Press Release | China’s envoy to Western Europe says China will never become expansionist and welcomes European strategic autonomy


Global Europe

Picture of Seán Flynn
Seán Flynn

Press and Communications Officer at Friends of Europe

December 1, Brussels – “Dialogue and cooperation is the mainstream of China-Europe relations,” said Special Representative of the Chinese Government on European Affairs, Wu Hongbo, during a Friends of Europe event entitled the Europe-China Forum which took place on Thursday.

“No matter what stage Chinese development reaches,” Hongbo continued, “it will never become expansionist, and it will strive for world peace. The CPC’s main goal is the rejuvenation of China for its 1.5bn people.”

On the issue of China’s dual circulation model, an economic model which creates supply chains both internally for Chinese domestic markets, and externally for wider global trade, he said, “Some people complain that China is closing the door, I would say that this is total misunderstanding. China is a leading economy and the workshop of the world.  There’s no future for China by closing its door. China will open its door even further. China welcomes European strategic autonomy for win-win results.”

Patricia Flor, German Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, argued that dual circulation presented barriers to EU member states. Citing the Covid-19 pandemic as the main cause of supply chain shortages, she said that “only together can we brave the daunting task ahead of us.”

“We have to acknowledge that today’s world is not the same,” Flor said via videolink. “The communist party has control over all aspects of society. Nobody can afford to ignore security of supply today.”

While supply chains topped the agenda, confidence in trade relations between the EU and China was high. Liang Linlin, Director of Communication and Research of the China Chamber of Commerce to the EU, pointed out that 80% of investors are optimistic about EU-China trade relations, but stipulated that it’s a question of balance.

“There are 30,000 EU companies in China. Compare that with 3,000 Chinese companies in EU,” Linlin said. Such an imbalance soured investors sentiment in China. Linlin would prefer competition is kept “in the healthy domain.”

“Globalisation is changing, but we’re still in it. You will not be able to find a single country or continent who will be able to sell you more than China can,” she said. “Business cooperation is key.”

Do your homework

Countering Linlin’s claim, Cui Hongjian, Director and Senior Research Fellow at the Department for European Studies of the China Institute of International Studies, said, “It’s not only homework that China needs to do, it’s also homework Europe needs to do.”

Doing business in China has become more and more politicised due to China’s ongoing zero-Covid policy, leading to a decrease in understanding between China and the West. Bettina Schoen-Behanzin, Chair of the Shanghai Chapter Board of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China cited a business confidence survey which stated that 50% of people experienced a more politicised business environment in 2021.

“Company approaches to supply changes are being reconsidered,” said Schoen-Bahnzin via videolink from Shanghai. “Russia-Ukraine was a wake-up call. It’s pushing companies to shift from efficiency to resilience, further onshoring supply chains or creating two different supply chains, one for China and one for the rest of the world, which is not efficient and costly.”

Chinese proverbs

Wu Hungbo cited the 47th anniversary of Europe-China diplomatic relations and the recent high level exchanges, such as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s visit to China in November, and Charles Michel’s visit recently, as a “high tide” of deepened political trust between the EU and China. “Dialogue mechanisms are working well. It tells us that we can maintain growth through dialogue, based on mutual trust and cooperation.”

While differences may occur, Hungbo quoted an old Chinese proverb: “All leading things should flourish without harming each other.”

“Using chopsticks or using knives and forks does not stop us from having dinner together. Why not respect China’s choice to use chopsticks, and why not respect China’s development path and social system?”

The Europe-China Forum, the first conference of its kind Friends of Europe have held since the beginning of the pandemic, brought together ambassadors and private sector leaders for a debate on how the EU and China can manage their differences in climate, trade, and development initiatives.



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Seán Flynn | Press Officer | Friends of Europe

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