China and the EU are now giving more attention to setting up a new partnership than haggling over ending the arms ban and discussing textile trade issues, which both consider normal and ultimately resolvable through dialogue.
During a two-day visit by the EU "troika" of senior diplomats, marking the 30th anniversary of the forging of Sino-EU diplomatic ties, China and the EU seemed to make progress in resolving their spat over China's surging textile and clothing exports to Europe and ending the EU's arms embargo on China.
"We will take further economic measures to stem excessive growth in China's textile and garment exports," said Premier Wen Jiabao Wednesday when meeting with the EU diplomats, calling for joint efforts to ease the current trade dispute.
Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, together with European External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and British Ambassador to China Christopher Hum as the representative of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, told a joint news conference Wednesday that the 16-year-old arms embargo could be lifted by the end of June, when Luxembourg hands the EU presidency to Britain.
"In six weeks a lot of things can happen, and if we make effort on both sides, we can do it," they said.
"To build the Sino-EU comprehensive strategic partnership is the correct choice made by China and the EU based on our respective fundamental interests. It benefits the interests of both sides as well as world peace and stability," said Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing during the talks.
China and the EU want to build a strategic and long-term partnership rather than be fettered by differing views on ending the arms embargo, textile trade and human rights issues. The two sides are expected to start negotiations on a new bilateral partnership agreement later this year to replace the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement signed in 1985.
"It's time to reflect the vibrancy of our relations with an ambitious new agreement that will help us move to a full-fledged strategic partnership," Ferrero-Waldner was quoted as saying in a press release issued by the European Commission (EC), the EU's executive body.
After a space of three decades, China-EU relations are at their peak thanks to increasing high-level visits and genuine political trust, having entered the new stage of comprehensive cooperation covering wide areas and multiple levels.
China-EU trade hit US$177.3 billion in 2004, a 73-fold rise in 30 years. The EU has become China's top trade partner since it expanded to 25 members last May while China is the EU's second largest trade partner.
"While we started off with trade and a few political exchanges, today we have a broad range of partnership covering diverse areas," said Serge Abou, ambassador of the EC delegation to China.
The two sides collaborate in research projects in technology. China was the first ever non-EU nation to participate in the EU's Galileo satellite navigation program while it is working with the EU on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) to providing clean, cheap and safe energy from nuclear fusion.
Earlier in 2004, China and the EU signed an agreement on approved destination status (ADS), facilitating people-to-people exchanges. Chinese students in the EU have risen to 160,000.
The EU staged its first-ever film festival in Beijing Wednesday, which "will give (China) an unparalleled glimpse of the vibrant and diverse societies and cultures that together make up Europe," said Abou.
The EU will also bring another cultural festival to Beijing in September, when 25 EU member countries show off their art and tourism, according to Abou.
In the light of booming multi-layer China-EU cooperation, the two sides are resolving differences through dialogue. On the human rights issue, which the EU links to ending its arms embargo, China and the EU have moved from conflict to dialogue and have so far conducted 29 human rights dialogues.
"Despite different cultural and historical backgrounds, China and the EU share similar views in terms of respecting diversity and supporting a multipolar international system, which lays a solid foundation for sound China-EU cooperation," said Shen Jiru, a fellow researcher with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"Meanwhile, China's fast-growing economy and practical diplomacy are preconditions for higher level dialogues between the two sides," Shen said.
(Xinhua News Agency May 13, 2005)