Tuesday

1st Dec 2020

Opinion

Today must be start of a new EU-China relationship

  • Europe's leaders Charles Michel (left) and Ursula von der Leyen (right) must make four priorities clear to Xi Jinping (top) (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Monday's (14 September) EU-China summit between China's leader Xi Jinping and the European trio of Angela Merkel, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel must be the start of a new EU-China strategy based on reciprocity, sovereignty and a stronger commitment to defend universal freedoms and the rule of law.

For too long we have defined our relationship with China solely on trade, in which Europe mainly regarded China as an interesting export market and low-cost producer.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

It is time to recognise that China is much more than that. It is a great civilisation that is awakening after having been in the shadows of the West for more than a century.

Since Deng Xiaoping opened up China at the end of the 1970s, it has quickly become the world's second biggest superpower.

The economic rise is astonishing. Not only did the Chinese leaders lift more than 800 million people out of poverty, in 2020 China is now the second-largest economy, it has the world's largest army and emits a quarter of humanity's emissions of global warming gases .

It is just the beginning. With its current growth levels, China is projected to become the world's largest economy, it will soon have the most innovative companies in the world's top twenty and its Belt and Road Initiative will make it one of the the biggest foreign investors in the world.

Xi Jinping's grand vision is to make China the world's dominant power in 2049, exactly hundred years after the People's Republic of China was born.

Europe should not follow Donald Trump's path in making an enemy out of China. Decoupling is not an option.

China and Europe's futures are too intertwined. We need to find a constructive way to work together to address the big global challenges It should be our goal to ensure that this new partnership respects our values, human rights and a rules-based multilateral world order.

Four priorities

Now, Europe's leaders must make four priorities clear to Xi Jinping.

First, Europe wants to have a constructive relationship in which we continue to enhance the positive cooperation on climate change, our joint efforts to safe the Iran nuclear deal and our joint UN peacekeeping missions to help assure world peace.

Second, a constructive trade relationship must be based on reciprocity. China must stop stalling the EU-China investment agreement that we have now been negotiating for more than seven years.

It must comply with the World Trade Organization rules, give European companies equal access to the Chinese market and stop dumping Chinese steel on the European market. Otherwise, it will force us to further expand protective measures against unfair Chinese trade practices.

Third, in a time that even the facemasks that we are wearing are produced in Uighur detention camps, the EU will not look away anymore from the human rights violations.

China must end it crackdown on Hong Kong, Xinjang and Tibet. Otherwise, the EU should support calls for a UN investigation into human rights violations in China.

It should also be clear that if nothing changes, the Chinese leaders of the crackdown will become subject to the future EU Magnitsky sanctions mechanism.

Four, a united and sovereign Europe will defend its key interests.

Before Chinese companies are allowed to build our critical 5G network all doubts about (industrial) espionage, privacy infringements and the possibility of Chinese cyberattacks must be cleared.

If not, Chinese companies should be excluded.

China's leaders are known for their tough negotiating skills. Merkel, Von der Leyen and Michel must do the same to be respected. It is the only way to build a solid basis for a constructive, future relationship.

Author bio

Hilde Vautmans MEP, from the Renew group, is the European Parliament's standing rapporteur on China.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

EU prepares response to China over Hong Kong

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday that the European Union is preparing a "coordinated" package of EU-wide and national measures in response to China's new security law on Hong Kong.

EU tells China to prove investment deal is worthwhile

"China has to convince us that it is worth having an agreement," EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said, telling China to move on key reciprocity issues on the planned bilateral investment agreement.

Analysis

China's carbon pledge at UN sends 'clear message' to US

China's pledge to become carbon neutral before 2060 is "good news" for Europe, but it sends a clear message to Washington ahead of the US election - in which climate change has become a significant aspect for voters.

China's supply chains and 're-shoring' under Covid-19?

Some in Europe are calling for re-shoring or near-shoring supply and industrial chains of such critical sectors as medicine and pharmaceuticals, to reduce dependence on China's supply chains and market. Minister Xia Xiang sets out the opposite case.

News in Brief

  1. EU medical agency to decide on Pfizer and Moderna vaccines
  2. Euro-bailout fund to also help banks
  3. Trade unions urge date for pay transparency directive
  4. 33 governments must answer youth climate lawsuit
  5. US slams Hungarian article for Soros/Hitler comparison
  6. Sturgeon doesn't rule out 2021 Scottish independence vote
  7. Hungary's Orban and Poland's Morawiecki meet again
  8. Gran Canaria migrant camp dismantled

The human cost of whistleblowing

The fate of Jonathan Taylor, a British whistleblower stuck in legal limbo in Croatia, is a test of European laws designed to protect those who put themselves at risk for the common good.

EU vs US tech agenda under Biden

What will the new Joe Biden administration bring to the realm of digital policy, and how will it affect the relationship with the EU?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  2. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  4. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector

Latest News

  1. China and Russia encircling divided Western allies
  2. Fish complicates last push for post-Brexit deal
  3. EU emissions down 24% on 1990 - but still off 2030 target
  4. Hungary must keep Russian vaccine within borders, says EU
  5. If EU is serious, it should use more US liquified gas, not less
  6. EU taxpayers in the dark on US corona-drug deal
  7. EU debates first names to go on human rights blacklist
  8. Lithuania bids to host EU cyber-centre

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us