those from Central and Eastern Europe are prepared to recognize Beijing's market economy status.

This means if the decision is made on the basis of one country, one vote, the result will be far different from that on May 12.

What's more, most members of the World Trade Organization have already recognized China's market economy status. Are the European Union's criteria higher than that of Australia or Switzerland, for instance?

To be honest, the EU is a fragmented market that needs harmonizing rules. The different member states have market economies of varying degrees of sophistication.

Instead of closing its doors and imposing protectionism, the EU should recognize that more opportunities will occur as China continues to push forward its market-oriented reforms and open up further.

Both sides should admit each other's strengths and weakness with constructive, visionary and forward-looking attitudes.

All in all, the result of the European Parliament's vote is misleading and unconvincing. And if it is improperly being taken as a key part of EU decision-making, the EU will be taking the wrong path.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily European Weekly, based in London. Contact the writer at

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