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Year-ender: Despite "troubled times" China-EU cooperation enhanced

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

12-29-2015 14:52 BJT

By Mei Zhaorong, Former Chinese Ambassador to Germany, former President of Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs

For Europe, 2015 is a year of "troubled times" agonized by "multiple crises". The EU-China relationship, however, blossoms with continuous highlights. Of course, they are not directly linked.



Impacted by the 2008 international financial crisis, sovereign debt crisis broke out in 2009 in parts of Europe. After years of hard work, the European economy climbed out of the crisis. But its recovery is so far slow with a sluggish growth, hindering the EU's integration process.

The outbreak of the "Ukrainian crisis" in 2014 drew the EU-Russia relations into a dangerous situation of confrontation and sanctions against each other. Although relations have been eased to certain degree this year, its far-reaching impact is difficult to be resolved in the short term.

In 2015, the Greek debt crisis once again fermented. The creditors, the "troika", led by Germany, launched "fierce battle" to Greece's radical left-wing coalition government, which is on the verge of financial bankruptcy. Though a compromise was finally reached, the debt itself is not fundamentally resolved.

In the second half of the year, as the battle worsened in Syria and the Islamic extremist became more rampant, large number of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa poured into European ferociously. This influx became the prime crisis disturbing European stability, and also caused serious differences on how to apportion the refugees with member states of the EU.

In addition, after bloodshed of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo at the beginning of the year, Paris was targeted by a series of coordinated attacks by terrorists in November; and Britain's referendum on whether to quit from the EU, are issues tormenting Europe.

Despite the above-mentioned difficulties, EU-China relations have made remarkable progress both in the breadth and depth, with some new features. The reasons might be that: there is no direct conflict of interest from the geopolitical perspective between China and Europe; there is no historical legacy of grievances or disputes; China's economy is experiencing a favorable development and presenting broad prospects. In addition, China-EU economic structure is highly complementary, and mutual demand has increased for both sides.

First, China-EU relations have been upgraded to a strategic level, and spirit of pragmatic cooperation is on the rise, with the three major countries, the Great Britain, France and Germany, competing to seek cooperation with China.

President Xi Jinping received a grand, warm and friendly reception during his UK visit. Beijing and London agreed to build a "21st Century global comprehensive strategic partnership", and the British side pledged to be China's "best partner" in the West, which opened a persistent, open, and win-win Sino-British relations of "Golden Age".

Heads of State and leaders of Government of China and France exchanged visit within this year, what's more important, the "Joint Declaration on Climate Change" issued by the two sides has made important contributions to the success of the Paris summit on climate change.

Angela Merkel made her successful eighth visit to China within her tenure, and the two sides have launched high-level financial, diplomatic and security strategic dialogues.

All these indicate that China's relations with these three major powers in Europe have been boosted.

Other examples worth noting include: Great Britain, resisting United States pressure, was the first Western nation to declare to join in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Germany, France and other countries then followed suit.

Representatives from some EU-Countries, including French Foreign Minister, attended the China's commemoration on the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression.

Germany, France, Britain and other countries explicitly support RMB to join in the currency basket of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)'s Special Drawing Right (SDR), support China's application into the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and called on the IMF to speed up implementation of its quota reform.

The fourth Summit of China and Central and Eastern European Countries in Suzhou city, east China achieved important results. "Suzhou Outline of Cooperation between China - Central and Eastern European Countries" and first "China - Central and Eastern European Countries' Medium-term Cooperation Plan" were issued. Participating parties also discussed the establishment of 16 + 1 financial companies and launched the project of "Cooperation between Harbors of Three Seas."

In addition, the first 16 + 1 Health Ministers Forum and the 16 + 1 year of tourism cooperation were successfully held; the 16 + 1 Virtual Technology Transfer Center was established; a high-level think tank meeting was also organized with success.

