Leaders' meeting injects fresh impetus into China-EU relations amid pandemic

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Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen via video link in Beijing, capital of China, June 22, 2020. (Xinhua/Yan Yan)

The meeting between leaders of China and the European Union (EU) held Monday via video link has added fresh impetus to the growth of bilateral ties and will lay a solid foundation for cooperation in the post-pandemic period, analysts said Tuesday.

The meeting "has produced what the two sides set out to achieve, enhanced mutual understanding and trust, and injected new impetus into the further growth of China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership," said Wang Lutong, director-general of the European Affairs Department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, at a press briefing in Beijing Tuesday morning.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had a video conference with President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen Monday night. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang co-hosted the leaders' meeting together with the two presidents from the EU side.

This is the first formal summit between Chinese leaders and the new EU leadership after its inauguration last year, and the highest-level bilateral meeting since the coronavirus outbreak.

Partners rather than rivals

China and the EU have supported and helped each other since the COVID-19 outbreak, said Xi in the video conference.

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen via video link in Beijing, capital of China, June 22, 2020. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)

China is willing to join hands with the European side to push for more stable and mature relations in the post-pandemic period and lift ties to a new height, Xi told Michel and von der Leyen.

Stressing that China is "a partner, not a rival" of the EU side, Xi said China will continue to deepen reform and expand opening up, which will provide Europe with a new round of cooperation opportunities and development space.

"There is no conflict of fundamental interests between China and Europe. Cooperation far outweighs competition, and consensus far outweighs disagreement," he said, calling on the two sides to respect each other, and seek common ground while setting aside differences.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and the EU.

During the leaders' meeting, Li also pointed out that there are far more areas where both sides agree than disagree.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang holds the 22nd China-European Union (EU) leaders' meeting with President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen via video link in Beijing, capital of China, June 22, 2020. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)

China attaches great importance to ties with the EU, the premier said, calling on the two sides to view bilateral relations from a long-term perspective and with a broader vision, and regard each other as comprehensive strategic partners.

The two EU leaders said in the meeting that relations between the EU and China are full of vitality, stressing that only through cooperation can the world cope with global challenges, and only dialogue and consultation can resolve conflicts and eliminate regional instability, as the world is facing great uncertainties.

The EU is ready to hold strategic talks with China to expand consensus in a candid manner, they noted.

Cui Hongjian, a senior research fellow at China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), told Xinhua the annual China-EU leaders' meeting shows that bilateral ties are robust and resilient against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

"Though the EU has new leaders, the keynote of cooperation remains unchanged and the bilateral agendas are still forging ahead," Cui said, adding that the current meeting would lay a solid foundation for China-EU cooperation and chart a new course for future development.

Driving world economy recovery

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to world economy. Therefore, ways of intensifying efforts to overcome the damage to global economic activity featured prominently in meetings between Chinese and EU leaders.

"Our two major economies should play the role as dual engines of the world economy, drive the recovery of global economy, jointly support a scientific and orderly resumption of work and production, strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination, and keep global industrial and supply chains stable and smooth," Xi said.

At the meeting, China and EU reaffirmed commitment to conclude the China-EU Comprehensive Investment Agreement in 2020, and sign the China-EU Geographical Indications (GI) agreement soon.

According to Wang, both sides agree that China-EU economic and trade cooperation is mutually beneficial and look forward to concluding a comprehensive, balanced and high-level agreement on investment.

He added that the GI agreement will be signed in the near future and thus provide opportunities for the two sides to better protect their products.

The EU is ready to expand bilateral trade and push for more progress in cooperation with China in green and low-carbon development, digital economy and other areas, the two European leaders said.

They expressed willingness to work with China to overcome the impacts of the pandemic as soon as possible and advance world economic recovery.

According to Wang, while reaffirming its commitment to continue pursuing quality development and high-level opening-up, China believes that opening-up should work both ways.

"We hope that the EU side will continue to uphold openness in trade and investment markets and provide an open, fair, and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese companies investing in Europe," he said.

China and the EU account for a third of global GDP, said Cui at the CIIS. "Therefore, maintaining strong economic and trade cooperation between the two sides will resolve one third of global economic problems and make a huge contribution to world economic recovery."

According to the two EU leaders, the bloc is committed to multilateralism, and stands ready to enhance coordination and cooperation with China on public health security, climate change, sustainable development, third-party cooperation in Africa and other major issues.

"The chances for a positive development of EU-China relations are good if China continues its pragmatic approach to multilateral cooperation and connects to key priorities and projects of EU, particularly the green deal," said Berthold Kuhn, a senior researcher at the Free University of Berlin.

In his view, the EU and China have many opportunities to go together. "For example, China can support the EU's Green Deal and the EU supports the green development of the Belt and Road Initiative."

China's shift from an export-led to a domestic demand-led growth model offers new opportunities for EU and the country, Kuhn said.

Wang said the meeting has shown that the two sides aspire for mutual assistance and cooperation in their support for an open world economy, multilateralism and peaceful and stable world development.

"Both sides hope to send a positive signal of China and EU working together to fight COVID-19, advance cooperation and promote global economic recovery, with a view to bringing more stability and positive energy to the world," he said.

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