Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Cooperate for better future

By Zhou Wen (China Daily) Updated: 2011-06-27 07:56

Time EU stopped giving in to impulse and acted with reason to strengthen its comprehensive partnership with China

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EU countries' relationships with China have been paradoxical. On the one hand, they like to criticize China. On the other, they find it hard to do without China, especially on the economic front. Some of their criticisms have ranged from the Nobel Peace Prize issue of last year to so-called human rights cases recently. At the same time, they have been preparing for dialogues and exchanges with China to gain more from business ties and trade.

In other words, European Union member states' disagreements coexist with cooperation and their ideals clash with reality.

So, two opposite forces are at work beneath the surface of the EU's relationship with China: One generated by rigid ideology and values, and the perception of China formed because of them threatens to tear the relationship apart. This divisive force represents the EU's China-bashing tendency on the pretext of "democracy and human rights". The other force, drawn from the need for cooperation and trade, binds the two sides. It supports closer practical cooperation with China to protect and advance EU interests. Hence, we see pendulum-like swings in China-EU relations. Ever since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the European Community, the predecessor of the EU, the balance, or lack of it, between the two forces has to a large extent determined the trajectory of China-EU relations, which have alternated between closeness and setbacks.

Yet, on the whole, the binding force has been stronger than the one threatening to tear the two sides apart. Given China's continuous economic growth, the EU has more reason to cooperate with China than to give in to impulse and do the opposite. The binding force has been mainly responsible for the progress of China-EU ties from constructive partnership to comprehensive partnership to comprehensive strategic partnership today.

New signs have emerged in China-EU relations since the global financial crisis broke out in 2008. Mired in economic, political and social crises, Europe is passing through a period of reflection. More Europeans have come to realize that China will play an increasingly important role in Europe's development, and the binding force in favor of developing ties with China is gaining strength.

A report of French bank Societe Generale indicates that from now until the end of 2020, cooperation with China will probably raise the structural growth rate in the eurozone by 0.25 to 0.40 percentage points a year, and create millions of jobs. The Financial Times Deutschland was even more straightforward, in one of its article, headlined "China as an economic savior", explaining why. Catching the "China Express" out of the difficulties weighs heavily and realistically on Europeans' minds.

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