Pragmatic stance sought on China ties

2023-07-03 10:08:11China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

EU leaders emphasize importance of expanding collaboration with Beijing

European Union leaders have reiterated their support for a multifaceted policy approach toward China and emphasized the importance of expanding collaboration and not decoupling from the country.

A six-paragraph text on China after the EU summit in Brussels held on Thursday and Friday described China as "simultaneously a partner, a competitor and a systemic rival".

"Despite their different political and economic systems, the European Union and China have a shared interest in pursuing constructive and stable relations, anchored in respect for the rules-based international order, balanced engagement and reciprocity," the conclusions after the summit said.

The EU will continue to engage with China to tackle global challenges, they said. The EU and China continue to be important trade and economic partners, and the EU does not intend to decouple or to turn inward but will diversify where necessary and appropriate, they said.

"It was very significant that we very quickly agreed on the text in the conclusions, as this shows a clear European unity on China," European Council President Charles Michel said after the summit.

However, differences among the 27 members are obvious. France and Germany, the EU's two largest economies, want to maintain their many business ties with China, but some Baltic states such as Lithuania have pushed for a more hawkish policy that mimics the United States.

"It would not be in our interest in any case to decouple, in view of the common global challenges we need to tackle and our deep economic ties," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. "So we need to de-risk."

Jan Zahradil, a Czech member of the European Parliament who served as vice-chair of its international trade committee, said he welcomed the "pragmatic, but principled" statement on China.

"'The EU does not intend to decouple or to turn inward' is (a) good point. On this, we can find common ground with China. No confrontation (is) needed (between the) EU and China."

Mick Wallace, an Irish MEP, questioned the EU's rationale for seeing China more and more as a systemic rival. "What do these people have for brains …? EU says it needs to de-risk from China — What does that mean? Does the EU even know what it means, or are they just parroting the line of their US master?"

Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the summit conclusions reflect the EU's approaches to China. "While (the concluding statement is) not long, it touches on a wide range of issues and sets out a clear stance on its position, concerns and demands."

He described the text as "relatively moderate and pragmatic", clearly referring to warnings before the summit that the EU might adopt a much tougher line following that of the US.

"It is a relief not to see any surprise coming out from the discussion on China at this EU summit," said Lai Suetyi, associate professor at the Center for European Studies at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies.

"Gladly, pragmatism is back …among the majority, and it is pragmatic to have one more partner than one more enemy. … In all, China is not a difficulty, instead, a willing partner for the EU to solve some of its most pressing difficulties."

Lucie Qian Xia, a scholar who served at the EU Delegation to China and the UN Representative Office to the EU, said: "The poly-crisis engulfing the world today reveals a broken multilateralism that beckons both Brussels and Beijing to have the will to embark on a journey toward change."

"The two must strengthen coordination and collaboration to contribute to the making of a multipolarity with a functioning multilateral system," she said in an opinion piece on the website Euronews on Thursday.


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