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Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Wu Hailong at "The EU and China: Next Steps" Conference Organized by the EU-Asia Center and the Madariaga - College of Europe Foundation
2012/03/21

Seize the Sound Opportunity to Usher China-EU Relations onto a New Stage 

Mr. Cameron,

Mr. Defraigne,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

I’m very happy to participate in this conference as the new Chinese Ambassador to the European Union. I have been here for six weeks now. During the second week of my posting, I went back to Beijing to participate in the 14th China-EU Summit. In the last two weeks, I have presented my credentials to President Van Rompuy and President Barrosso. I’ve had the chance to meet with officials from the European Council, European Commission, European Parliament and the EEAS. I’ve also met with a number of experts, academics, and journalists. Through these exchanges, I’ve been deeply impressed by the richness and closeness of China-EU cooperation and its bright prospect, giving me full confidence to fulfill my responsibility. I also strongly feel that a healthy, stable and durable China-EU relationship serves our common interest and it is our shared aspiration to promote new breakthroughs in our ties in the new environment.

Since China and Europe established diplomatic ties 37 years ago, we have achieved three upgrades in our relations, namely the cooperative partnership in 1998, the comprehensive cooperative partnership in 2001, and the comprehensive strategic partnership in 2003. Today, China-EU relationship has already become one of the world’s most important pair of bilateral ties. Not long ago, I was asked about what exactly is the strategic significance of China-EU relationship. In my view, such significance is mainly reflected on its global influence. China-EU relations have gone beyond bilateral context. A healthy, stable and durable relationship between us is conducive not only to our respective economic and social development, but also to world peace and stability. It could help us more effectively meet global challenges and resolve shared problems through joint efforts. So the question is what we should do to further substantiate the strategic significance our relations in order to achieve new breakthroughs. My proposal would include five points.

First, we should keep up the momentum.

We have in the recent period maintained sound momentum of growth in our relations. On the political front, not long ago, we have successfully held in Beijing the 14th China-EU Summit. The meeting was conducted under friendly atmosphere and yielded fruitful results. Some colleagues from the EU told me that it was the most successful summit ever between China and Europe. Through this summit, the two sides have mapped out the direction of our ties and identified key areas of cooperation in the next phase. The summit has sent to the world a clear message that China and Europe are committed to deeper cooperation and shared progress, injecting a strong driving force into our ties.

On the economic and trade front, despite the depressed world economy last year, China-EU bilateral trade has increased against strong headwinds, exceeding 560 billion US dollars. Europe has for eight years in a row maintained China’s largest trading partner, and China will soon become Europe’s largest trading partner. There are more than 20,000 European businesses in China. In accumulative terms, European investment in China has totaled 70 billion dollars with the number of last year alone topping 6.3 billion dollars. Meanwhile, Chinese investment is also expanding rapidly in Europe. A survey by a French consulting firm suggests that Europe has already become China’s largest destination for overseas investment. Last year, Chinese companies invested 4.28 billion dollars in Europe, an increase of 94.1% from a year before.

On the people-to-people exchange front, we’ve extended the area of cooperation to include science and technology, education, culture, tourism, health care, and youth exchange. The China-EU Year of Youth last year has successfully laid down a basis of long-term friendship by mobilizing the enthusiasm of our young peoples in China-EU cooperation. At the beginning of this year, we’ve launched the China-EU Year of Intercultural Dialogue in Brussels, opening a new chapter of mutual learning and shared progress for Chinese and European civilizations.

Second, we should seize the opportunity.

China-EU relations are now in a highly developed stage featuring stronger interdependent, closer shared interests, and more in-depth interactions. A prosperous China serves the interest of Europe, and vice versa. The increasing shared interest and interdependence have brought us important opportunities to deepen cooperation.

The first is opportunity for political cooperation. This year, the two sides will maintain frequent high level visits. The third High Level Strategic Dialogue, High Level Political Party Forum, and the 15th China-EU Summit have all been added to the agenda. Apart from institutionalized exchanges, the two leaderships also keep communications through letters and phone calls. These high level exchanges and dialogues will play an irreplaceable political steering role in strengthening policy coordination and cooperation planning.

Second, opportunity for strategic cooperation. Stronger cooperation in global affairs is a major aspect of our strategic partnership. As two important powers in the international community, China and Europe both have shared responsibility in promoting regional and global peace and security. In the face of global challenges such as climate change, international financial system reform, Iranian nuclear issue, fight against terrorism and piracy, food security, and natural disasters, China and Europe must strengthen coordination to carry out meaningful joint response.

Third, opportunity for practical cooperation. We both have entered a key stage of development. There is high complementarity between China and Europe both in our industrial structures and in our development strategies as reflected in the 12th Five Year Plan and the 2020 Strategy. Such complementarity provides us plenty of opportunities to expand cooperation in the post crisis era. In fact, cooperation is already underway in the areas that have major bearing on our future development. In a couple of months, we will hold the first China-EU Energy Dialogue, during which the two sides will discuss urbanization partnership, cyber security, energy security, science and technology, electric cars, and green and circular economy. The discussions will certainly yield huge business opportunities for our companies. Europe boasts a long-held advantage in scientific research and innovation. As China reinvents itself as an innovative country, the two sides will open up more areas of cooperation in technology, financing, personnel training, and commercialization and dissemination of research results.

