China is willing to address its trade disputes with the European Union in a constructive way and seek to build “strategic trust” with the bloc, analysts said ahead of the 24th China-EU summit in Beijing on Thursday.
The summit, which comes after a five-year hiatus, will be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The two sides are expected to discuss a range of issues, including the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), which was signed in principle last year but has faced ratification hurdles in the European Parliament amid growing concerns over China’s human rights record and market access barriers.
Other topics on the agenda include climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, regional security and the reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Analysts said that both sides have an interest in maintaining dialogue and cooperation, despite their differences and divergences.
How China will Foster its EU Relations
“China and the EU are both major economies and trading partners, and they share common interests and challenges in many areas, such as climate change, public health, multilateralism and global governance,” said Cui Hongjian, director of the department of European studies at the China Institute of International Studies.
He said that China is open to discussing its trade disputes with the EU, such as the allegations of unfair subsidies for its electric vehicle industry and the dumping of solar panels, steel and other products in the European market.
“China is willing to address these issues through dialogue and consultation, and to seek solutions that are acceptable to both sides,” he said. “China hopes that the EU can respect its development path and core interests, and not politicize or securitize economic and trade issues.”
He added that China also hopes to enhance “strategic trust” with the EU, which has been eroded by the bloc’s increasing alignment with the United States on issues such as human rights, technology and Indo-Pacific security.
“The EU has adopted a more assertive and autonomous approach towards China, and has labeled China as a ‘systemic rival’ and a ‘strategic competitor’,” he said. “This has created some misunderstandings and misperceptions between the two sides, and has affected the mutual trust and cooperation.”
He said that China hopes to clarify its strategic intentions and reassure the EU that it does not seek to challenge or undermine the existing international order, but to improve and reform it.
Zhou Hong, a former director of the Institute of European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the summit is an opportunity for both sides to exchange views and find common ground on global and regional issues.
“The summit is a platform for dialogue and communication, and it can help to reduce the negative impact of some external factors, such as the US pressure and interference, on the bilateral relationship,” he said.
He said that both sides should focus on the positive aspects of their cooperation, such as the joint efforts to fight the pandemic, to promote green development and to uphold multilateralism.
He also said that both sides should respect each other’s differences and diversity, and avoid confrontation and conflict.
“The EU should not follow the US in containing or confronting China, but should adhere to its own principles and values, and pursue a balanced and pragmatic policy towards China,” he said.
He said that the CAI, which aims to create a level playing field for investors and businesses from both sides, is a key element of the bilateral relationship, and both sides should work together to facilitate its ratification and implementation.
“The CAI is a win-win agreement that can benefit both sides and the world economy,” he said. “It is also a symbol of the mutual trust and cooperation between China and the EU, and it can help to stabilize and enhance the bilateral relationship in the long term.”