Li's visit to Europe timely
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will use his attendance at the Asia-Europe summit in Milan on Oct 16 and 17 as an opportunity to visit Germany and Italy. The ASEM summit is an important gathering of European and Asian leaders every two years to discuss global issues. It also provides a useful occasion for bilateral meetings. One of the important bilateral meetings for Premier Li in Milan will be a working dinner with outgoing European Union President Herman van Rompuy and Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
The Chinese Premier's visit takes place against slowing economic growth in Europe and China. While the worst phase of the eurozone crisis is over, there is still much to do to rekindle growth rates and tackle high unemployment. The European Commission estimates growth in the EU this year will barely reach 1 percent while youth unemployment in Spain and Greece is over 30 percent.
In these circumstances, the EU is looking to China to maintain its high growth rates and act as the driver for the global economy. Europe and China are each other's biggest trading partners so when one catches a cold it affects the other. European leaders are confident that Beijing knows what levers to adjust to continue China's remarkable growth. But they also know there will be no return to double digit growth. China has to tackle massive environmental problems, debt-ridden State-owned enterprises and local authorities, and root out corruption.
This will be a tall order, but as the Chinese economy slows there will be potential to increase cooperation with the EU. The EU has the know-how and technology, for example, to help China tackle its huge environmental problems. It also has useful experience in regional policy that may be helpful for China. Both sides need to work together for a successful outcome at the climate change conference in Paris next year.