China-EU relations

Updated: 2013-11-14 10:32


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The third phase (2006-now)

After entering 2006, EU relations began to show subtle changes. The clues first appeared on the European Commission's new papers, titled "EU- China: Closer partners, more responsibility" and "competition and Partnership: EU-China trade and investment policy." Although the main tone is still constructive, they clearly reflected the change of the EU's attitude towards China, which was mixed with disappointment and dissatisfaction. The papers solemnly expressed the EU's concern, and clearly put forward demands on China, asking China to assume more international economic and political as well as environmental responsibility.

In recent years, the EU put more emphasis than ever to safeguard its own economic interests, intentionally raising the threshold in trade negotiations, and frequently launching anti-dumping investigations of China's exported products. Politically, it frequently takes the matter of "human rights" and "religious freedom" to pressure the Chinese government. This change reflects the complexity of the development of China-EU relations and China-EU relations has indeed entered a period of adjustment and transition.

In today's international system, China and the EU are two actors that have quite different levels of development and systems but also rely heavily on each other. This feature determines the strategic and complex China-EU relations, and as such a continuous process of adaptation and learning. In the first 20 years after the establishment of diplomatic relations, China was in a relatively weak position while the EU is in all respects a leading position. Thus the EU was so accustomed to looking down on China that it began to feel the imbalance with China's rapid development. It began to safeguard its own interests and asked China to take on more responsibilities and obligations. China also asked the EU to lift the outdated arms embargo, and hopes that the EU can as soon as possible recognize China's market economy status.

It should be stressed that the EU is an important partner, and mutual interests and interdependence are far greater than the problems and differences. China is still the second largest trade partner to the EU and the EU the largest to China. In the current international financial and economic crisis, the meaning and value of the EU's cooperation is especially important. It is also noted that the EU and China still consider each other "strategic partners." To give a new impetus to the development of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership, the two sides in April 2008 established and launched the EU (Deputy Prime Minister level) high-level economic and trade dialogue mechanism, an important platform to enhance mutual trust and benefits.


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