Why China, Europe need each other

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, June 23, 2014
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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (C) attends a welcome banquet held by business delegates from both China and Britain at the Natural History Museum in London, capital of Britain, June 17, 2014. [Xinhua]

The world's second largest economy and a leading trade power; an unparalleled economic success and the world's first industrialized region; a country with a history of more than five millennia and a continent home to the world's most acclaimed cultural diversity.

China and Europe are all these and more.

Sharing so much in common, it came with little surprise that the two sides have been drawn closer to each other in the new millennium.

Indeed, in many aspects, China and Europe are alike.

Both are peace-loving powers. Of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China has contributed the largest number of peace-keeping personnel, whereas the EU, itself a "peace project" established after World War II, is responsible for half of the world's development aid.

Both China and Europe are leading trade powers. China is the world's second-largest economy while the EU countries together account for some 23 percent of the world's entire GDP.

Both China and Europe are in the middle of structural reforms that are vital to buttress their economic and political prowess, and both sides are birthplaces to eminent thinkers, philosophers and artists whose great achievements have become part of the spiritual heritage of mankind.

There are differences as well.

A Chinese policy paper issued in April admitted that "the two sides have disagreements and frictions on issues of value such as human rights as well as economic and trade issues."

China is still a developing country with a population of 1.3 billion. The country is still caught in the process of modernization with a per-capita GDP still below the world average.

Europe, on the other hand, has boasted decades of prosperity, and despite the recent global financial crisis and the eurozone debt crisis, remains one of the most developed regions in the world.

The two sides also boast different political systems that are nevertheless in line with their own conditions.

But putting similarities and differences aside, both China and Europe need each other to take on even greater global significance.

In a 10-day visit to Europe in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on China and Europe to build four "bridges" of peace, growth, reform and progress in civilization to step up friendship and cooperation.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, some three months later, also highlighted cooperation. "China and the UK, the East and the West, developing countries and developed ones alike, should seize opportunities, meet challenges together, and build a better world through inclusive development," he said.

Their enthusiasm is reciprocated by their European counterparts.

Heads of states and governments from Europe that visited China in 2013 alone included former French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who pledged that Britain would be China's strongest advocate in the West.

The logic behind the mutual pledge of support and cooperation is not difficult to understand.

It has been 11 years since China and the EU established a comprehensive strategic partnership.

According to the policy paper on the EU published by China in April, the two sides have worked together to tackle the international financial crisis and advance global governance reform, stepped up communication and coordination on major international and regional issues, and contributed significantly to world peace, development and cooperation.

Unlike the United States and Japan, Europe enjoys a relationship largely unburdened by intractable disputes with Beijing, and no other regions have exerted as much influence on China as Europe.

Both China and the EU advocate a multi-polar world, with Chinese leaders repeatedly labeling Europe an "important pole" of the world, and an "important partner" for China.

Nevertheless, economic links between China and Europe are perhaps the strongest glue holding the two together.

China is the EU's second-largest trading partner. The EU has been China's top trading partner for 10 years. The annual trade volume has exceeded 550 billion U.S. dollars and there have been over five million visits between the two sides each year.

Last year, the EU's direct investment in China jumped to 6.5 billion U.S. dollars, a 21.9-percent increase year on year. Meanwhile, China's direct investment in the EU spiked 6.2 percent to 3.6 billion U.S. dollars.

In addition, China and Europe's respective need for reforms has also offered further room for close collaborations. As China aims to build a moderately prosperous society by 2020, and the EU works toward its own EU 2020 strategy, the two sides can foster synergies and promote cooperation in all fields.

Though there have been signs of a "seven-year itch," the most prominent of which being the EU's year-long anti-dumping case on Chinese photovoltaic power systems, Sino-Europe ties still have without doubt been heading in the right direction in the past few years.

Describing Sino-Europe ties as "a relationship based on friendship and a mature relationship," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a lunar new year greeting to the Chinese people in 2008 that "maturity means the two sides are able to deepen points of agreement. On points of non-agreement, they are able to speak constructively and find a way out." These words still ring true today.

China and Europe need each other, and it is in the interests of both sides to put differences aside and grasp the opportunities for cooperation created by China's development and Europe's economic recovery, and turn the current pattern of cooperation into one that is more comprehensive, robust, high-end and driven by multiple engines.

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