China Center for International Economic Exchanges

Wei Jianguo: EU’s Recent Actions are Very Disappointing and Confusing
Date:Aug 28,2017    Source:CCIEE

According to foreign media reports, Italy, France and Germany have asked the EU to strengthen the existing supervision mechanism and allow EU members to stop foreign investors from acquiring European companies. Obviously, the new policy is aimed at China. Frankly speaking, the recent actions taken by the EU confused and disappointed the people who care about the China-EU relationship and are committed themselves to promote friendly cooperation between China and the EU, especially the following measures.

Firstly, we sincerely hoped that the EU could send a delegate to participate in the belt and road forum for international cooperation, however, some leaders of the EU countries said that they have to focus on the general election while others said that they are too busy to make time for the forum. As China’s largest trading partner for many years, none of the European leaders attended the forum.

Secondly, China and the EU did not release any joint communiqué when China’s Premier Li Keqiang visited the EU in the past May. China did not care about this because Chinese people always believe that actions speak louder than words, but the message transmitted by the EU worth our contemplation. As can be seen, China’s appeal did not receive any response from the EU. We hope that the EU respects the 15th stipulation of the protocol on China’s accession to the WTO, fulfill its promise and do not link this problem with China’s market economy status. Nonetheless, the EU played a new trick again to stop Chinese enterprises and their products from entering Europe.

Thirdly, the EU has frequently deterred Chinese companies’ investments, the most notable example is the railway between Hungary and Serbia. This railway will help Europe connect Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea. China has already helped Africa to build two high-speed railways, several in south Asia and is discussing with the US about its project of high-speed railway. On the contrary, the EU put the Hungary-Serbia railway aside and takes no action on the project, claiming that the investment is not transparent, which made us rather confused: is the EU willing to continue the friendly cooperation with China or not?

China is on a path of peaceful development and has proposed several initiatives and visions such as the belt and the road, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. I sincerely hope that the EU will treat China’s proposals and policies like it treats the Asian Development Bank, not to do anything that will harm the development of the China-EU relationship.

Many people asked me is the China-EU relationship going forward, or remain stagnant, or even going backwards? I always told them that the relationship is moving forward. Nonetheless, I started to question my answer after seeing the recent actions taken by the EU. Why have these happened? There are three reasons.

Firstly, the leaders of some EU members still have the cold war mentality and thus, they take a superior attitude toward China’s rise and misjudged some of China’s actions.

Secondly, having considered the wave of de-globalization, unilateralism and protectionism, led by the US, both China and the EU should take the responsibility of maintaining the global multilateral trading system and re-establish the international economic governance system. So far, however, the EU has not shown much enthusiasm.

Thirdly and most importantly, the EU overestimates itself and hence made a lot of misjudgments, in particular, it treats China’s friendly actions and the initiatives of mutual benefits and win-win outcome like that China wants to get something out of the EU. This is surely not good of the China-EU relationship.

The EU should be clearly aware of the internal and external problems they have. Internally, the EU needs urgent reform and opening-up as well common understanding. Externally, it faces great challenges and under significant pressure, especially the Brexit. As for the relationship with China, the EU faces great resistance. The current situation indicates that the growth of the China-US trade has already far exceeded the China-EU trade. If things go on like this, China’s largest trading partner will no longer be the EU but the US in 2017. Furthermore, the EU’s position may be replaced by ASEAN countries or even Africa in 2018.

We hope that the European leaders can respond appropriately to the situation, stay calm and plan the future of the China-EU relationship. While strengthening the economic and trade cooperation, it should also enlarge the exchanges in the areas of culture and education, science and technology, tourism and innovation to realize mutual benefits and win-win outcome with the help of the belt and road initiative. 

When the US launched offensives on issues like climate change and trade, China stepped forward bravely to support the EU. The China-EU relationships should be a friendly one not like the “Farmer the Snake”. We do not want to see that the EU lose such a good historical opportunity, otherwise other countries will catch up with the EU in terms of politics, trade and economy.

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