27th Feb 2024


A look to the past and the future of China-EU relations

  • This article was adapted from a keynote speech by Ambassador Fu Cong, Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, at the 11th China-Europe Forum on November 23rd 2023 in Brussels. (Photo: Council of the European Union)
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This year marks the 20th anniversary of China and the EU's comprehensive strategic partnership, established in 2003. Since then, China-EU relations have prospered. Close exchanges and dialogue, as well as enhanced levels of cooperation, have brought tangible results to both sides.

This occasion provides a timely opportunity to review the past and look into the future, and discuss how to further develop a sound China-EU relationship.

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In the last 20 years our trade has increased by tenfold to USD 847.3 billion, meaning an average of nearly USD 2.3 billion of goods are being traded between the two sides every day. European exports to China have supported about 4 million jobs here in Europe. And by the end of 2022, China had set up over 2,800 companies through direct investment in Europe, creating more than 270,000 jobs locally.

We have also demonstrated solidarity and offered each other tremendous support during difficult times, such as the devastating 2008 earthquake in Wenchuan, the European debt crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past two decades, our comprehensive strategic partnership has led to great achievements. But these achievements have not come by easily and should not be taken for granted. Instead, they should be cherished and built upon.

Shared responsibility

As two major forces, markets, and civilizations in the world, China and the EU have a special responsibility when it comes to global peace and prosperity.

China follows the path of peaceful development and pursues an independent foreign policy of peace. We see ourselves as a beneficiary of the current international order. And we will steadfastly safeguard the UN-centered international system underpinned by international law, and the basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.

There are no fundamental conflicts of interest between China and the EU, either geopolitically or economically. We stand to gain from each other's development. Despite the differences between China and Europe in history, culture, ideology and development stage, our common interests far outweigh our differences, and we share more areas of cooperation than competition. China and Europe are, first and foremost, partners.

It is therefore important to further strengthen China and the EU's communication and dialogue. Since the end of last year, we have seen a good momentum of high-level exchanges.

President Xi Jinping met with President Michel and President von der Leyen, as well as several leaders of EU countries including Germany, France, Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands, Italy and Greece. In the past few months, eight Commissioners of the European Commission visited China, while high-level officials from China made the opposite move.

High-level dialogues were held on environment and climate, digitalisation, economy and trade, and strategic issues, producing wide-ranging agreements. This positive momentum needs to be maintained, as it plays an essential part in the deepening of our mutual trust, and it provides strong impetus to our relationship.

Looking forward

Since the beginning of this year, China's economy has seen a robust rebound. The growth rate is one of the highest among major economies.

According to the IMF, China remains the largest contributor to global growth, accounting for one third of global growth in 2023. Major financial institutions, including J.P. Morgan, UBS, Deutsche Bank also raised their projections of China's economic growth.

All these demonstrate that China's economy enjoys a promising prospect, and the world is highly confident about China's future development.

Going forward, China is committed to reform and open up and promote high-quality development. As we welcome more high-quality EU products, technologies and services, opportunities for European companies increase. Likewise, we hope that the EU can provide an open, fair, and non-discriminatory market environment for Chinese businesses. Both China and Europe are advocates for and beneficiaries of economic globalisation.

China stands ready to advance cooperation with the EU to a higher level. Together, we can nurture new growth drivers in the digital economy, green development and environment protection, new energy sources, artificial intelligence and connectivity, while keeping industrial and supply chains secure, stable, and reliable.

Last but not least, we should address global challenges hand-in-hand. Conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine are still on-going, with spillover effects on global refugee, energy, and food safety issues. There is ample space for both sides to cooperate and coordinate their actions in order to de-escalate these events and alleviate people's suffering.

On climate and biodiversity issues, we need to jointly advance the multilateral process to achieve a successful COP28. We also need to implement the outcomes reached at COP15 to build a shared future for all life on earth.

On global development, China's Belt and Road Initiative and the EU's Global Gateway strategy can complement each other to support developing countries, and contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goals.

I am confident that by enhancing China and the EU's dialogue and cooperation, while properly managing our differences, we will be able to add another 20 years of even greater progress to our relations.

This article was adapted from a keynote speech by Ambassador Fu Cong, Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, at the 11th China-Europe Forum on November 23rd 2023 in Brussels.

Author bio

This article was provided by the Mission of People's Republic of China to the EU.


This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.

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