By Dong Yifan Source: Global Times
Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron reached a number of important consensuses on the next stages of China-France cooperation during a phone conversation on Wednesday evening.
This shows that both China and Europe have a strong will to expand cooperation. During the conversation, Xi called for joint efforts to speed up negotiations on a China-EU investment agreement and take China-EU relations to a new level. Macron also said he hopes the agreement will be reached as soon as possible.
It shows that in the context of the world economic recession, China and Europe now have stronger wills to overcome difficulties through cooperation.
Xi and Macron also agreed to step up implementation in carrying out more cooperation in such fields as biomedicine, biological breeding, moon and Mars exploration, and satellite research and development. Such types of cooperation between China and France and between China and Europe will expand new areas of synergy and bring greater impetus to bilateral relations.
On the one hand, such cooperation is related to the current COVID-19 fight and the strengthening of public health efforts between major countries. It will bring more public goods and benefits for the world. On the other hand, it will strengthen coordination with new technologies and policies between the two sides.
Both China and Europe have realized that competition in industry and technology is real. Both agree that decoupling, refusing to cooperate, and engaging in a rat race are not in line with their common interests. They will seek balance for competition and cooperation and expand collaborative endeavors. The Xi-Macron phone conversation transmitted such positive signals.
China-EU cooperation is gaining more global and strategic significance under newly emerging international circumstances. President Xi hopes that the EU will implement a positive policy toward China. It is an important consensus of the two sides to uphold multilateralism. China-EU strategic cooperation is not only important to bilateral interests, but also plays an increasingly vital role in preserving multilateralism.
After Joe Biden takes office, the US will thus adjust its measures to rope in European allies including France. US President Donald Trump has engaged in a maximum pressure campaign to force European allies to take sides. Biden will try to fix US-EU ties, but France and other European countries will not prefer becoming America’s political puppets. Europe has highly prioritized its autonomy, and the core of this now is not to rely solely on other countries for its success.
Against this backdrop, it will be difficult for European countries, including France, to follow the US’ lead. They will not want to obey Washington’s aggressive agenda against China. European countries will certainly compete with China, but they will coordinate, communicate and coexist peacefully too. Biden is about to take office, and bilateral ties between China and Europe will encounter a fresh international situation.
If there are any factors that will hinder China-France and China-Europe relations from entering the new era, it might be the competitive mentality of France and Europe toward China. The relations could be hindered by their prejudice in terms of ideology, as well as the wooing and geopolitical pressure piled on by the US.
Yet Xi stressed that China has full confidence in its own path, theory, system and culture, and respects the development path independently chosen by the people of other countries.
Xi also said that countries with different social systems are able to respect each other, coexist peacefully and seek common development. China and Europe should maintain close communication and coordination and seek to overcome any obstacles, guided by top leaders with sound minds. China should tell its stories well and try to make European audiences understand it better.
France was the first Western country to establish diplomatic ties with China. Some old French politicians, such as former president Jacques Chirac, have an objective understanding of China’s development and its role in the international community. Their thinking, to some extent, influences France as well as Europe. Indeed, the current French foreign policy will also take into account the different interest demands of Germany and Central and Eastern European countries. But the old French politicians’ thinking will still play a positive role in how China is perceived within France.
Objectively speaking, France belongs to the Western camp and indeed shares consensus with the US and Britain in respect to ideology and understanding of China. But as France gradually shows its leadership within Europe, the country will make its China policy based on its strategic independence, considering its own interests and also the interests of Europe as a whole.
The author is a research fellow with the Institute of European Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. [email protected]