The recently concluded Eighth China-EU Summit, which was held in Beijing September 5, achieved much in terms of strengthening ties and boosting trade relations between China and the EU.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, current president of the rotating EU presidency, President of the European Commission Manuel Barroso, and EU Council Secretary-General Javier Solana attended the summit.
During the meeting, several agreements were signed, in a bid to facilitate their all-round strategic partnership in the fields of maritime projects, environment protection, space development and the renovation of the Beijing Capital International Airport.
A joint statement on the summit was also released, as was a Joint Declaration on Climate Change.
In addition, a deal was signed that should resolve the problem of millions of China-made textiles stockpiled at EU ports.
The year 2005 is the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the EU.
Wang Li, a researcher with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, wrote an article September 6 commenting on the summit and on Sino-EU relations in general. The following are the main extracts of Wang's commentary.
A review of maturing China-EU relations
"The development of China-EU relations can be seen in the total volume of trade between the two sides. When China-EU diplomatic relations were first established in 1975, the total volume of trade was only US$2.4 billion. In 2004, trade was valued at US$177.3 billion, accounting for 15.4 percent of China's total trade volume.
The EU is the fourth largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in China, and the largest source of cumulative technology introduction. A rational solution of trade disputes is therefore vitally important to the further development of bilateral economic and trading relations.
But the Sino-European relationship is not limited to economics and trade.
At the Sixth Sino-EU Summit in October 2003 when the establishment of an all-round strategic partnership was announced, relations transcended the non-existent cornerstone of geopolitical conflict and regional strategic threat, and so began the process of seeking strategic common points of shouldering greater international responsibility and playing more active roles.
In recent years, the two sides have maintained high-level exchanges and communication on major international and regional issues. China has also established mechanisms of strategic security consultation with some EU member states.
Trade disputes between China and the EU should be resolved dispassionately.
As China-EU trade relations expand, economic disputes have increased in recent years. From early this year, disputes arose in relation to Chinese textiles and garments exports.
Although China and the EU managed to avoid an all-out textiles trade war through compromise and cooperation, trade disputes will keep emerging for various reasons, in particular feelings of protectionism by some EU member countries. Therefore, the two sides should consider establishing an early warning mechanism and continue to pursue the pragmatic and dialogic position in settling bilateral disputes.
Therefore, dialogue and exchanges between the two sides remain to be strengthened. Increase of all-round exchanges, particularly between the media and the general public, will help reduce misunderstandings and differences, and enhance knowledge and understanding. It is only in this way that the all-round strategic partnership built on common interests and mutual trust can be elevated to a higher level.
Pragmatism is also key when handling relations between China, the EU and the US. The degree of economic dependence is high in this tripartite relationship. Any imbalance in one could have an impact on the other.
Of course, it is also important that China develops ties with individual EU countries.
It is plain to see that each EU country plays a role in the decision on lifting the arms embargo on China and the Sino-EU textile dispute. EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson himself pointed out that the collective worry of a group of Europeans about China's development promotes the trade protectionism fever that is spreading in Europe.
China should therefore learn to strike a balance between the EU and its members. There is also much to be learned from the experiences of developing relations with France, Germany and the UK.
(China.org.cn by Wang Ke and Wu Nanlan, September 9, 2005)