Observers in Brussels wonder whether talks will stick to the expected score or if politicians have some surprises in store
BRUSSELS - While Beijing and Washington hold a summit this week, politicians and observers in Brussels are opening their ears to catch the lyrics and hopefully follow the melody.
The expectations here are that the meeting between the planet's only superpower and its rising power can go beyond the agenda and touch on the framework of global governance.
"For Europe and especially the eurozone, there will be attention focused on the two major powers to display solidarity in leading the search to address both their bilateral difficulties and global problems," said David Fouquet, director of Brussels-based Asia-Europe Project Information Service.
Fouquet's expectations are understandable. At the heart of globalization has been the emergence of fast-growing economies like Brazil, India, and, above all, China.
Meanwhile, the sentiment in Brussels is that the EU is in decline, especially after the Copenhagen climate summit at the end of 2009.
Hu Visits US
Chinese President Hu Jintao visits the United States on Jan. 18-21.
So when President Hu Jintao meets US President Barack Obama, Fouquet thinks they need to address bilateral issues such as trade relations and monetary exchange rates, as well as global issues such as protectionism and trade, climate change, technology transfer and, of course, geopolitics.
This interdependent world requires not only sound relations between all major players, but cooperation and coordination. And this means the consequences of any US-China arrangement for Europe and elsewhere must be carefully assessed.
"Any agreements could have tremendous repercussions on the stability of the eurozone and the risk of contagion to other partners," said Fouquet.
This concern is on the radar for China's politicians. For example, during the recent visit of Vice-Premier Li Keqiang to Europe, China's international trade representative Gao Hucheng told China Daily that China's plan to buy more government bonds in money-strapped countries will be implemented under the framework of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
This is a clear message from Beijing that saving the EU from its debt crisis may involve cooperating with Brussels and other players, especially the US, which still has a decisive stake in the IMF.
"The US needs to rethink its development model and both the US and Europe should recognize the influence of the emerging economies," said Zhang Xiaojing, senior economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
In addition, the global economic and financial systems set up after World War II have become outdated, according to Zhang.
"More speaking and voting rights should be given to the emerging economies and the emerging economies should contribute to rebuilding the architecture," said Zhang, citing an IMF report that the combined economic output of the emerging economies will overtake that of the developed economies in 20 years.
Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide has recently finished a draft report by experts from Beijing, Washington and Brussels saying it remains cautious amid concerns that relations between China, the US and Europe have become increasingly complicated and that China's foreign policy will continue to face diplomatic challenges.
"At the center of this is the pressure applied on China by Western countries to adjust the yuan policy," the report said. "Specifically, a stronger yuan relative to the dollar and the euro is expected to result in more American and European exports as well as more jobs in America and Europe."
But on a separate occasion in Germany, Gao ruled out the possibility of appreciating the Chinese currency by a big margin in spite of mounting pressure from Washington and Brussels.
"There is no room for China to increase the value of the renminbi (in the foreseeable future)," said Gao.
In a wider context, Fouquet said Europe is curious to see how the two main powers interact, either in the ongoing contradiction of cooperation and confrontation or a more positive constructive relationship. "And we are also curious about how Brussels' politicians play their roles in this high-level meeting," said Fouquet.
During the process of reshaping global governance, Beijing has its expectations. No matter whether it's the currency issue or other key topics such as market economy status or lifting the arms embargo, Beijing has urged Brussels to seek an independent diplomatic stance instead of following in Washington's steps.
Chen Baosheng, vice-president of the Beijing-based Party School of the Central Committee of Communist Party of China, said the EU is still a powerful club of rich countries and they are full of dynamics and potential. But he hoped the EU and its member states would relax high-tech exports to China and recognize China's market economy status as soon as possible, which he says China, as a World Trade Organization member, is entitled to have.
"The EU has such intentions, but they are not so firm because of the US," Chen said in a previous interview with China Daily. "I hope the EU sees this as a bilateral issue, instead of a multilateral one."
During his meeting with Obama, Hu will definitely show him the song sheet detailing how American and European technology could interact with China's ambitious plan to double its per capita income in five years and to restructure its economy by boosting domestic consumption. And, of course, their clean technologies are finding more opportunities while China upgrades its economic model by imposing higher environmental standards to realize sustainable development.
During his visit to Brussels in October, Premier Wen Jiabao urged European political and business leaders not to join the "chorus" of voices pressuring China on the yuan exchange rate. The US has led the refrain, the tenor of which has never lowered in Washington, especially after the financial crisis.
Hu will soon be able to hear the song in person.
Fu Yu contributed to this story.
(China Daily 01/18/2011 page6)