TIAN Dewen:Hopes aired for gains from China-EU talks

Tian Dewen, deputy director of the Institute of European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. 

The article was originally published in China Daily on April 1, 2022.The article has been authorized.  

Pragmatic teamwork to bring benefits for world in uncertain times, experts say 

The China-EU summit should focus on pragmatic cooperation between the two sides and bring a measure of stability to a world in the midst of turbulent times, say analysts who hope to see positive signals emerge from the discussions. 

China and the European Union will hold their 23rd leaders' meeting via video link on Friday, as the international landscape faces increasing uncertainty resulting from the Ukraine crisis. 

Tian Dewen, deputy director of the Institute of European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine indicates that the post-Cold War world pattern may be experiencing major changes. During the conflict, the leaders of China and some EU countries have spoken of the need for nations to encourage the parties to continue direct negotiations until a positive outcome is achieved and peace restored. 

"The meeting is being held at a critical juncture while the world is going through turmoil," he said. "It should push forward practical cooperation between China as well as further injecting a certain amount of stability and certainty into a changing world." 

Tian said the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the world economy and disrupted global supply chains. The pervasive indiscriminate sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine conflict have hit economic sectors from global energy markets and food supplies to trade and financial markets, and will continue to do so. 

"Under the circumstances, China-EU cooperation should play a positive role in stabilizing the global supply chains and aiding the recovery of the global economy," he said. 

Both sides can work together in a wide range of sectors including efforts to mitigate climate change, safeguard biodiversity and promote health, as well as ensure a more balanced and reciprocal trade relationship, he said. 

China-EU relations encountered some setbacks last year, with an exchange of sanctions and counter-sanctions between the two sides in early 2021 freezing the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, a deal years in the making. 

But figures show that bilateral trade has been progressing well. China and the EU achieved a record $828.1 billion in their bilateral goods trade last year, according to China's Ministry of Commerce. 

Also, the European Union surpassed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to become China's largest trading partner in the first two months of the year. In January and February, bilateral trade surged 14.8 percent year-on-year to reach $137.16 billion, the Commerce Ministry figures showed. 

He Yun, an associate professor in the School of Public Administration at Hunan University in Changsha, said that the meeting is important both in light of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and in terms of future China-EU relations. 

Peaceful resolution 

On the one hand, the EU and China need this opportunity to communicate their respective positions on the Russia-Ukraine conflict and find a way to work together to bring forth a peaceful resolution that is in the interests of all parties. On the other hand, the EU has just published its Strategic Compass document, which marks a major shift in its security and defense strategy, and it is in the midst of writing a document on the NATO Strategic Concept, He said. 

"It is clear that the EU's policies and priorities are shifting, and both the EU and China need this meeting to work out where they are shifting toward and how that will impact future EU-China relations," she said. 

She added that Europe responded to the Russia-Ukraine conflict by significantly increasing its defense spending, as well as making plans for the deployment of a rapid response force. This will set the EU on course to become a more equal partner to the US and give the EU more say and leverage in their defense pact. However, the EU's deepened threat perception of Russia will inevitably strengthen NATO and the trans-Atlantic ties, as the bloc's security largely hinges on the alliance, she said.