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China, Europe should expand cooperation

By Chen Weihua | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-11-11 09:28
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Those who describe China's policy in Europe as "divide and conquer" do not know what they are talking about.

China has been consistent over the years in supporting the European integration process. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reiterated that stance at the EU-China Summit in Brussels in April and said it again in late October when he met with Federica Mogherini, the outgoing European Union foreign affairs and security policy chief, in Beijing.

China and the EU also hold regular ministerial meetings and over 60 sectoral dialogues. Both are committed to a comprehensive strategic partnership as expressed in the EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation in 2013, according to a fact sheet released by the EU last month.

China just appointed its first special representative of European affairs on Nov 1 in a bid to further boost ties with Europe.

The appointment of Wu Hongbo, a veteran diplomat who had served as United Nations undersecretary-general, and ambassador to Germany and the Philippines, shows the importance China attaches to the EU.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the new job will help strengthen communication, coordination and cooperation, deepen mutual trust and promote innovation together.

The Chinese view of the EU contrasts sharply with that of the White House, which trashed the EU and supported not only Brexit, but also no-deal Brexit in the United Kingdom. The US is waging a trade war against the EU after one against China.

Trump's "America First" policy, which features unilateralism and protectionism, is deeply resented in Europe.

Despite being traditional allies, the EU and the US are divided over upholding of multilateralism, preserving the Iran nuclear deal, respecting the authority of the UN and reforming the World Trade Organization. The WTO may soon be paralyzed because the US has refused to consider nominees to fill the vacancies on the Appellate Body, a dispute settlement mechanism.

While the EU's ambition is to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, the US started the process this week to formally exit the Paris climate accord. It happened at a time when French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a deal in Beijing on Wednesday that makes reference to the "irreversibility" of the Paris accord.

China-EU relations have forged ahead in recent decades. China has come to the rescue of a number of European countries that suffered severe economic and financial crisis in the past decade.

Bilateral trade hit a record $682 billion last year, making the EU China's largest trade partner for 15 years. China is the EU's second-largest trade partner.

Chinese tourists made more than 6 million visits to Europe in 2018, according to the China Tourism Academy. More than 300,000 Chinese students are studying in European universities.

However, it is unrealistic to expect China, or any other country, to deal with only Brussels, the EU headquarters, and not individual countries.

The reason is simple: While the EU is a political and economic union of 28 member states, the members often cannot agree on a common policy due to their huge differences in politics and economy.

Many EU countries and corporations are eager to partner with China. The announcement on Monday by DHL, a German company, of the launch of a new China-Europe railway freight express in partnership with a Chinese company shows the enthusiasm for win-win cooperation.

Many Chinese infrastructure investments in EU member states, such as the China-Europe freight train or the Port of Piraeus in Greece, have not only benefited China and the host nations, but also the entire region.

The EU should not fall into a US-type geopolitical and zero-sum thinking in dealing with China. Instead, it should expand win-win cooperation that benefits its peoples.

The author is chief of China Daily's EU Bureau in Brussels.

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