Why China-EU relations are at an advantage

Posted: September 20, 2012 in Oriental Morning Post
Tags: , , , , ,

Another EU-China piece to come out around the Summit this time for the Oriental Morning Post (东方早报) – as usual, published Chinese above, English submitted below. Am also going to follow up a bit on this subject, and am still awaiting for longer pieces I have written on this topic to see the light of day. In the meantime, the Summit takes place today and seems to be focusing on economic affairs.

中欧关系为何更有优势

“中欧关系也许没有中美关系和中国海上关系之中那些安全因素的存在,但这应当被理解为一种优势,而非缺点。”

第15次中欧峰会将在今天举行。这是中国与其最大贸易伙伴每年一次的会晤。然而现在看来,人们并不会对此有太多的关注,他们的目光更多聚集在美国和中国东面邻国的纷争上。这似乎是在提醒我们:这一在国际事务中将可能起到至关重要作用的大国关系不幸地被遗忘了,在东亚事务的全球视野中,更让人们继续沉迷的只是中国与其邻国的那些事。

中国与欧盟关系建立时间并不长。尽管欧洲各主权国曾与中国有过悠久、有时并不非常愉快的历史,但欧洲联盟与中国正式建立关系只有37年,这大约是在欧盟创立24年、新中国建国26年之后。欧盟的最早阶段是由法国、联邦德国、意大利、比利时、卢森堡和荷兰六国在“二战”后建立的“欧洲煤钢共同体”(ECSC),而欧盟最初也被视作为防止战争再次爆发的一种机制。

如今,这一梦想正在前进。欧盟正在试图建立共同外交安全认同,以这一形象进入世界。从2004年起,欧盟就成为了中国最大的贸易伙伴,中国则是欧盟的第二大贸易伙伴。双边贸易额目前已经达到了惊人的4287亿欧元,国际服务贸易也增长到了426亿欧元。中国和欧盟每年召开峰会,双方有定期的高层经济战略对话,以及超过50多个领域的对话机制,涵盖各种事务。

除了对话之外,中欧双方还经常在世界舞台上进行合作。比如中欧船只共同巡航索马里,打击海盗;今年年初,双方宣布启动灾害风险管理联合项目。除此之外,中国和欧洲民间有着非常普遍的交流。很多中国朋友告诉我他们非常喜欢去欧洲(而且不仅仅是因为欧元现在较弱的关系)。这正是我同其他30多位同事当时一起来到中国的初衷:促进两国人民的接触。之后,我们中的很多人都选择了继续留在中国。

尽管有着种种良好意愿,中欧之间的战略关系似乎总是在黑暗中徘徊不前。中美关系的高调互动和隐藏的军事敌意总让每个人都觉得一场新冷战可能开始,因此中欧关系也蒙上了阴影,不被更多人重视。

这是件不幸的事。因为事实上,欧盟和中国都是希望能够在世界舞台上发展多边行动的大国,如果没有它们,很难想象这个世界将如何来解决很多非常重大的问题。这两大力量已经携手做了很多工作,为之后打下了扎实的基础。人们普遍倾向认为,欧洲在亚洲并不是一个战略力量,因为其没有强大的军事部署,但实际上,这正能让欧盟得以跳出现在的纷争框架。在一个理想的世界里,欧盟可能扮演一个双方皆可信任的中间人角色:它同中国、日本和美国都有着紧密联系,因此可以成为潜在的“劝和者”。欧洲在亚洲没有战略安全部署这点因而应该被视为是个优势,而非牵绊。

进一步的现实是,这个世界并非完全被军事安全主导。对于人们的日常生活而言,经济关系和贸易关系要更为重要。从这方面来看,欧盟对于中国的重要性起码和美国平起平坐。中国正处于经济转型阶段中,其与欧盟之间的经济关系将随着时间推移愈发显现重要性。我们已经看到欧洲经济衰退对于中国产生了负面影响。美国市场被证明很难让中国企业轻易进入,而欧洲依然还是大门敞开。这一点可以从最近中国建设银行董事长王洪章准备在欧洲投资150亿美元的计划中看出。

