- By Chris Kremidas Courtney
The year 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of China-EU diplomatic relations. It is also a year that ushered in a new chapter of China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
This autumn, President Xi Jinping paid a successful visit to the UK, followed by visits to China by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, culminating in a “China-Europe season”. Earlier, Premier Li Keqiang visited France and Belgium. The year also saw the organisation of several important meetings, including the 17th China-EU Summit, the High-Level Strategic Dialogue, the High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue and the High-Level People-to-People Dialogue. These encounters allowed the two sides to identify the direction of their relations and to reiterate their commitment to a positive, long-term strategic perspective and a rational approach to handling their relations while transcending differences in social system, cultural tradition and ideology.
China and the EU reaffirmed that they would respect each other’s choice of development path, take their respective development as major opportunities for cooperation, treat each other as equals and enhance mutual trust, with a view to developing China-EU relations in wider scope, greater depth and at a higher plateau.
The China-EU 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation is now being fully implemented. Negotiations for a China-EU Investment Agreement are yielding progress. Cooperation in finance, energy, technological innovation, sustainable development and urbanization has been intensified. China-CEEC (Central and Eastern European Countries) cooperation is pressing ahead. Consensus has been reached between China and the EU in five new areas: drawing synergies between China’s Belt and Road Initiative and EU Investment Plan, establishing a new Connectivity Platform; collaborating in digital economy and cyber security; launching a legal affairs dialogue; and facilitating people-to-people exchanges.
China and the EU share such objectives as transforming growth models, accelerating structural adjustment, raising the quality and returns of growth, promoting employment as well as improving people’s wellbeing. Determined to press ahead with the times, China and the EU have endeavored to enrich and upgrade their cooperation for the long term benefit, which has greatly inspired all sectors on both sides to participate and opened up broader prospects for a win-win relationship.
The celebration of the 40th anniversary of China-EU relations has presented an opportunity for both sides to conduct a series of cultural exchanges, including traditional dance dramas such as The Grand Canal, The Legend of the Sun, Dream of the Maritime Silk Road, the Chinese Film Festival, China Unlimited creative contest, Fashion China, China-EU Friendship Table Tennis Tournament, Chinese Health Qigong Week, and the China Day. In the meantime, the Chinese Cultural Center was launched in Brussels early in the year and exchanges among think tanks, academic institutions and the media on both sides have significantly increased. This was paralleled by growing numbers of student, tourism and entrepreneurial exchanges. China-EU people-to-people exchanges – communication between hearts and minds – have injected new momentum into the healthy and stable development of China-EU relations.
To promote regional stability, world peace and development, China and the EU have maintained dialogue and communication at such multilateral fora as the UN and the G20. The Joint Statement of the 17th China-EU Summit reiterates that as amongst those who built and maintained the post-World War II international order based on the UN Charter, China and Europe will continue to uphold the purposes and principles of the Charter and work for a more equitable international order by building a stronger and more effective multilateral system based on the Charter and international laws.
The China-EU Joint Statement on Climate Change reaffirms a joint determination to join the international community in combating global climate change – a formidable challenge facing humanity – and promoting sustainable development and the long-term well-being of human beings. Coordination and cooperation between China and the EU on regional issues such as the Middle East, the Iranian nuclear program and Syria have played a constructive role in facilitating proper solutions.
It is true that China and the EU differ in their social systems, ideology and levels of development. However, as the Chinese economy enters a phase of “new normal” and EU integration progresses, exchanges and cooperation between China and the EU will expand and deepen. We will see more space for development and greater opportunities for cooperation. In the course of cooperation, some differences will be patched up, some may grow and new frictions may crop up. It is therefore of critical significance that both sides keep the overall situation and long-term interest in mind, adopt new initiatives and narrow the gap by increasing the opportunities for cooperation. This is the valuable experience derived from 40 years of China-EU relations and the most significant political wisdom that will chart the course of China-EU cooperation in the years to come.
Looking ahead to 2016, we have every reason to believe that the launch of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan and continuing integration of the EU will enable the two sides to find more synergies in their development strategies. We are confident that China and the EU will focus more on enhancing mutually-beneficial cooperation, surmounting disturbances, and consolidating the sound momentum of their bilateral ties to achieve shared growth and take their relations to a new height.
- By Masami Onoda
- Eye on the Geopolitical Ball
- Area of Expertise
- Peace, Security & Defence
- By Jamie Shea