November 22, 2002

Sino-European Relations: Ties Take on a Fresh Look

Foreign relations between two rising political powers—China and Europe, the largest booming economy and the land with a unified currency respectively—have been the center of global attention in the first year of the 21st century. In the year, China and Europe were engaged in wider and deeper cooperation, with differences between them gradually replaced by growing consensus.

Chris Patten’s New Role

While Sino-US ties were frayed during the Dalai Lama’s visit to Washington and Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian’s transit through New York, a European Commission diplomatic delegation to China between May 21 and 23 lightened up the tense atmosphere then. Unlike their US counterparts at the Bush Administration, decision-makers from the European Union (EU) oppose viewing China as a “strategic competitive rival” and have, on the contrary, been encouraging its members to increase contact with China.

The delegation met Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Primer Zhu Rongji, and put forward 75 proposals on the basis of five long-term strategies toward China, formulated by the European Commission in 1998. The core of the proposals is to strengthen political dialogue and economic cooperation between China and EU members. China is a growing nation, and an economic powerhouse of tomorrow, explains a European Commission report. It believes that contact with China is conducive to the interests of the EU, though the two different political structures.

Significantly, the proponent of the China-friendly idea and the head of the delegation was Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, who once quarreled bitterly with Beijing. As the European Commissioner for External Relations, Patten has made great efforts to “redetermine relations” and establish an “all-round partnership” between China and the EU.

Hu Jintao’s Europe Tour

Chinese Vice-President Hu Jintao visited Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Spain from October 27 to November 14, and wherever he went, state guest receptions were held in his honor. Hu exchanged views with Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on different issues of mutual concern, one of which was anti-terrorism. “Terrorism is a threat to world peace and stability. China and EU members have a common goal for the building of an terrorist-free world. Overall, China hopes Europe will play a significant role internationally,” he said.

During his brief tour, Hu delivered a speech at French Institute for International Relations, held a press conference with Chancellor Schroeder in Germany, and also met prominent political and business figures, including Queen Elizabeth II, in Britain.

Hu found protests supporting the “independent of Tibet” and Falun Gong “pitiful.” Talking about the warm welcome he received from the host and Chinese living in Europe, Hu said, “Their passion is not only for me, but for the entire nation—it is a sincere national sentiment.” Hu’s visit to Europe no doubt projected China as a confident and prosperous growing nation in the wake of reform and opening-up policy, which has laid a solid foundation for further development of Sino-European relations in the new century.

Schroeder’s China Visit

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visited China for the third time between October 31 and November 2, just prior to China’s WTO accession. Economic and technological exchanges were major parts of the tour—the largest headed by a German chancellor in recent history. Chancellor Schroeder was accompanied by German Minister of Economy and Technology Werner Mueller and heads of 47 world-renowned companies, who brought cooperative schemes to China. Business agreements with a total value of US$10 billion were signed during those three days. Germany is China’s largest trade partner in Europe in 2001; its trade volume with China totaled 60 billion Deutsche marks.

Schroeder and his Chinese counterpart Zhu Rongji also attended the trial operation ceremony of the magnetic suspension train in Shanghai on November 2. The large-scale project, signed during Zhu’s visit to Germany in July last year, will be a model for future bilateral economic cooperation.

Unlike Schroeder’s visit to China in 1999, when China strongly condemned the Kosovo war launched by NATO, both China and Germany are now involved in the same anti-terrorism campaign. The increasing common interests of both countries in political and economic fields have in fact extended beyond their differences on human rights. Schroeder also reiterated Germany’s One China stand on the Taiwan issue and his firm refusal to sell submarines to Taiwan.

Just as the Chinese Foreign Ministry declared, Sino-Germany relations have never been so harmonious, and they serve as a model for the development of Sino-European relations this 21st century.

(Beijing Review December 24, 2001)

In This Series
EU Seeks More Access to Market

EU Welcomes China's WTO Entry

Trade Between China, EU to Be Further Developed: Expert

Sino-EU Co-operation to Usher in Bright Future

EU-China Relations Gain Momentum

Sino-European Ties to Expand

Chinese FM Spokeswoman on Sino-EU Political Consultation



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