The Guardian • Issue #1981

China-EU dialogue

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #1981

Coinciding with the retirement of strong China-EU ties supporter Angela Merkel and the snub of France in the AUKUS security pact which targets China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific, top diplomats of China and EU on Tuesday 28th September held a strategic dialogue by video link, serving as a stabiliser for geopolitical uncertainties.

The dialogue between Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, came after Wang exchanged views with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg during a virtual meeting the day before, noting China has not been and will not be a rival to NATO.

In his meeting with Borrell, Wang said China and the EU have increased talks recently, reached many consensuses, which help enhance understanding, expand mutual trust and reduce misjudgement.

China and the EU should consolidate the momentum, adhere to mutual respect, seek common ground while shelving differences and reducing antagonism, Wang said.

Wang also pointed out the trilateral security pact AUKUS, recently formed by the US, UK, and Australia, have heightened geopolitical tensions and brought about risks of a return of the Cold War, potential arms race and nuclear proliferation.

Borrell said China is a key strategic partner with a mature, multi-faceted and non-confrontational relationship for the EU and it is important to maintain close and smooth communication between the two sides.

Wang also made clear China’s principled position on the Taiwan question, stressing that the one-China principle is the general consensus of the international community and the political basis for China to develop relations with the EU and its member states.

Borrell said that the EU always adheres to the one-China principle, which is an important cornerstone of EU-China relations. The EU will not conduct official exchanges with the Taiwan region.

The two sides also exchanged views on human rights issues.

Wang said China is ready to conduct human rights dialogue and cooperation with other countries based on equality and mutual respect. However, China does not accept the “preachers” of human rights or foreign countries’ interference in internal affairs under the pretext of human rights.

Borrell said that the EU will respect China’s sovereignty and has no intention of preaching to China.

They also exchanged in-depth views on Afghanistan, Myanmar, non-proliferation and other issues of common concern.

Chinese experts believe that the dialogue, which was held amid the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical uproar, is a major achievement in itself. And issues like Afghanistan, climate change, China-EU economic and trade cooperation were discussed amid the dialogue, as the fields that China and the EU can deepen cooperation are larger.

The dialogue reflects China’s desire to bring China-EU relations back to the track of sound development, as some conflicts have emerged recently, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies, China Institute of International Studies, told Global Times.

Relations between China and the EU have been strained in the past few months as members of the European Parliament in August expressed support to Lithuania as the Baltic country allowed the secessionist Taiwan authority to open a “representative office” under the name of “Taiwan.”

China also recently expressed opposition to a planned trip of some French senators to the island of Taiwan, which is a violation of the one-China principle.

The Council of the EU in March announced sanctions on four Chinese nationals and one entity, as a reaction to the alleged mistreatment by China of its minority Uygur population in Xinjiang.

The China-EU CAI [Comprehensive Agreement on Investments] is not expected to produce breakthrough progress, but green energy and digital dialogue will be the new growth for China-EU cooperation, Cui said.

As to the Taiwan question, the expert said China must further express its position and make sure that the Taiwan question will not become the sting in China-EU relations or leave any space for ambiguity.

Some analysts suggested China and the EU should find a more stable framework to reduce uncertainties in relations.

China-EU relations are in an important period of shaping, which should be observed in the context of a trilateral relationship between China, the US and Europe, Feng Zhongping, director of Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Science, told Global Times.

China emphasises mutual opportunities, seeks to enhance cooperation, and manage differences. And the dialogue is also part of managing differences, Feng said, noting what Europe needs from China is cooperating in global governance and economics, while keeping ideological toughness and alliances with the US.

Some observers said Europe has moved from a predisposition to an alliance with the US, to a more pragmatic and rational attitude toward China and the US. From Biden winning the US presidential election, to various US-EU summits, NATO summits and G20 summits, to imposing sanctions on Xinjiang and the suspension of the China-EU CAI ratification, the EU has sounded out on the China-US-EU relationship.

Europe has dropped unrealistic expectations of the Biden administration and sees more clearly the US’s self-interest tricks, whether in Afghanistan or in the AUKUS, or in the disclosure of a “China threat,” said Wang Yiwei, Director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China.

“Europe knows it cannot rely solely on the US, and has lost the excitement when Donald Trump left office, despite EU acknowledging the challenge from China,” Wang said.

As far as the big two in Europe, experts say that until the beginning of next year, there will be an opportunity to develop China-EU relations.

For Germany in the post-Merkel era, the formation of a new cabinet may last half a year. During the period of transition, Germany is very likely to maintain its prudent China policy. If nothing unexpected happens, French leader Emmanuel Macron will also be re-elected next year and will also lean toward stability, Wang said.

Global Times

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