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Ambassador Zhang Ming on China-EU Relations: Zero Reason to Treat as Rivals
2021-11-15 17:54

On 10 November 2021, Ambassador Zhang Ming, Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, sat down with Sam Fleming, Brussels Bureau Chief of the Financial Times (FT), and Andy Bounds, FT's EU correspondent, for an exclusive interview. Answering a question on China-EU relations and the sanctions that happened earlier in particular, Ambassador Zhang Ming made the following remarks.

China’s attitude towards this agreement (China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, the CAI) remains unchanged, as I said previously. As a matter of fact, ever since the two sides agreed on the CAI, relevant departments and authorities in China have been busily engaged in the technological preparations for its ratification. So there is absolutely no obstacle from the Chinese side to ratify the agreement. The problems actually now lie with the European side.

The sanctions mentioned by certain members of the European Parliament took place half a year ago. At the very beginning of the event, it was the European side who decided to launch unilateral sanctions against China. Such actions are not based on any kind of international law. The European side had not communicated with us concerning the specific incident and individuals involved in the sanction. They were not even able to provide any concrete evidence. That’s why we find such sanctions unacceptable. China has always opposed unilateral sanctions because they are not based on international laws.

I do not mean that there is absolutely no problem between China and the European Union. Problems are actually quite natural. In the past few decades, China and the EU have established a quite mature practice of solving our differences through dialogue and communication. Even if we are not able to solve these problems in a short period of time, we could manage such differences in a proper manner. We don’t think resorting to bullying or unilateral, compulsive means is the right way forward.

The sanctions could have been avoided. Actually, I remember in February and March this year, before the European side launched sanctions against China, in Brussels, Beijing, and the capitals of EU member states, I myself and my colleagues had done a lot of work trying to persuade the European side not to take this move. Our purpose remains very simple. We hope that our European friends can go back to the track of communication and dialogue in resolving our differences instead of taking unilateral measures. Unfortunately, such advice was not taken, and the European side decided eventually to resort to unilateral measures.

In the past 46 years of China-EU relations, we’ve accumulated rich experience in managing our bilateral relations. We are able to build China-EU relations into a rich relationship that has international influence and can benefit our two peoples. We could have followed such mature practice in developing our relationship and managing our differences instead of resorting to confrontational measures. I think this is the first time since the end of the Cold War that such an incident took place between China and the EU. Once again, I think the March incident could have been avoided.

I think the reason for such changes can date back to the EU’s 2019 China Policy document, in which China was depicted as a cooperation partner, a competitor and a systemic rival. China has never agreed to such positions. If we treat partners as rivals, then it is inevitable that there might be some serious disruptions to our relations. I think it’s fair for friends from the European side to take a reflection. Two to three years into the issuing of this new China Policy document, what kind of influence does it have on China-EU relations, on Europe’s own interests, and on the world at large? China and the EU are important powers in today’s international community. We have numerous reasons to cooperate as partners and have zero reason to treat each other as rivals. If we treat each other as partners, we will achieve a win-win result and also benefit the whole world. If we treat each other as rivals, then the result will hurt the interest of all sides. So I think it’s a mistake for the EU to launch sanctions against China.

China’s positive will to develop China-EU relations remains unchanged. Our attitude towards the CAI also remains unchanged. We stand ready to cooperate with partners from the European side to explore possible approaches to ratify the agreement.

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