More and more European companies are taking advantage of the expanding market access to and improving business environment in China to further enlarge their presence in the Chinese market, laying an ever stronger foundation for the partnership between the Asian country and the European Union (EU).
BASF, a German chemical giant and the world's largest chemical producer, announced in 2018 that it will build a wholly-owned chemical site in southern China, in addition to expanding an existing joint venture with a Chinese state-owned partner.
The new site would be BASF's largest investment, estimated to be 10 billion U.S. dollars upon completion in 2030, and BASF would take sole responsibility of the operation.
"China currently represents around 40 percent of the global chemical market and will further grow to take up half of the global market by 2030. If we want to continue to be the leading chemical company, we have to participate in this growth," BASF told Xinhua in a statement.
It is just one example of European businesses' commitments to the Chinese market, which in recent months has also seen new openings in such key industries as finance and telecommunications.
Switzerland's UBS in November 2018 became the first foreign bank to increase its stake to gain majority control of a securities joint venture in China.
"The further opening up of China's financial sector represents great opportunities for our wealth management, investment bank and asset management businesses," UBS Group CEO Sergio P. Ermotti said in a statement.
London-based BT announced in January that it has become the first non-Chinese telecommunications company to receive a nationwide operating license in China.
Heng An Standard Life, a joint venture between Edinburgh-headquartered Standard Life Aberdeen and China's Tianjin TEDA International, announced in March that it has been granted permission to establish a pension insurance company in China -- the first joint venture business to have received this approval.
In addition to regulatory approvals that directly afford market access, China also keeps improving its legal framework for foreign businesses.
In March, China adopted a new foreign investment law, which will provide stronger protection and a better business environment. It has also pledged to amend laws and supporting regulations and policies to ensure the implementation of the foreign investment law.
The law is another milestone in China's reform and opening up, which will significantly contribute to the liberalization and facilitation of investment between China and the EU, said Ambassador Zhang Ming, head of the Chinese Mission to the EU.
Tiziana Beghin, a member of the European Parliament, also believes the new law will help make a better business environment for overseas investors in China, saying that it will be "an important step in building up a reciprocity ensuring an equal treatment of our companies operating in China."
"This is a good initiative coming from the Chinese government. It will make more attractive its enormous market. Thanks to this opening up and to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the opportunities for our companies are going to grow more and more in the future," Beghin added.
The BRI featured prominently in China-EU relations recently, as Italy in March became the first in the Group of Seven countries to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China on the initiative.
"The signing of the Belt and Road MoU represents an opportunity for all Italian companies. They will have the possibility to develop the 'Made in Italy' and sell products in China, a market of more than 1.4 billion potential clients," said Stefano Buffagni, Italy's undersecretary for regional affairs.
Following Italy, Luxembourg, another EU member state, also inked an accord with China on the BRI in March.
"China is a fundamental player at global level. The future EU-China relations can't be dominated by clashes and disputes, but we have to find solutions in order to cooperate, staying in a global process and not to isolate ourselves," said Vincenzo Scotti, former Italian minister of foreign affairs and minister of the interior.
At a recent press briefing on Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Europe, which starts Monday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Chao pointed out that China and the EU have a lot in common.
"We share broad common interests in deepening win-win practical cooperation, common positions on upholding multilateralism and free trade, and common goals in improving global governance and maintaining world peace and stability," said the official.
"BASF supports further cooperation and collaboration between the EU and China," the company said in the statement to Xinhua, adding that "we call on the EU and China to support multilateral approaches and to reform the WTO accordingly."