Make me your Homepage
left corner left corner
China Daily Website

Dream can set reality agenda for EU-China ties

Updated: 2013-11-15 09:56
By Shada Islam ( China Daily Europe)

Dialogue offers opportunities to put relations on a stronger, more stable, constructive track

As China and the European Union embark on the second decade of their strategic partnership, the Chinese dream sets an interesting and inspirational agenda for a new and forward-looking EU-China relationship.

If the Chinese dream means the continuing and sustainable rise of a peaceful, stable and prosperous China, the EU and China can forge a true partnership to help realize China's aspirations.

China's rise, its success in delivering growth and development to millions and its increasing confidence in regional and global affairs continue to fascinate the world.

However, there is also growing awareness that 30 years of impressive, non-stop growth has come at a huge price. China's leaders face an enormous challenge in meeting people's expectations of a better life, a cleaner environment, a more equitable society and an end to corruption.

The array of decisions made by the Third Plenum of the Communist Party of China's 18th Central Committe is a strong indication of just how serious the country's leaders are about continuing economic reforms and avoiding the middle income trap. But China cannot do it alone.

Europe can help, but only if relations are put on a less shaky footing. EU-China relations are subject to sudden swings in mood, ranging from anger and recrimination over trade or human rights to euphoric periods such as in 2004 when the EU became China's largest trading partner.

Last year was important in EU-China relations because of the launch of a partnership on sustainable urbanization, the establishment of high-level people-to-people talks and plans to negotiate a bilateral investment treaty to increase investment flows.

However, most of this year has been marred by tensions caused by the trade dispute over solar panels, the role of state-owned enterprises and EU businesses' repeated claims that Beijing is discriminating against foreign investors.

China's special relationship with Germany and growing ties with Central and Eastern European members of the EU are also straining relations.

The Chinese dream offers both sides an opportunity to put relations on a stronger, more stable and more constructive track.

The EU is already working with China to help improve life for China's urban billion. China's quest for sustainable urbanization has opened up fresh opportunities for cooperation in areas such as urban planning, urban-rural integration, energy efficiency in transport, construction and housing industry.

Dream can set reality agenda for EU-China ties

Europe's experience in tackling large urban-rural income disparities and unequal regional development is part of the EU-China regional policy dialogue. The EU can share its expertise in food security, international cooperation, environmentally friendly agriculture, organic farming and food safety.

In addition, as China's economy continues to change, investments in human capital will be critical to building a well-qualified, more highly skilled workforce and knowledge-based economy, areas in which the EU has gained strong experience.

Meanwhile, the EU and China share the common challenge of an aging society.

Over the next 10 years, China and the EU should:

Interact more pro-actively and regularly in regional and global forums to deal with challenges including reforming global governance, climate change, trade liberalization and cybersecurity;

Improve the quality of sectoral dialogue by setting clearer aims and establishing a timetable for results;

Reinforce the EU-China partnership on sustainable urbanization;

Continue the high-level people-to-people discussions launched last year in order to build trust and boost mutual understanding;

Start negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty to boost two-way investment flows and prepare the ground for a possible free trade agreement;

China has stolen a march on Europe by invoking a potent and inspiring dream of future growth and development. As Europe grapples with economic crisis and unemployment, it has yet to embark on a similar journey. But who knows? In a few years, China and Europe could share a common dream whose principle is peace and development.

The author is policy director of Friends of Europe, a Brussels-based think tank. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

(China Daily European Weekly 11/15/2013 page13)