Closer China-EU ties expected following EU leadership change
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]
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.