Enhancing a strategic partnership

EU, China must find a way to advance ties given their vital economic links, geopolitical roles


Since 2014, the United States has chosen to drag Europe into war, rekindling the Ukrainian front. In view of this, the current US-led effort to expand NATO is obviously a geopolitical error of historic proportions that will unsettle European stability. 

Moreover, the developments surrounding the Ukraine conflict are increasingly intertwined with the intensifying actions of confrontation. In particular, the US is increasingly expressing “concerns” and “warnings” about strengthening China-EU and China-Russia ties.

To be more precise, the US is cultivating a systemic rivalry and trying to sabotage cooperation between the European Union and China. In consideration of this, Europe must abandon the so-called confrontational approach by implementing an independent policy from the US. Despite the US aggravations, the EU and China are still working toward establishing a strategic partnership, which is meant to help manage political, security and trade issues. 

Sweden, which has assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU for the first half of this year, said it will continue to seek consultations with the European Parliament to push forward the ratification of the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment.

It is worth noting the fact that the EU is one of China’s major trading partners. For the first 10 months of 2022, trade between China and the EU reached $711.4 billion, a year-on-year increase of 6.3 percent. From January to August 2022, the EU invested $7.45 billion in China, a year-on-year increase of 121.1 percent. In November, the Airbus A321 aircraft officially entered production on the general assembly line in Tianjin, and it is expected that the first A321 aircraft will be delivered in the first quarter of this year. A symbiotic economic relationship between China and the EU has been built.

China and the EU are two powers of great importance for world peace and two major markets important for common development that strengthens the rising momentum in their relations, which becomes a workable model not only to their advantage but to that of the international community as a whole. Within this framework, Chinese President Xi Jinping has pointed out that “the more unstable the international situation becomes and the more acute challenges the world faces, the greater global significance China-EU relations take on”.

It is precisely for this reason that China has taken a real step to promote peace in Ukraine. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has released a 12-point plan to settle the conflict in Ukraine. It includes the need to respect the sovereignty and integrity of all countries. 

China has called for the abandonment of the Cold War mentality and pointed out the unacceptability of ensuring regional security by strengthening and expanding military blocs. China opposes the escalation of the conflict, including the abuse of sanctions, and points to the need to create the necessary conditions for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

While China has issued a peace proposal, the US-NATO bloc is trying to prolong the military conflict, which has already resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, and is worsening the economic situation, fueling energy and food crises.

The Chinese peace proposal caused surprise and strong reaction in the West. France expressed a different position from the EU, with President Emmanuel Macron characterizing the move as “positive” and preparing for a trip to Beijing in early April and a meeting with President Xi. Macron described as positive the fact that China wants to mediate to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Despite the disagreements between China and the EU, their shared interests should not be downplayed, particularly on global issues such as climate change, healthcare and technology, the World Trade Organization reform or multilateral governance.

Brussels and Beijing need to work together and coordinate their actions in a responsible manner so as to make global governance more effective and more equitable. Consolidating the EU-China strategic partnership is the prerequisite and the path for building a mutually beneficial global community with a shared future.

The EU and China, as global actors with intensely enmeshed economic and trade bonds, must find a way to advance their complex relationship. China’s development cannot be separated from the European continent, and Europe’s development also needs China. Standing at a new historical starting point, China-EU cooperation is encountering new important development opportunities.

The author is a former rector of the European University Cyprus and an ordinary member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.