Amid many global challenges, the two economies to play key role in safeguarding peace
The 21st EU-China Summit in Brussels on April 9 presented a major opportunity for the two sides to further boost cooperation, amid growing global uncertainties and challenges.
The reasons are self-evident. The European Union and China are not just two of the world’s major economies, but they are also staunch supporters of multilateralism and an open global economy.
China’s and the EU’s continued support for the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal are proof that a multipolar world needs them to play a larger role in safeguarding global peace and the future of the planet.
On the bilateral level, China and the EU are each other’s major trade partners. The EU has remained China’s top trade partner for 15 consecutive years, with bilateral trade hitting a record of US$682 billion last year, according to official figures.
Chinese companies are catching up on investing in the EU, which has a much larger foreign direct investment stock in China.
Chinese FDI in the EU will not only balance the investment relationship but also help stabilize and strengthen overall ties.
The EU and China have reaped huge benefits from their trade and investment ties, especially in the four decades since China launched its reform and opening-up. Such win-win cooperation looks more promising in the years to come.
The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and the EU’s strategy of connecting to Asia hold great potential for win-win cooperation that also benefits the world.
The fast-expanding Chinese middle class, forecast by consultancy McKinsey & Co to reach 550 million by 2022 — more than the entire EU population — also promises more opportunities for EU businesses.
One example is the growing number of Chinese tourists in various European cities, from Paris to Palermo, Sicily. The European Travel Commission reported a year-on-year rise of 5.1 percent in Chinese arrivals at EU destinations in 2018.
The number of Chinese students in EU universities reached 300,000, while 45,000 students from EU member states study in China, according to 2017 statistics.
The relationship between China and the EU has become stronger and multifaceted. It has also increasingly become one of both cooperation and competition, which is true of any bilateral relationship.
Despite the sheer size of the Chinese economy, modern cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, and the nation’s lead in technologies like 5G networks and artificial intelligence, China is still a developing country, with a per capita GDP and human development index way below any of the EU member states. Despite its phenomenal success, China still faces a huge task in lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty.
China has been stepping up its reform and opening-up drive, including passing the new Foreign Investment Law last month, reducing tariffs and improving the investment environment, as reflected in it being ranked 46th in 2018 — from 78th position in 2017 — among 190 economies in terms of ease of doing business, according to the World Bank.
It probably will take decades before China, which holds one-fifth of the world’s population, reaches the development level of most EU states.
In view of the EU-China strategic partnership, the world today needs more cooperation between the two sides.
The author is China Daily EU Bureau chief based in Brussels.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
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