Fourth, opportunity for people-to-people exchange. China-EU friendly relationship is in its essence the friendship between the two peoples. People-to-people exchange is the powerhouse for the healthy and sustainable development of our ties. In the second decade of the next month, Chinese State Councilor Madame Liu Yandong will visit EU headquarters to launch the first China-EU High Level People-to-People Exchange Dialogue. It would officially mark the establishment of the third pillar in China-EU relations, institutionalizing people-to-people exchange between China and Europe. It is foreseeable that this visit will encourage more exchange and strengthen mutual knowledge and understanding between our two peoples, gathering more public support for renewed China-EU friendship.

The third major aspect I wish to talk about is that we should consolidate the basis of our ties.

We already have a very sound basis, but we should do more to make it stronger. This proposal requires progress in three areas. The first area is political mutual trust. We must treat each other as equals and respect each other including our values, ideas, and choices for social system and development model. We must make constant efforts to increase exchanges, coordination and cooperation, and make sure that our cooperation and trust are mutually reinforcing.

The second area is economic cooperation. Not only should we maintain the current level of business cooperation, but also explore ways to steadily outperform ourselves by fully tapping into our respective strength in terms of development stage. We should carefully think about new areas of cooperation to expand market demand and to achieve mutual benefit. China is fully ready to team up with Europe for stronger coordination on trade and investment facilitation. We will work earnestly to ensure a sound business policy environment and to create more opportunities for market and growth.

The third area is mutual perception and understanding. There are more than 50 consultation mechanisms between China and Europe. These mechanisms together constitute an all-directional and multi-tiered dialogue system covering political, economic, social, and cultural fabrics of China-EU relations. It is imperative that we now use fully and effectively these dialogue mechanisms to serve the common progress of China and Europe. To achieve that, we need to intensify policy coordination, follow through action plans, and constantly add new substance to China-EU cooperation.

The fourth aspect is we should properly manage our differences.

Sitting on the two ends of the Eurasia continent, China and Europe are hugely different from each other with regard to history, culture, tradition, philosophy and social system. On top of these differences is the fact that China is the largest emerging economy and Europe the largest developed economy. It is therefore only natural that we have some differences in our ties. However, it is essential that we take a reasonable and objective approach to handle them prudently instead of intentionally magnifying or playing up these differences. In my view, at this point, we should focus on the differences in two areas.

First, ideology differences. The fact that the different values and political systems haven’t held back our cooperation in the last three decades itself is a strong enough proof that China-EU cooperation could transcend ideological differences. For the Chinese people, we honor the philosophical principles of “harmony without uniformity”, “seeking common ground while putting aside differences”, and the famous “do not do to others what you don’t want to be done to you”. I think these words could also be related to what we should do when confronted with differences in ideology.

The other area is economic cooperation and trade. This area has always been both the highlight and the difficulty in our relations. The more we trade, invest, and cooperate, the more likely we expose ourselves to frictions and differences. Such growing pains happen naturally. They are hard to avoid, but definitely only temporary. The way forward should be consultation on an equal footing rather than willful resort to antidumping investigations or other trade protectionist measures. Going for protectionism not only won’t solve the problem, but also would harm our future cooperation. Therefore, to effectively manage such differences would bear great importance to the deepening of China-EU business cooperation and to the larger interest of our relations.

The fifth aspect is we should work for stronger public support for our relations.

Public support is essential for the long-term growth of China-EU ties. Despite our two peoples have different values and follow different habits of living, I observe strong interests of both sides to communicate and to learn more about each other’s history, culture, and traditions. For the Chinese people, Europe is home to splendid culture, comfortable environment, and is an ideal place to study and travel. The Chinese culture bears the same charm for the European people. I’ve been told that the open house days and concerts organized by the Mission of China have always enjoyed huge popularity from the public. While it is safe to say that we have a sound basis of popular support for China-EU relations, I do feel that the two sides need to do more to eliminate bias and misperception.

A European friend recently mentioned to me that European companies fear that they couldn’t receive equal treatment in China and European companies doing business in China seem to be caught in a difficult situation. However, a report published by the EU Chamber of Commerce in China (EUCCC) last year suggests that in 2010, 78% of the surveyed businesses reported notable revenue increase and 71% reported net profit increase. Both figures are higher that the 2009 level of 58% and 63%. These numbers suggest an understated fact that business operations of European companies in China are not as difficult as claimed so. To some extent, the situation in China is much better when compared with elsewhere.

Recently, the decision of the EU to include aviation industry into the ETS has caught extensive public attention in both China and Europe. I understand that the EU has its own thinking and concern on climate change. But from the perspective of Chinese companies and ordinary people, we couldn’t understand or accept why the EU would go against the rest of the world to unilaterally make such a decision. Under such circumstances, we should encourage our media and think tanks to conduct comprehensive and in-depth exchange of views in an effort to promote mutual understanding and to resolve the problem properly and peacefully. One the other hand, if we indulge ourselves into finger pointing, we would provoke confrontational sentiments, undermining the atmosphere to build consensus and promote cooperation. In this connection, I sincerely hope that policy makers, business leaders, journalists, and academics could all be mobilized and contribute in their own ways, either through policy communication or press coverage, to present to our public an objective and accurate picture of sound China-EU cooperation. I’m willing to contribute my own part to promote the idea of friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation and gather stronger public support for China-EU relations.

Thank you!

 

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