Despite existing geopolitical differences between China and Europe and the ongoing carbon- emission-tax dispute, top European leaders charmed Chinese students and academic staff from the University of International Business and Economics yesterday (Feb. 15th) as they recognized the commonalities between China and Europe whilst gently nudging China to participate in the EU rescue plan.
"The European and Chinese civilizations have many things in common," said Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, as he addressed an audience of more than 800 students and faculty members at UIBE.
Shi Jianjun, President of UIBE, Zhou Xiaochuan, Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso (L to R) [China.org.cn]
Continuing, he said: "Let me mention just one: We both value patience."
Mr. Van Rompuy was speaking the day after his meeting with Chinese premier Wen Jiabao at the China-EU Summit, during which Wen promised to increase China's participation in resolving the sovereign debt problems currently afflicting the European Union.
Echoing his partner, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said: "Europe shares the Chinese experience of being an old economic civilization and knows very well the virtue[s] of endurance, resilience and perseverance."
Both men, however, also stressed that the global economy is entering a critical phase and hinted that China's involvement in aiding the ailing EU economies should keep pace with events. "Europe and China share a wish to live in the multi-polar world, a world with each being united in diversity," said Mr Van Rompuy.
Also speaking at the event, Zhou Xiaochuan, the head of People's Bank of China (deemed as China's central bank), responded to the tacit request from China's largest trading partner: "China is waiting for the right time to carry out specific measures [to assist the EU rescue program] He pointed out the People's Bank of China is confident in its investments in the euro and promised that there would be no reduction in Chinese euro investments.
Introduced in 2002 and so far adopted by 17 EU member countries, the euro has become the world's second most commonly held reserve currency and retained its favorable status among investors until the sovereign debt crisis hit Greece, driving the government to the brink of financial collapse.
The crisis subsequently spread across the continent, affected, among other, Spain and Italy. These major economies were forced to implement harsh reforms in order to shore up their integration within the EU system. EU member states signed a fiscal compact on Jan. 30, 2010, accentuating budgetary discipline, coordination in economic policies and improving the governance of the eurozone.
Addressing the structural problems within the EU, Mr Van Rompuy said: "The nature of our union system is a union of states… we had to correct the imbalances and economic imbalances." Mr Van Rompuy also commented on the importance of closer EU integration, and further nudged China to join the rescue effort. "The destinies of all eurozone countries are interlinked," he said, stressing that efforts were being made to achieve "a balance between the individual responsibility of each [nation] and the solidarity of all within the union as a whole". He continued: "But the interdependence goes further. The destiny of the eurozone has a strong impact on the global economy and vice versa. Dependence means responsibility and solidarity."
According to Mr Barroso, the EU is looking beyond reestablishing equilibrium. He stated that deeper integration was the eventual, and inescapable, aim. “The future of the euro and the future of European integration are inseparable,” he said. “The trend in Europe is for further integration not for fragmentation.”
Mr Van Rompuy also took the opportunity to thank China for its pledge to participate in the EU rescue plan. "We appreciated the constructive Chinese reaction to the challenge we face," he said. "We're all increasingly part of the globalized world."
He stressed that cooperation, not rivalry, is critical to EU-China relations and, in what might have been a final nudge to China, concluded by quoting English 17th century metaphysical poet John Donne: "No man is an island."