Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold a virtual meeting with German and European Union (EU) leaders on Monday, a timely and critical gathering to steer the China-EU partnership toward a more stable and mature future in a world where uncertainties abound.
It is the second China-EU leaders’ meeting in three months, and the latest episode of frequent high-level exchanges between the two sides, demonstrating an earnest hope from Beijing and Brussels to boost all-round cooperation, and build a more open and prosperous world.
Cooperation between China and the EU, following the establishment of their diplomatic ties 45 years ago, continues to gain momentum with bilateral trade and mutual investment thriving and people-to-people exchanges flourishing. The two sides have also been working closely on global matters.
Humanity is struggling to cope with an unprecedented public health crisis rarely seen in a century, while the global economy is absorbing the impact of perhaps the worst economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Unfortunately, in an age where cooperation and solidarity are much-needed, the specter of isolationism and protectionism is rearing its ugly head.
At this drastic moment, China and the EU, which account for about a quarter of the world’s population and one third of gross global product, need to step up efforts to advance cooperation and strengthen coordination to better handle challenges in a post-pandemic era.
The most urgent task for China and the EU is to build an anti-pandemic partnership to beat the deadly virus and to steer the world economy toward recovery as soon as possible.
As governments around the world are seeking to reopen their countries, the two sides need to focus on how to step up their collective and coordinated response to facilitate cross-border movements of people and goods while doing their best to reduce the risk of new trans-border cases to a minimum. A multinational information-sharing network for both people and commercial goods is among the must-dos.
China and the EU should also give full play to their respective advantages and work even closer to fast-track the development, production and distribution of effective treatments and vaccines, and make sure those live-saving tools are accessible and affordable.
In the field of the economy and trade, the cornerstone of China-EU relations, Beijing and Brussels share a promising future. In 2019, the two-way trade reached roughly 710 billion U.S. dollars, growing at 8 percent year on year. Germany, the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of 2020, has long been China’s largest trading partner in Europe.
Despite the pandemic, economic and trade cooperation between the two sides remain robust in 2020. In the first eight months, a total of 7,601 China-Europe freight train trips were made, up by 44 percent over the same period in 2019.
Looking into the future, it is also important for the two sides to make the pie of their shared interests bigger. Thus China and the EU must join their efforts in the investment treaty negotiations and search for solutions to remaining issues so as to ensure a timely conclusion of a comprehensive deal. On this basis, a joint feasibility study for a China-EU free trade agreement could be put on the table.
Furthermore, the two sides should work together to crack open new areas for cooperation, as Xi proposed at the 22nd China-EU leaders’ meeting in June, to forge a green and digital partnership between China and the EU by fostering cooperation in clean energy, sustainable finance, e-commerce and cloud computing.
The latest bit of good news for EU investors came at the China International Fair for Trade in Services earlier this month, when Beijing announced more practical steps to further open its market, including developing a negative-list system to better manage cross-border services trade, further easing market access for the services sector, and expanding imports of quality services.
In the international arena, China and the EU are playing a major role in maintaining world peace and stability, and improving global governance, including jointly fending off unilateralism and protectionism, supporting the guiding roles of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, and tackling the world’s most pressing issues such as the raging pandemic, terrorism and climate change.
To do that, communication and coordination is indispensable. China and the EU need to build a bridge of mutual understanding to overcome their social and political differences and reject xenophobia.
The 45-year-old China-EU relationship shows that the two sides share far more in common than their differences would suggest. It is believed that China and the EU can further their own interests by respecting one another’s legitimate and core concerns.
As the pandemic continues to rage and the global economic crisis remains far from over, the world is crying for more contributions by China and the EU. Together, they should fight tooth and nail for the common future of all.