Better understanding and mutual benefit can help settle disputes and consolidate strategic common ground
The ongoing week-long strategic dialogue between China and the European Union (EU), respectively headed by State Councilor Dai Bingguo and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, is a fresh move taken by both sides to push forward bilateral ties.
Ashton's visit, prior to a UN Summit on development in September, the eighth Asia-Europe Meeting and China-Europe Summit in October, a G20 Summit in November and a UN climate change conference at the end of this year, is expected to help coordinate stances and cooperation between China and the European bloc on a wide range of important international issues.
Over the past 35 years since their diplomatic ties were established, China and the EU have made fruitful progress in developing ties with each other, with both regarding the other as a focus of their diplomacy. Various levels of dialogue and consultation mechanisms have been established to deepen mutual understanding and trust. In 2003, China and the EU decided to elevate bilateral ties to a full and strategic cooperative partnership. Remarkable progress has also been achieved in the economic and trade scope, with bilateral trade volume at the end of 2009 increasing a hundredfold from that of 1975. Currently, the EU remains China's largest trading partner, exporting market and source of technological imports. China remains the bloc's second-largest trading partner and has been the largest source of imports for many consecutive years. China became the third-largest exporting market of the EU in 2009.
The expansion of economic and trade cooperation has forcefully bolstered and pushed forward bilateral ties. As the world's largest developing nation with rising economic and global clout and the world's largest group of developed nations, unblocked communications and cooperation between China and the EU have undoubtedly played an important role in promoting world stability and development. The mushrooming economic, trade and political ties, aided by their widening cooperation in scientific and technological areas and frequent people-to-people exchanges, make the Sino-EU relationship one of the most important and influential bilateral relationships in the world.
However, Sino-EU relations have also encountered some setbacks in the context of the changing world power configuration, which has been the result of profound changes in the global situation since the start of this century, especially the rise of such emerging countries as China. Some in Europe believe China's fast-paced economic development has upset the long-established position of China and the EU in the world and believe competition other than beneficial cooperation has dominated bilateral ties. It is also believed that China has been the only beneficiary of booming Sino-EU relations and that the EU should try to gain equal treatment in bilateral exchanges. Preoccupied with such a mentality, the EU has taken trade protectionist measures against China in the past years, adding conflict and friction to the otherwise well-developed ties.