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Explore untapped potential in EU-China ties

(China Daily) Updated: 2015-02-12 07:38

Explore untapped potential in EU-China ties

During his visit to Europe, Premier Li Keqiang talked with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Zhang Duo / Xinhua

This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the European Union and China, established on May 6,1975. It is an important milestone in an ever more important relationship between our union of 28 European states and China.

We have come a very long way since 1975. At that time the EU was made up of just nine member states. China was only beginning to open up and had yet to undergo its economic miracle. Trade between our two sides was miniscule; now the EU is China's largest market and China is the EU's second-largest trade partner. This relationship has made us truly interdependent, in the sense that the success of one party is predicated on the success of the other.

We cooperate in more areas than ever before, including foreign policy, security and defense, and cyber security. We both have obvious shared interests in the peaceful resolution of global conflicts, climate change mitigation, sustainable development, food and energy security, nuclear non-proliferation and social justice. While we have our differences, notably on human rights, our partnership has become mature enough to allow frank discussion on these issues.

Most satisfying of all is that contacts between the EU and China in areas like education, tourism and scientific and cultural exchange are booming. Today 250,000 Chinese students have chosen to follow courses at European universities, while the number of Europeans studying in China amounts to 40,000, with a further increase expected in the coming years. At the same time European countries count among the top destinations for Chinese tourists.

But there is still much untapped potential in our relations and this is why in November 2013 we adopted the EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation, the framework for our relations until the end of the decade. It identifies four main areas to bring our partnership to the next level: peace, prosperity, sustainable development and people-to-people exchanges.

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