The ninth round of the China-EU High-Level Trade and Economic Dialogue, held virtually on Tuesday, was pragmatic, candid, efficient and constructive, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
Agreement was reached on trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, mutual openness, fair competition, intellectual property rights protection and business investment optimization, the ministry said in its statement.
This represents a remarkable step forward from the state of affairs at the 23rd China-EU Summit in early April, which EU High Representative Josep Borrell described as a "dialogue of the deaf", when such divisive topics as the conflict in Ukraine and human rights in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region prevented the two parties from even producing a joint statement.
The latest dialogue was of far-reaching significance for both China and the EU because it indicated impressive political will to maintain economic and trade engagement despite all the differences between the two sides that have been overly politicized recently and have disrupted the otherwise highly mutually beneficial economic and trade ties that have served both sides well for decades.
Since China and the then European Economic Community established diplomatic relations in 1975, both sides have known full well the cultural and political differences between them. And there were no lack of occasions and topics on which they had divergent views. But nothing prevented them from developing generally friendly and profitable economic and trade ties. The fruitful China-EU cooperation, especially in the economic and trade field, has thrived and ballooned to its present-day scale and depth because they have strived to find stable middle ground where economic and trade ties could prosper largely free of political disturbances.
Close China-EU economic and trade ties have benefited both parties tremendously. They are especially important at this time when the global post-pandemic recovery is struggling to gain traction. There has never been a greater pragmatic need for the two sides to work together to overcome the economic challenges they face.
The consensuses they reached on Tuesday will certainly be very conducive to more healthy Chinese and EU economies going forward. But in this time of rampant politicization and anti-globalization, China-EU cooperation remains very vulnerable to political disruptions.
Considering both the EU and NATO have explicitly labeled China as a systemic challenge, ideological and political factors may easily mar the prospects for bilateral cooperation.
How well the Tuesday consensuses can be implemented hinges on the extent to which the two parties can keep a proper distance between business and politics.