China, Europe vow to deepen cooperation, promote multilateralism in post-epidemic era

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As China and the European Union (EU) celebrate 45 years of relations this year, the two sides vow to expand bilateral trade and investment, deepen cooperation on post-epidemic economic recovery and promote multilateralism during the recent back-to-back European visits by two top Chinese foreign policy officials.

Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee visited Spain and Greece on Sept. 3-4, closely following Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's trip to five other European countries which concluded on Sept. 1.

Deepening cooperation

At a time when Europe is tamping down a resurge of COVID-19 infections, jointly fighting the pandemic and seeking recovery in the post-epidemic era is a common issue discussed at the meetings the two Chinese officials held separately with leaders and high-level officials from the seven European countries.

Cooperation is the way they all agreed to. China has shown its spirit of cooperation and solidarity during the past months when it mobilized large quantities of medical supplies and rushed to some European countries' aid to fight the virus.

During their respective meeting with Yang, both Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez thanked China for its assistance and support in their fight against COVID-19, saying that such deeds helped strengthen bilateral relations.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio also expressed his gratitude for China's help during a meeting with Wang.

Looking forward, cooperation should be intensified, Sebastian Carlens, deputy editor-in-chief of German daily newspaper junge Welt, told Xinhua on Friday.

"The recovery of the Chinese economy also offers the rest of the world opportunities to overcome the economic consequences of the lockdown more quickly," Carlens said.

Close cooperation with China is important for Germany and other EU states, he continued, warning that European states "would be doing each other a disservice if they took part in a confrontation against China."

Leaders and high-level officials of the seven European countries also expressed similar views on future cooperation.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas expressed the hope to deepen cooperation in such fields as economy, trade and humanities, vaccine cooperation; Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis confirmed Greece's interest in strengthening cooperation especially in investment, trade and tourism; The Dutch Foreign Ministry said that the two countries need each other for sustainable recovery of the economy after the COVID-19 crisis.

In the Netherlands and Norway, besides the ongoing preventive measures, officials have already turned their attention to post-pandemic collaboration with China.

Xulio Rios, director of the Chinese Policy Observatory in Spain, told Xinhua on Thursday that Yang's visit has been a very important initiative for strengthening bilateral relations and given the importance of China as a partner for Spain, it helped reduce uncertainty in the context of the pandemic.

"Given that the pandemic has affected vital sectors of the relationship, from trade to tourism or investment, the visit highlights the interest of both parties to relaunch these areas of cooperation," Rios said.

Greek enterprises have also expressed a strong wish to improve ties with their Chinese counterparts.

"Upon the announcement of this important high-level interaction, many expectations were created for further development in business and investments," George Xiradakis, managing director of XRTC Business Consultants and vice president of the Hellenic Chinese Chamber, told Xinhua on Friday.

The Greek business community "from the very beginning has been in favor of the widest possible win-win business partnerships between our two countries and proves daily its support in practice," commented Fotis Provatas, Chairman of the Chamber of Greek-Chinese Economic Cooperation.

Defending multilateralism

Defending multilateralism is a major consensus reaffirmed during the two top Chinese diplomats' trips to the seven European countries.

Yang said China and Spain need to jointly uphold multilateralism, uphold international equity and justice, and improve global governance during his meeting with Sanchez, while Greek leaders also pledged to support multilateralism and continue promoting both the development of EU-China relations and the cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries.

"The strongest voice heard during my trip to Europe is that we need to steadfastly safeguard multilateralism, and we agreed on this," Wang said on Tuesday in Berlin.

Andras Inotai, former director of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences World Economics Research Institute, said that both the EU and China are strongly committed to strengthening multilateralism.

"In some areas globalization needs corrections but its basic and overwhelming positive achievements should not be questioned. A corrected path of globalization has to be accompanied by strengthened multilateralism. In this context, a new quality of cooperation between the EU and China is crucial," he said.

Rios from Spain told Xinhua that Madrid and Beijing, united in the fight against the pandemic, have also been able to appreciate the importance of adhering to multilateralism to face present and future challenges.

"For China, Europe is of great strategic importance," the Dutch financial newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad reported. "The U.S. wants to involve Europe in its fight against Beijing's growing political and economic power. At a time when Washington is increasingly going its own way, Beijing presents itself as a defender of multilateralism."

Carlens from Germany also pointed out that increasing international tensions and the aggressive foreign policy of the current U.S. administration is a source of concern for many in Germany.

"Political, cultural and economic exchanges are the best way to reduce tension," he said.

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