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Ambassador Zhang Ming: Ambitions for China-EU Cooperation Should Never be Underestimated

On 9 April 2019, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, President Donald Tusk and President Jean-Claude Juncker jointly hosted the 21st China-EU Summit in Brussels. A joint statement was published after the Summit. On 10 April, Ambassador Zhang Ming gave an exclusive interview to the South China Morning Post and commented on the joint statement negotiations.

Q: There was some news in the last days before the Summit that some EU countries were not willing to sign the joint statement if certain demands, like industrial subsidies, were not met. There was wide speculation that China and the EU would fail to reach agreement. How did China respond?

A: The Summit was the last one within this EU political cycle. The Summit would hopefully help sustain the sound momentum of China-EU relations into the next political cycle. It is thus understandable that both sides have set the bar high and worked very hard. The joint statement is concrete and substantial. It reaffirms the shared commitment of China and the EU to multilateralism and addressing global challenges. It also sets clear and specific targets for practical cooperation in trade and investment, global governance, climate change, research and innovation, and people-to-people exchanges. It would have been impossible to produce such a wide-ranging and substantive document if the two sides had not worked hard and smart.

Of course, the negotiation process was not without difficulties. But our two sides managed to reach agreement. It speaks volumes about the fact that cooperation is the mainstay of China-EU relations. The spirit of mutual respect and mutual accommodation had a crucial role to play in expanding consensus and converging interests. I don’t know why some people would put it that way. Maybe they failed to see the full picture and underestimated the strategic and global significance of China-EU relations, as well as the ambitions of both sides. Obviously, the speculations turned out to be inaccurate.

We don’t see the value of imposing one’s will on others, and believe that seeking common ground is the right way to go. The joint statement negotiation process is a good example for that.

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