Puz­zling EU ac­tions will re­ally dis­ap­point China

Global Times - - Biz Comment - By Wei Jian­guo The au­thor is ex­ec­u­tive deputy di­rec­tor of China Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional Eco­nomic Ex­changes. bi­zopin­ion@ glob­al­times. com

Italy, France and Ger­many have jointly asked the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion to tighten ex­ist­ing rules to give EU mem­ber states greater flex­i­bil­ity to ban for­eign takeovers of Euro­pean com­pa­nies, ac­cord­ing to re­cent me­dia re­ports. It goes with­out say­ing that these rules would target Chi­nese in­vest­ment.

Those who are com­mit­ted to pro­mot­ing friendly co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and the EU may feel puz­zled and even dis­ap­pointed about sev­eral re­cent EU moves, of which some are par­tic­u­larly per­plex­ing.

First, dur­ing the prepa­ra­tions for the Belt and Road Fo­rum for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion held from May 14 to 15, China had hoped that some EU lead­ers could at­tend the con­fer­ence, but var­i­ous EU lead­ers said they were too busy with na­tional elec­tions and oth­ers said they were un­avail­able for other rea­sons. In the end, no head of state from the EU, China’s largest trad­ing part­ner over the years, at­tended the meet­ing.

Sec­ond, af­ter Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang’s visit to Europe from May 31- June 2, no joint China- EU com­mu­niqué was is­sued. The Chi­nese peo­ple were not con­cerned about this be­cause they al­ways be­lieve ac­tion is more im­por­tant than words. How­ever, the sig­nal sent by the EU is worth think­ing about.

It should be noted as well that China’s com­plaint re­gard­ing the WTO hasn’t re­ceived any re­sponse from the EU. We hope that the EU could honor and ful­fill the prom­ise made in Ar­ti­cle 15 of the pro­to­col on China’s ac­ces­sion to the WTO, but the EU has re­sorted to new “tricks” to block Chi­nese com­pa­nies and prod­ucts from en­ter­ing Europe.

Third, the EU has re­cently made many ef­forts to stop Chi­nese com­pa­nies from in­vest­ing in Europe. The most strik­ing ex­am­ple is the high- speed rail­way link­ing Hun­gary and Ser­bia, which will be a land- sea pas­sage from the Mediter­ranean and the Baltic Sea. China has al­ready built two high­speed rail projects in Africa and a num­ber of high- speed rail links in South Asia. But the EU shelved the project for as­sess­ment on the grounds of opaque in­vest­ment in the Hun­gary- Ser­bia rail­way. The EU also re­port­edly in­tends to in­ter­vene in the South China Sea dis­pute. All such ac­tions make us won­der whether or not the EU is will­ing to con­tinue friendly co­op­er­a­tion with China.

Tak­ing a peace­ful de­vel­op­ment path, China has put for­ward the Belt and Road ini­tia­tive, the Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank ( AIIB) and other ini­tia­tives. I sin­cerely hope that the EU can treat these China- pro­posed ini­tia­tives the same way as they treat the AIIB. I don’t want to see the EU do some­thing harm­ful to the de­vel­op­ment of Sino- EU re­la­tion­ship.

Many peo­ple have asked me: Is the Sino- EU re­la­tion­ship go­ing for­ward, stand­ing still or go­ing back­ward? I have al­ways said “go­ing for­ward.” But I am quite up­set with what the EU has been do­ing. What caused this?

First, some EU lead­ers still have a Cold War men­tal­ity and are ar­ro­gant about the rise of China, lead­ing to cer­tain mis­judg­ment of China’s be­hav­ior.

Sec­ond, against the back­ground of US- led anti- glob­al­iza­tion, uni­lat­er­al­ism and pro­tec­tion­ism, China and the EU should as­sume the re­spon­si­bil­ity of main­tain­ing global mul­ti­lat­eral trade rules and re­con­struct­ing the in­ter­na­tional eco­nomic gov­er­nance sys­tem. But it seems that the EU doesn’t have much en­thu­si­asm for these tasks.

Third, and most im­por­tant, the EU thinks too highly of it­self and has made many mis­judg­ments, in­ter­pret­ing China’s friendly ac­tions and mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial co­op­er­a­tion ini­tia­tives as re­quests. This is def­i­nitely a neg­a­tive fac­tor for the Sino- EU re­la­tion­ship. The EU should be clearly aware of its “in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal dif­fi­cul­ties,” which call ur­gently for re­form and open­ing up as well as uni­fied think­ing in­ter­nally. Ex­ter­nally, the EU faces pres­sure and chal­lenges, par­tic­u­larly from Brexit. Its trade re­la­tion­ship with China also faces re­sis­tance and com­pe­ti­tion. At present, the growth in Sino- US trade has far ex­ceeded that of Sino- EU trade. If the trend con­tin­ues, China’s largest trad­ing part­ner will no longer be the EU in 2017, but the US. The As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions or even Africa may over­take the EU’s po­si­tion in trade with China in 2018. We hope that EU lead­ers could think clearly about the fu­ture of Sino- EU re­la­tions, strengthen cul­tural, tech­no­log­i­cal, tourism and in­no­va­tion ex­changes to achieve mu­tual ben­e­fit and win- win re­sults for both par­ties. In the face of US claims on cli­mate change and trade, it is China that came for­ward to sup­port the EU. China and the EU should be friends, not ad­ver­saries. We don’t want to see the EU once again lose the op­por­tu­nity to be sur­passed by other coun­tries in terms of politics, economics, trade and other ar­eas.

Many peo­ple have asked me: Is the Sino- EU re­la­tion­ship go­ing for­ward, stand­ing still or go­ing back­ward? I have al­ways said “go­ing for­ward.” But I am quite up­set with what the EU has been do­ing.

Illustration: Luo Xuan/ GT

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