Why China-EU Cooperation Matters
By Chinese Ambassador Jiang Jiang

In 1990, I was sent to Brussels as a junior diplomat to participate in an interpretation training program organized by the then European Community for China.

That was my first encounter with the continent and I was deeply impressed by its immense beauty, rich culture and friendly people.

Thirty years on, significant changes have taken place both in Europe and China. The European Community has developed into the European Union with 27 member states. The European integration process has made much progress, marked by the establishment of Schengen Area, Eurozone and other institutions and mechanisms. Europe is playing an increasingly important role in the world.

In China, following reform and opening-up and with the hard work of its people, the country has become the world’s second largest economy and the top trading partner of more than 130 countries and regions. It is a major source of economic stability and growth for the world.

As the second largest contributor to the UN’s regular and peacekeeping budgets, China is committed to peaceful settlement of international disputes and regional hotspots. It is a stronger force for world peace and stability.

China-EU relations have also come a long way. Since 1975 when China and the EU established diplomatic relations, China-EU trade has seen a 250-fold increase. The EU has been China’s top trading partner for 16 years in a row. And China has been the EU’s second largest trading partner for years running.

Back in 1990, I rarely saw Chinese tourists on the streets of Brussels. Today, close to eight million visits are exchanged between China and the EU every year, and more than 600 flights connect us every week.

With the expanding and deepening of China-EU cooperation, we are forging a partnership for peace, growth, reform and civilization on the basis of our comprehensive strategic partnership, steadily pushing our relations forward.

What has enabled such tremendous progress in China-EU cooperation? I think of two reasons.

First of all, China-EU cooperation meets the need of people of both sides.

Having been in Malta for four years, I can clearly see that the people of Malta and the rest of Europe cherish the same aspirations for a happy and prosperous life as the Chinese people. We all desire stable jobs, better income, quality education and so on. Closer cooperation between China and the EU can play a big part in helping us make our dreams come true.

Between 2001 and 2018, EU exports to China grew by 14.7 percent on average each year, supporting some four million local jobs.

By the end of 2017, Chinese companies had set up over 2,900 ventures in the EU through direct investment, creating 176,000 job opportunities.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese students are studying at European universities, including here in Malta, and their academic experience will certainly give a boost to their future career development.

Secondly, China-EU cooperation reflects the trend of the globalized world. Issues such as climate change, terrorism, communicable disease and cybercrime call for joint responses.

As two major forces of the world, two big markets and two great civilizations, China and the EU can make a real difference by working together.

Several years ago, China and the EU, together with other countries, jointly adopted the Paris Agreement, a milestone in tackling climate change.

Today, in the face of COVID-19, China and the EU have stood by each other against this common enemy of mankind.

These experiences show the importance of upholding multilateralism and building a global community with a shared future. This is our only way to find the answers and hope that we need to meet global challenges.

In a post-COVID-19 era, our cooperation will matter even more. At the just concluded China-EU Summit held via video link, the leaders of the two sides reached many important common understandings. China is ready to work with the EU to strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination and keep the industrial and supply chains stable to get the global economy back on its feet.

The two sides will continue to support WHO's leading role in international cooperation against COVID-19 and work more closely together on vaccine and drug research and development to secure an early victory over the virus.

We will enhance connectivity and deepen cooperation in investment and the digital economy. We will jointly uphold multilateralism and free trade and strengthen coordination and collaboration under the framework of the UN and other multilateral institutions.

With different histories, cultures and traditions, China and Europe have chosen different social systems and development models. This is only natural. Indeed, no two countries can and should be exactly the same. We need to respect the right of each country to choose independently its own social system and development path.

We also need to overcome misgivings and divisions. The diversity of our world and everything that makes our countries different should become a source of dynamism for development and growth.

China is an opportunity, not a threat to Europe. China will continue to deepen reform and open up to the world. This will bring Europe new opportunities for cooperation and prospects of growth.

China is a partner, not a rival to Europe. Between China and the EU, there is no fundamental conflict of interests. Our cooperation and common ground far outweigh competition and differences.

As long as China and Europe work together in a spirit of mutual respect, seek common ground while reserving differences, expand shared interests through cooperation and overcome difficulties through development, we will make China-EU relations even more productive. And a sound China-EU relationship will bring more benefits to our peoples and contribute to a more peaceful, stable and prosperous world.

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This article was published in the Times of Malta on 3 July, 2020.

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