Closer China-EU ties expected following EU leadership change

China Plus Published: 2019-07-09 21:37:14
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Note: The following article is taken from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs".

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday congratulated Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel on his election as president of the European Council. President Xi said that China supports Europe in playing a more important role in international affairs, and that he would like to join efforts with President Michel to bring about more progress of the China-EU partnership for peace, growth, reform and civilization. This highlights China's positive will to promote China-EU cooperation.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels, July 2, 2019. European Union leaders have named their new top team after three days of arduous negotiations. [Photo: AP]

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels, July 2, 2019. European Union leaders have named their new top team after three days of arduous negotiations. [Photo: AP]

This is a year of European political change. At last week's EU special summit, the candidates for the EU's four top positions finally surfaced: Prime Minister Michel took over as president of the next European Council, with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen was nominated as the new European Commission President. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, a French national, is expected to become the next president of the European Central Bank and Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell Fontelles is to be appointed as High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The leadership structure of the EU in the next five years has now taken shape.

At present, there are many challenges facing European development. On the one hand, there seems no end in sight to the refugee crisis. Populist political forces have advanced, and the difficulties surrounding the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, or Brexit, remain unresolved. On the other hand, Europe is facing downward economic pressures with declining technological innovation and industrial competitiveness, and trade disputes between the European Union and the United States seemingly deadlocked. In this context, consolidating and strengthening cooperation with China will undoubtedly be one of the most important diplomatic directions of the EU. The international community has every reason to be optimistic about the future trend of China-EU relations.

In fact, the positive outlook for those relations is based on the reality that the mutual interests of the two sides are expanding. This spring, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang both visited Europe, ushering in a “highlight moment” in China-EU relations. At the 21st China-EU Leaders' Meeting in April, the two sides reaffirmed the promotion of new progress in the China-EU partnership for peace, growth, reform and civilization and jointly planned the cooperation agenda after 2020. In this regard, the change of EU leadership will not affect the general direction of China-EU cooperation, but will instead raise hopes of creating new kinetic energy for bilateral cooperation.

Specifically, in terms of maintaining peace, China and the EU have common needs. As the two major forces of multi-polarization in the world, both advocate the maintenance of an international system centered on the United Nations, despite the rising trend of unilateralism, protectionism and hegemonism. The two sides support the peaceful resolution of regional disputes and conflicts through dialogue. At present, the Iranian nuclear crisis continues to ferment, and China has kept close diplomatic contacts with European stakeholders such as Britain, France, and Germany to make efforts to resolve the crisis.

In the area of growth and reform, the interests of China and the EU are now deeply intertwined. In the face of the trade frictions that the United States has provoked on a global scale, it is necessary for China and the EU to work together to defend multilateralism and a rules-based free trade order. The two sides have agreed to promote China's Belt and Road Initiative and the European Commission’s EU-Asia Connectivity Strategy. The two sides are accelerating the negotiation of the China-EU Investment Agreement and striving to reach a high-level agreement by 2020. In addition, they have reached important consensus in the fields of technological innovation, government procurement, and agricultural trade matters, and are willing to strengthen dialogue on the issue of WTO reform.

Regarding the dialogue on civilization, China-EU cooperation is also heating up. In March of this year, during President Xi Jinping's visit to Europe, China joined hands with Italy, France and Monaco to make a series of achievements in culture, sports, education and tourism. The deepening of cultural and people-to-people exchanges has helped to consolidate the public opinion base of China-EU comprehensive cooperation.

The world is undergoing a major transformation not seen in the past 100 years, and the convergence of interests between China and the EU is increasing. China is hoping to work with the new EU leadership to raise the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership to a new level in the next five years. Enlarging the cake of mutually beneficial cooperation is not only in the interests of both sides, but also conducive to world peace and prosperity.

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.