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UPDATED: April 8, 2014 NO. 15 APRIL 10, 2014
A Seamless Joint
By cementing a strategic policy of cooperation, China and Europe forge a more practical partnership
By Ding Ying

CELEBRATING A SUCCESS: Chinese President Xi Jinping (second left) and Belgian King Philippe (third right) co-present the 300,000th car to be exported to China at a Volvo plant in Gent, Belgium, on April 1 (YAO DAWEI)

Economic cooperation has been the adhesive between China and Europe. The EU has been China's top trade partner for the past 10 years, while China is the EU's second biggest trade partner. China and the EU are each other's top exporter. Their trade volume in 2013 was $559.1 billion, according to official Chinese statistics. In spite of the sluggish world economy, their daily trade volume reached $1.5 billion.

Trade and economic cooperation between the two sides has been complementary. China has provided industrial and consumer products to Europe, while the EU has sold high value-added products to China. Even in traditional aspects, there is still huge room to boost trade between the two. Trade between China and 16 Central and East European nations barely reaches one 10th of the total trade volume between China and the EU. Additionally, bilateral service trade is only about one 10th of the China-EU trade.

Mutual investment has been on the rise. In 2013, the EU's direct investment to China was $6.52 billion, increasing 21.9 percent from the year before. China's direct investment to the EU was $3.62 billion, seeing a 6.2-percent growth. But this figure doesn't match the high economic cooperation level between China and the EU. According to statistics from the EU, China's investment to the EU was only 1 percent of the total foreign investment that had flown into the latter, of which U.S. investment accounted for 21 percent. EU investment to China, meanwhile, was only 2 to 4 percent of its overall overseas investment, of which 30 percent went to the United States.

The bottleneck is expected to be passed now. During Xi's visit, China and the four EU members signed over 120 cooperative agreements, valuing more than $70 billion. According to the joint statement that the two sides issued on March 31, China and the EU will fully implement the China-EU 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation and launch the negotiation process of the China-EU Investment Agreement that covers investment protection and market access. On China-EU trade and investment relations, the two sides underlined the necessity of coordinating their policies to ensure strong, sustainable and balanced growth and to foster financial stability.

Such a pact "will convey both sides' joint commitment toward stronger cooperation as well as their willingness to envisage broader ambitions," the statement said. It also listed "a deep and comprehensive" free trade agreement as a longer-term perspective.

"The cooperative prospects before China and the EU are very bright," said Qu Xing, President of the CIIS. He noted many linking points between China and Europe in their development targets, such as green energy, environmental protection, poverty reduction, scientific research, urbanization, cultural communication, energy conservation and emission reduction.

In past years, China has actively assisted Europe in surviving the financial crisis in different channels including purchasing national bonds—efforts that are greatly appreciated by the EU. Moreover, China and the EU are exploring new ways of cooperation spanning the Eurasian Continent, Qu added. For example, with an eye to lifting transport relations, the two sides decided to develop synergies between China's Silk Road Economic Belt initiative and EU policies, and to jointly explore common cooperation initiatives along the belt.

China and the EU have been adjusting the definition of their relationship, Wang Yiwei, a professor with the Renmin University of China said. China would primarily consider the EU as a partner of peace in addition to a major trade partner, mirroring China's new expectation toward the EU, while the EU chooses to be a "superpartner" rather than a "superpower," Wang explained. He added that the EU targets itself as a player between China and the United States, no longer at one end of a multi-polar world because of its debt crisis and the U.S. Asia- Pacific policy.

Communication between China and Europe can be traced back to centuries ago. Napoleon Bonaparte metaphorically referred to China as a sleeping lion in the early 19th century, when China was too weak and poor to be a world player. During Xi's tour, China confidently declared its return to the global arena. The Chinese president stated China's opinions on the world in four speeches in Europe, promising China will continue to contribute to world peace and prosperity.

"China, the sleeping lion, has woken up," said Xi in a speech delivered in France. "But it is peaceful, pleasant and civilized." When meeting with EU leaders in November 2013, Xi defined China and the EU as two major powers protecting world peace, two major markets promoting common development, and two major civilizations pushing forward human progress. Now, the biggest developing country and the biggest union of developed countries in the world have set their seamless joint.

Email us at: dingying@bjreview.com

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