The EU, Austria, Greece and the EBRD participated in the Suzhou Summit as observers, indicating that EU's internal understanding that China - Central and Eastern European cooperation is an important part of China-EU relations is becoming more reasonable.

Efforts on promoting the Belt & Road (B&R) initiative, docking the developing strategy of China and the EU, accelerating cooperation on international production capacity and cultivating new growth points in China-EU cooperation have showed promising results.

In terms of strategy docking, the 17th China-EU Leaders Summit decided to accelerate docking of the B&R initiative with the European Investment Plan, to establish co-investment funds and interconnectivity platform between the two sides.

Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Serbia have signed intergovernmental memorandum of understanding to build the "Belt and Road."

London and Beijing have agreed to dock China's the B&R initiative with UK's infrastructure upgrading program and the "economic center of northern England".

China and France signed a joint declaration of cooperation in third markets; while China and Germany have established a vice-ministerial consultation mechanism between the two governments for the "Made in China 2025" and "German Industry 4.0".

In terms of the key projects cooperation, Chinese and French enterprises signed an agreement to develop Britain's Hinkley Point nuclear power plant project, a historical leap for China's nuclear power into the developed countries.

The second round bidding of privatization of the Greek port of Piraeus, in which China's COSCO Group participates, has been launched, and the expansion project of COSCO's No.3 dock of Piraeus has steadily carried on.

The two-way EU-China trains have been in operations. China has agreed to cooperate with Romania, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and other countries in production capacity cooperation including infrastructure, energy and other fields. The construction of Hungary-Serbia railway has entered a new stage, marked by the respective signature of agreements between China – Hungary and China – Serbia.

In financial cooperation, UK decided to expand the size of bilateral currency swap; Hungary will issue RMB sovereign bonds; China issued the first green bonds in the UK; the Shanghai Stock Exchange, the China Financial Futures Exchange, along with the Deutsche Boerse Group, established an offshore RMB financial instruments trading platform.

In terms of cultural exchanges, China-EU cooperation in culture, science and technology, education, tourism and other fields has continued to be expanded. These would consolidate public support in favor of China-EU cooperation. For example, Britain has issued two-year multiple entry visas for Chinese citizens, indicating the negotiations road map for facilitating personnel exchanges.

Looking into 2016, China-EU relations are expected to maintain momentum of positive development. Main reasons include:

China is to deepen its reform and opening up; China will improve the rule of law in its economy; product quality will be improved; despite the decline in economic growth, China will still be a leading economic engine in the world. The majority of Europeans are optimistic about the Chinese market and investment properties, and are increasingly facing up to and begin to accept the rise of China.

Along with the increase in global challenges, China's influence on the international issues and the discourse power are gradually on the rise, more and more Europeans have recognized that to solve global problems requires the active participation and cooperation of China. This provides a new impetus and space for China-EU cooperation.

Drawing from past experience, both positive and negative, the Europeans are realizing that the approach of drawing lines by ideologies or determining good or bad relationship by judging from the similarities and differences of the nation’s social and political system are increasingly not feasible. Consequently, we can see the rise of calling for pragmatic cooperation.

On the other hand, Europe, concentrated with developed countries, enjoys high level of economy and technology. China can learn from their advanced development concepts. In addition, the European high-tech and high-end industry is relatively open, European markets, technology, capital and experience are of great significance to China, especially in its implementation of the new " Five-Year Plan" for 2016-2020  and the process of first centenary goal to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects in 2021.

We see good prospects in China-EU relations; we also need to keep a clear mind that there are dual characters in a number of European countries' China policy.

This is not only because there are still differences in ideology and some sensitive issues involving China's core interests, and with the interests of both sides intertwine more deeply, economic and trade frictions and theory of "China threat" will also appear from time to time.

Some people, affected by the Atlantic complex or constrained by the alliance policy, might "dance" to the tune of the US on some issues, especially on the South China Sea issue, trying to harm the interests of China. We must always be vigilant on this regard.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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