By Yanyi Yang
In spring this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid state visits to the Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium and the EU headquarters all for the first time in his presidency. The historic visits aimed to chart the course for China’s relations with Europe, step up cooperation and upgrade our strategic partnership. Leaders of the two sides not only reviewed and assessed progress of bilateral relations so far, but also planned for the future to ensure our relations take on greater global, strategic and exemplary relevance in the new era.
The China-EU relationship is one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships, with strategic significance for regional and global peace and development. China and the European Economic Community established diplomatic relations in 1975, opening a new chapter in bilateral exchanges. Since the late 20th Century, our relations have progressed, in line with the long-term vision and trend of our times, from constructive partnership to comprehensive partnership and further to comprehensive strategic partnership. When marking the 10th anniversary of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2013, our leaders issued the “China-EU 2020 Strategic Agenda for cooperation”—a blueprint for cooperation over the next decade. President Xi Jinping’s visit to Europe adds further momentum to our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership at the outset of its second decade.
Over the last four decades, mutual understanding and pragmatic cooperation has been the prevailing aspect of bilateral relations in spite of some twists and turns. Politically, guided by the annual summit, both sides have deepened mutual understanding and broadened consensus through the High-Level Strategic Dialogue, the High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue, the High-Level People-to-People Dialogue and the High-Level Political Parties Forum. Economically, China has become the EU’s second largest trading partner and the EU has been China’s largest trading partner for ten years. Two-way trade is more than US$550 billion annually. The expanding economic ties and common interests have brought tangible benefits to Chinese and European citizens. In terms of cultural and people-to-people exchanges, over 5 million people travel between China and Europe every year. With regard to global and regional issues, we have maintained regular dialogues and consultations to promote multilateralism and the central role of the United Nations in international affairs. We have also worked together in response to global challenges in areas of international trade and investment, and climate change.
The China-EU relationship has played an important role in driving our respective development, promoting regional integration, globalisation and multi-polarity and in advancing global peace and common development.
It is both timely and imperative to deepen the China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for mutual benefit. China and the EU are both at pivotal moments of their development. China is deepening reforms across the board, modernising its national governance system and capacity and accelerating new industrialisation, IT application, urbanisation and agricultural modernisation. It’s making great efforts to develop its socialist market economy, democracy, culture, harmonious society and ecological conservation. All the efforts aim to achieve China’s “Two Centenary Goals” and the Chinese dream of national renewal. The EU, on the other hand, is undertaking structural reforms to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and to make its economy more competitive globally. For both sides, cooperation has never been as timely.
At the regional level, regional and sub-regional cooperation has thrived and Eurasia trade and investment is surging, heralding a golden era of ever increasing common interests and cooperation potentia. President Xi Jinping’s proposal to build a “Silk Road Economic Belt” has been strongly endorsed by many European and Asian countries. We should seize the opportunity and explore synergies to broaden and elevate regional cooperation and breathe new life into the old Silk Road.
At the global level, the international landscape and world economy are undergoing new and fundamental changes, and a new scientific and technical revolution is soon to take off. Meanwhile, global and regional uncertainties have increased: hotspot issues keep flaring up; the path towards multi-polarity is tortuous; the global economic recovery is slower than expected; and the world economy is a long way from strong, sustainable and balanced growth. Pollution, climate anomalies and other serious challenges threaten human survival and development.
The changes in national, regional and global conditions mean that China and the EU should take a strategic approach and enrich our comprehensive strategic partnership. We should deepen our mutually beneficial cooperation in the interest of world peace and common development, which, in turn, will contribute to our win-win cooperation.
The China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership will assume more global, strategic and exemplary importance. During his visit to the EU headquarters, President Xi Jinping elaborated on the direction and significance of our partnership and proposed that we build a “partnership for peace, growth, reform and civilisation”. In his speech at the College of Europe in Bruges, President Xi stressed that China and the EU need to build a bridge of peace and stability linking the two strong forces, a bridge of growth and prosperity linking the two big markets, a bridge of reform and progress linking the reform processes and a bridge of common cultural prosperity linking the two major civilizations.
As partners for peace, China and the EU are committed to taking the lead in peaceful development. Both sides have pledged to respect each other’s social systems and core interests, and support the pursuit of peaceful development. We have decided to strengthen communication and coordination on strategic, political and security issues through the China-EU High-Level Strategic Dialogue to safeguard world peace and stability. China and the EU, in their quest for peaceful, cooperative, harmonious and common development, will help make peaceful development a strategic culture worldwide and contribute to a multi-polar world based on mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence.
As partners for growth, China and the EU will strive to be the “twin engines” for economic growth in Asia and Europe. We will take a more open and innovative approach, identify more common interests and fully tap the potential to upgrade our pragmatic cooperation. At the bilateral level, we will accelerate investment agreement negotiations, launch feasibility studies on a China-EU FTA and resolve trade disputes through dialogue and consultation. While strengthening existing cooperation, we will nurture cooperation in new areas of technological innovation and urbanisation. At the Eurasia level, we will work vigorously to build the Silk Road Economic Belt and develop the massive Eurasia market. At the international level, China and the EU will commit to open market, uphold the multilateral trading regime, and strengthen communication and coordination on macroeconomic policies within the G20, IMF and World Bank. Our pragmatic cooperation will fuel our economic growth and innovation, and provide positive momentum towards a new world economic system that is inclusive, open, development and innovation-friendly, interdependent and universally beneficial.
As partners for reform, China and the EU will spearhead the efforts to learn from each other’s governance experience. Both China and the EU are experimenting with development models that have never existed, and both are navigating “uncharted waters” in their reforms. China and the EU differ in the content and approach of reforms, but we are ready to carry out dialogue and cooperation in macroeconomic policy, public policy, regional development, rural development and social welfare, respect each other’s chosen path of reforms, and learn from each other. China and the EU are also committed to intensifying dialogue and consultation at bilateral, regional and international levels to promote a more just and equitable international order. Experience sharing will boost our respective reforms and governance, and help improve international rules and mechanisms.
As partners for civilisation, China and the EU will contribute to progress of human civilizations through mutual interaction and learning. We will broaden and deepen cultural and people-to-people exchanges in a spirit of equality and friendship. Through the exchanges, China hopes the EU will take an objective, historical and holistic perspective and come to know the true and multi-dimensional China as it is. China will be open and humble-minded, and commit to do everything possible to enhance its communication with countries in the world and dispel prejudice and misunderstanding. We will jointly promote mutual respect and harmonious coexistence between civilisations, and intensify exchanges and mutual learning between civilizations, thereby strengthening the bond between peoples, advancing the progress of human society and upholding world peace.
China and Europe, though thousands of miles apart, are embracing an era of interdependence. The world has never been so closely inter-connected and the need for China and the EU to cooperate has never been greater. Deepening our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for mutual benefit serves the interests of the peoples of China and Europe and will contribute more to world peace, development and cooperation.