Sunday

24th Sep 2017

Opinion

The EU-China show will go on

  • A sport demonstration at the China meets Europe Hamburg Summit in November. Genuine cross-cultural exchanges are key to promoting mutual understanding, says Lucie Qian Xia. (Photo: Hamburg Chamber of Commerce)

The EU and China have entered uncharted diplomatic waters in the aftermath of the Brexit vote and the US presidential election. They must embrace free and fair trade.

Trade is the DNA of the modern world economy and the anchor of the EU-China relationship. The EU is the world’s largest trading power.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

China is the world’s second largest economy, while the EU and China together form the second-largest economic cooperation in the world.

It is in the interest of both China and the EU to defend free trade and to energise the multilateral trade order.

Yet, we don’t just need more trade, but more fair trade.

Fair trade ensures that investment flows are mutual and reciprocal, and can thus contribute to greater economic integration between the EU and China.

The need to foster fairness in business, to respect and protect intellectual property and ensure equal market access between the EU and China, has never been greater.

As Jyrki Katainen, vice-president of the European Commission stated: "EU-China economic relationship is overall very positive," but a "comprehensive and balanced" EU-China agreement on investment is needed to allow both sides to invest in each other with more "confidence".

Solid political logic

If EU-China relations were to stand the test of time, both sides need to adapt to the fluidity of the global diplomatic environment, and seek new narratives to engage with each other and with the rest of the world in times of strategic uncertainty.

The political logic that underpinned the establishment of the diplomatic relationship between the EU and China in 1975 still holds true today, as was epitomised in the speech by the then Vice-President of the European Commission Sir Christopher Soames: "both China and the EU have much to gain from the closer and more confident relationship which now opens up before us."

This solid political logic should serve to steer the future of EU-China diplomacy. This would entail the EU and China developing diplomatic strategies that focus on the pursuit of a strategic vision for both sides and a potent narrative that provides principles and guidelines to shape the relationship in an increasingly networked world.

The EU and China would need to clearly define their own strategic interests and shared foreign policy priorities; moreover, regular political contacts should be increased through effective diplomatic mechanisms to maintain the momentum.

Cultural diplomacy

Strong political and economic will may be the engine for the deepening and broadening of the EU-China relationship, but perhaps cultural diplomacy is the most powerful tool to bring both China and Europe closer.

China and Europe epitomise two distinct civilisational entities with different histories and diplomatic cultures. Cultural difference often comes to the fore as a central facet of the encounter between the EU and China.

Hard talks on trade and politics do not suffice to bring two regions, as different as the EU and China, truly together; hearts and minds do not truly bond based solely on cold facts, but more from shared sentiments and visions.

Genuine cross-cultural exchanges are thus the key to promoting mutual understanding, develop trust and unlock the full potential of EU-China relations. The stubborn, at times suffocating, cultural preconceptions and prejudices should be replaced by resolute and robust openness and acceptance.

In this vein, the third pillar of the EU-China dialogue - the People-to-People Dialogue - or events like the Hamburg summit last month have proven to be an effective vehicle bringing both parties into direct contact with each other to encourage frank dialogue and discussion.

The Hamburg summit embodies the pathway that China and the EU are committed to deepening cultural understanding, foster mutual respect, and willingness to work together. As Joschka Fischer, the former German foreign minister proclaimed at the summit: The show must, and will, go on.

Lucie Qian Xia is doctoral researcher at the department of international development at the University of Oxford

EU dumping plan could ensure fairer China trade

A European Commission proposal on anti-dumping clears the way for the EU to abide by international obligations and avoid a trade war that would be dangerously counterproductive.

EUobserved

The EU and China's velvet power

China is pushing its influence through the New Silk Road project and wooing of world media.

Time to de-escalate in Catalonia

Spain's apparent refusal even to allow for a dialogue on the referendum is giving the Catalan government less and less of an incentive to aim for a compromise.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel wins fourth term, exit polls say
  2. EU to hail 'aspirations' of former Soviet states
  3. UK says credit downgrade was wrong
  4. Dutch state appeals ban on taking air-polluting measures
  5. May proposes 2-year transition period after Brexit
  6. May to call on EU's 'sense of responsibility'
  7. Catalonia has 'contingency plans' for independence vote
  8. Last German polls confirm Merkel's lead

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEU Finance Ministers Agreed to Develop New Digital Taxation Rules
  2. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  3. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  4. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  6. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  7. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  10. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  11. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  12. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel