Saturday

19th Sep 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

Support quality EU news

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.

Does Erdoğan's long arm now reach Belgian universities?

Leuven's Catholic University, one of Belgium's best, has decided to close one of its respected but controversial chairs. And many say that is not because of an academic failure or scandal, but a result of the Turkish government's relentless pressure.

Why is EU rewarding Israel for annexation?

This is a critical moment. The UAE-Israel agreement, welcomed by the European Union, represents a severe blow to the Arab Peace Initiative, writes the diplomatic affairs' adviser for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

News in Brief

  1. Belarus president puts army on EU borders
  2. US: Lebanese group hoarding explosives in EU states
  3. Russia loses EU sanctions appeal
  4. UK guidelines explain Brexit treaty-violation plan
  5. Over 10,000 corona cases a day in France
  6. Greek police move Moria refugees following fire
  7. WHO warns Europe not to cut 14-day quarantine period
  8. MEPs urge EU Council to 'finally' protect rights in Poland

How Covid-19 is changing the European Union

The past six months of Covid-19 response have changed the EU, but has it learnt the lessons for the crises left to come - migration, conflict, and a second wave?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Commissioner: No one will like new EU migration pact
  2. Buying an EU passport 'no use for evading sanctions'
  3. MEPs call for first-ever EU law on Romani inclusion
  4. EU to help draft Libya's strategy on border security
  5. Spain to recognise Kosovo if it gets Serbia deal
  6. Ylva Johansson on Migration and Drama Queens
  7. Does Erdoğan's long arm now reach Belgian universities?
  8. Biden threatens UK trade deal over Brexit shambles

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us