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China, EU Stride into Maturing Partnership

Should any serious comparison ever be made about the different stages of the development of relations between China and the European Union (EU), nobody can deny the fact that the ties between them have gained extraordinary momentum over the past few years and entered an era of maturing partnership.

President of the European Commission (EC) Romano Prodi also spoke highly of the progress so far achieved in bilateral relationship and cherished a big hope for its future.

"In the past six years, our relations have improved so much that they grow from strong relations to those of increased cooperation," he said in an interview with Chinese journalists in Brussels Monday.

As is known to all, the bilateral relations had experienced ups and downs since its birth in 1975, but they have grown by leaps and bounds since the 1990s. The EU has now defined its relationship with China as "a strategic partnership" in its latest policy paper on China released earlier this month.

While commenting on the paper, European Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten said "the last decade has seen a dynamic growth of the relationship between the EU and China, which has expanded well beyond the traditional areas of trade, investment and technical assistance. These changes have brought about a new maturity in the relationship characterized by an increasingly close policy coordination in many areas."

In 1995, the EU released its first policy paper on China, outlining the general framework for its long-term policies towards China. The annual summit meeting mechanism was launched in 1998 to provide leaders from both sides with a chance to exchange views and decide on areas of closer cooperation.

Following the EU's latest policy paper on China, the Chinese government has for the first time issued its policy paper on the EU in mid-October, spelling out objectives of China's EU policy and outlining plans and measures on bilateral cooperation in the coming five years.

As Prodi said in the interview, both the EU and China agreed that a multipolar world structure should be built and that is the well-established basis for closer cooperation.

The achievement in bilateral ties has been demonstrated in fast-growing trade. The total two-way trade between the EU and China has increased by more than 40 times since reforms began in China in 1978. In 2002, China became EU's third largest trading partner, overtaking Japan.

Bilateral trade has grown to 115 billion euros (US$132 billion). It also grew strongly in the first quarter of 2003 by 18 percent and China is very likely to become the bloc's second largest trading partner this year, statistics here show.

"I see a lot of complementarities in our economies," Prodi said, stressing that this will promise more and better economic cooperation in coming decades.

Recent cooperation in EU's Galileo Program stands for another sign of closer partnership.

"It is essential to promote China-EU scientific and technological cooperation on the basis of the principles of mutual benefit and reciprocity," China's first EU policy paper said.

China's injection of fund into the program has been hailed as revitalizing it by some Western reports.

Apart from it, both sides agreed to facilitate cultural exchange activities and cooperation in education with a view to achieving better mutual understanding, a prerequisite for any further substantial development of bilateral relations.

Prodi said the EC would strive to promote education quality and increase financial commitment to European universities in order to attract Chinese students by offering best educational opportunities.

With this relationship expanding and deepening in more sectors, China and the EU would surely stride into maturing partnership.

Looking at the world from a strategic point of view, EU security chief Javier Solana categorized China as one of the EU's key strategic partners in the world as far as security is concerned.

"Faced with a changing international environment with new types of security concerns, such as terrorism or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, we have an ever-greater interest to work as strategic partners on the international scene to safeguard and promote sustainable development, peace and stability," Patten noted.

The coming summit meeting is round the corner. Leaders from both sides are mulling better and deeper cooperation. In this sense it will push all-round cooperation to a higher level.   

Of course, China and the EU still have different and even divergent opinions on a number of issues. But those will be properly addressed through dialogue and other means. Neither side will allow them to grow into a serious challenge to future development of this relationship as cooperation and interdependence have long become a view shared by leaders from both sides.

(Xinhua News Agency October 28, 2003)

Sino-EU Summit to Strengthen Partnership
EU, China Should Foster All-round Cooperation: Prodi
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