Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / World / World Watch

Xi's Europe trip opens new chapter

By Henry Chan | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-04-08 09:28
Share - WeChat
President Xi Jinping (L, front) and his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella (R, front) hold talks in Rome, Italy, March 22, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

The visit of President Xi Jinping to Italy, Monaco and France from March 21 to 26 was a significant diplomatic event for China this year. The country secured Italy's commitment to join the Belt and Road Initiative and reached consensus with key European countries on working together to promote multilateralism based on a new order of global governance.

The latest dialogue holds promise for a new phase in the China-EU relationship.

Italy's decision to join the BRI is unlikely to have been a haphazard one based on simple emotional or ideological factors. The Italian government clearly has understood the potential benefits of the initiative.

The Italian commitment imparts more credibility to the BRI and is a welcome development before the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation later this month in Beijing.

The Italian participation prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to praise the BRI as a positive realization of interaction, interrelation and interdependence among nations. She expressed hope for Europeans to take a more active role in the initiative, with the caveat that the Europeans are looking for reciprocity when they open their infrastructure market to China.

Merkel's request for more transparency and a multilateral approach to initiative-linked projects dovetails with the new direction that China is advocating in relation to closer collaborations between the EU and China on BRI infrastructure-related projects. The EU countries are mostly developed countries, and they possess stronger institutions to implement the projects to turn the infrastructure investments into tangible economic gains. This is an advantage that many developing BRI participating countries may not possess.

The long-term future of the initiative rests on the successes of its projects, so the more that such projects are successfully completed, the greater the BRI's reputation, helping it to open more doors in other countries along its routes.

One of the highlights of President Xi's Europe trip was the flying in of Merkel and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to hold a four-party dialogue with French President Emmanuel Macron and the Chinese leader on the last day of his European visit. The meeting was billed by the French government as a "high-level meeting on the challenges of multilateralism". All the leaders stressed the need for cooperation between the EU and China to work together on issues ranging from reforms at the World Trade Organization to countering climate change. They particularly stressed the need to renovate multilateralism while keeping their differences and suspicions in check.

Juncker commented that the EU and China can do great things together, but they should do so in a cooperative way while they are competitors at the same time. However, his statement that "com-petition among us is a good thing" reflects a new open-mindedness on the issue of future China-EU relations. The two sides are now committed to cooperating on issues of common interest and competing when their respective development interest is threatened. The pronouncements of both sides showed that they all understand this new relationship well and it will help to minimize future misunderstandings.

The celebratory atmosphere of Xi's visit clearly indicated a preference by all for cooperation to resolve their differences and to encourage trade and investment reciprocity.

The details on the implementation of what was agreed upon during Xi's visit will be refined in the next EU-China summit on April 9 in Brussels. Both the Italian participation in the BRI and the consensus on multilateralism are long-term undertakings that will take time to work out. If these can be properly implemented, the March visit of the Chinese to Europe will be one of the most significant diplomatic events for China in 2019.

The author is a senior visiting research fellow at the Cambodia Institute for Cooperation and Peace. His primary research interest is Chinese economic development, ASEAN-China relations and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Most Viewed in 24 Hours
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349