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Sovereignty, cooperation should both be pursued

By Jean-Pierre Raffarin | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-03-30 09:18
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China-Europe freight train service from Wuhan resumes running on March 28, 2020, with the first route to Duisburg, Germany. [Photo by Ke Hao/For China Daily]

The future is changing. This pandemic will go down in history as the first big trouble in the "new world". One thing is for sure: The friendship between China and France will only become stronger.

We thank the Chinese authorities and the people for their great support during our fight against the novel coronavirus. At this time, it is far from finished. Thank you for sending masks and all the medical equipment needed in such circumstances.

There has been good cooperation between our scientists. As during the SARS outbreak in 2003, France is supporting China's actions during the epidemic. We are impressed by the effectiveness of the Chinese response.

We can learn lessons from this war against the virus. China as well as France made a good choice by cooperating, as humanity will be better off collectively investing in conflicts rather than turning a blind eye to corners of the world that are not their own.

In such situations, no one can succeed alone; everyone needs each other. The world is faced with crises such as the virus, climate change and pollution. Borders can't be the solution.

Before the outbreak, China and France were working together to develop international cooperation. It was the focus of the last state visit of President Xi Jinping to Paris in March last year. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker, then president of the European Commission, took part in that summit. All the recent events lead us to think that this is the right way.

Initially, some international experts tried to advise the Chinese to choose a different approach in fighting the virus. But these days, in many countries, they are following the Chinese way.

Health cooperation is probably one of the most relevant areas for promoting multilateralism.

President Xi and French President Emmanuel Macron agree with this vision. After their phone call on March 23, they supported the call for convening a special G20 summit to tackle the COVID-19 crisis. The summit was held via videoconference on Thursday.

The lesson from this crisis is that we can't choose between sovereignty or cooperation, but we need to practice both sovereignty and cooperation.

Protectionism is dangerous in a connected world. Nevertheless, each country has to assume the responsibility of protecting its citizens. Consequently, people want their country to be sovereign.

The only way to achieve that is to have a mix of sovereignty and cooperation, and China is well on its way.

Some markets are more open than others. It would be a good idea if Europe and China were able to conduct negotiations to define the parts that are free trade and the parts that are protected.

For the future of the world, another lesson has to be learned: We need a more united European Union. One more thing we notice is that what the US wants is not America First, but "America alone". We can't count on it for developing new international cooperation.

The world needs a third continental player to balance things out and to help those who are trying to promote modern multilateralism. The split of Europe would be bad news for everybody.

Consequently, the cooperation between China and Europe should incorporate such an objective.

The Europe-China summit in Leipzig, Germany, this autumn could probably be a good opportunity to build new cooperation between the two sides.

It is also hoped the European strategy of connectivity and the Belt and Road Initiative will get closer together.

The author is a former French prime minister and is an adviser to the Boao Forum for Asia, a nonprofit organization. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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