Accelerating negotiations on the China-EU trade investment agreement – this is the most important message from the 22nd China-EU Summit held on Monday via video link. It is also crucial to further developing China-EU relations.
China-EU cooperation will be an expanding trend, and this is determined by the two sides’ fundamental interests. China has set the comprehensive opening-up as a basic national policy, and the EU is not as obsessed with global hegemony as the US is. This shows there is no fundamental conflict of interests between China and the EU, and there are not too many strategic obstacles in their cooperation.
However, the world is changing, and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about huge uncertainties. The EU is not a middle force that passively stays between China and the US. It wants to participate more proactively in shaping the future world, and to show more independence to both China and the US. This may reflect the true face of the multipolar world. International relations are becoming more complex.
The common interests and disputes between China and the EU may become increasingly obvious. If China and the EU strengthen their cooperation on green and digital economies, and if the two sides can coordinate with each other on climate change, vaccine research and development and WTO reforms, then we can believe that common interests, instead of disputes, are the mainstream of China-EU relations.
There are differences in values between China and the EU. The EU’s values are non-negotiable, and neither are China’s. But the two sides need to avoid a fierce conflict of values, prevent such differences from affecting the two sides’ common interests, and tolerate each other.
Different political systems exist in the world. Different religions have their central areas, and various religious sites have appeared side by side in many large cities. Under such circumstances, the diversity of values is a reality that must be accepted and respected by all countries. While China is boosting international cooperation, it is also willing to promote people’s mutual understanding of different values.
Many problems exist between China and the EU. It would be strange if there are no problems at all between the two societies with huge differences. However, it would be even stranger if there is a problem which prevents the two sides from drawing closer to each other in the era of globalization. Thus, there is no need to conceal problems existing between China and the EU, but it would be abnormal if the two sides’ cooperation is overwhelmed by these problems.
The US cannot make the EU an ally against China, as it did with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, nor can China break up the close relationship between the US and the EU and form an anti-US united front. As China-US confrontation intensifies, the EU will more bluntly express its demands. It is unclear how the US will treat the EU, but China will strive to establish a reciprocal China-EU relationship that does not copy any other template, and is acceptable to both sides.
China does not pursue its interests to the extreme, nor does it demand a perfect bilateral relationship. China is willing to seek common ground while reserving differences. China avoids becoming enemies with other countries if they fail to be friends, and China focuses on doing its own things well when there are diplomatic problems.
With such a mind-set in diplomatic exchanges, the overall pattern of China’s foreign relations will be positive and controllable.
China-EU relations are optimistic and promising. This general trend cannot be wrong.