我的观点是:欧洲对于中国至关重要,而本周的峰会将会进一步证明这点。最近所有人的目光都仅仅投射在中国对美和对其邻国的外交政策上,这不会为我们带来任何益处,只会创造更多矛盾。我们必须拥有更广阔的视野,更重视这一将给中国带来蓬勃发展的双边关系。中欧关系也许没有中美关系和中国海上关系之中那些安全因素的存在,但这应当被理解为一种优势,而非缺点。(李鸣燕 译)

 

Thursday marks the 15th EU-China Summit, or China’s annual meeting with its largest trading partner. And yet, it is likely that the Summit will pass without much attention with people instead focused towards America and ongoing tensions with China’s eastern neighbors. This unfortunate state of affairs highlights how a relationship with the potential to play a major role in international affairs is being left to the side while neuralgic obsessions between China and her neighbors dominate the global perception of East Asian affairs.

The EU-China relationship remains a relatively young one. While individual European member states have long and sometimes ambiguous histories with China, the European Union itself only established formal relations with China some 37 years ago, about 24 years after the foundation of a European Union and 26 years since the foundation of the People’s Republic. First established in the wake of the Second World War as a Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) between France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands the European Union was initially conceived as a way of guaranteeing that the wars that had dominated much of Europe’s history could never happen again.

Nowadays this dream has evolved further and the EU is trying to forge a common foreign and security identity to try to project itself in the world. And key amongst foreign relationships is China. Since 2004 the EU has been China’s largest trading partner and China has been the EU’s second. Currently, bilateral trade stands at a massive 428.7 billion Euros with a further 42.6 billion Euros in trade in services. The EU and China meet annually for Summit’s, have regular high level economic and strategic dialogues, and over 50 specific sectoral dialogues that meet regularly to discuss a wide variety of topics. Beyond dialogue there are a growing number of instances in which Chinese and Europeans are working together on the world stage. In the waters off Somalia, Chinese and European vessels together patrol for pirates, and earlier this year, the two announced the creation of a ‘Joint Project for Managing Disaster Risks.’ And beyond this, back and forth exchanges between European’s and Chinese are commonplace: many Chinese friends tell me of how much they enjoy going to Europe (and not just because of the weak Euro!), whilst I first came to work in China along with 30 others under the auspices of a project to improve contacts between China and Europe. And a number of us have chosen to stay on afterwards.

But for all this goodwill, the strategic relationship between China and Europe seems to constantly languish in the dark. Vastly overshadowed by the US-China relationship whose high level interactions and undertone of military hostility keep everyone imagining a new Cold War, the EU-China relationship is one that seems to slip past unobserved.

This is unfortunate, as the reality is that the EU and China are both large powers with a preference for multilateral activity on the world stage and without whom it is hard to imagine that the world will fix many of the large problems that plague it today. They do a growing amount of work together already, and the foundations are in place for more. Whilst the tendency is to dismiss Europe as a strategic power in Asia due to the absence of a large security presence, the reality is that this places it in a position where it can stand above the current tensions. In fact, in an ideal world, the EU could act as something of an honest broker between the two sides – with close links to China, Japan and the US, the EU could potentially play a role in helping calm relations. The very absence of a large European strategic security presence in Asia is something that should be seen as an asset rather than a hindrance.

The further reality is that the world is not solely dominated by security tensions. In fact, far more important to people’s daily lives are economic relations and trade – and in this aspect, the EU is as important, if not more so, than the US to China. China is in the midst of period of economic adjustment and its large economic relationship with the EU is something that is going to play an important role in laying out how this develops over time. We can already see how the downturn in Europe is having a negative effect on China. The American market has proven to be a difficult nut for Chinese firms to crack, while Europe remains far more open – something most recently seen in China Construction Bank Chairman Wang Hongzhang’s comments about seeking to invest some $15 billion in Europe.

The point is that the EU is important to China, and this week’s Summit will be further affirmation of this. Of late there has been a tendency to focus almost exclusively in the Chinese foreign policy mindset on the United States and security tensions with neighbors. This state of affairs will lead nowhere good and merely provide fodder for further tensions. A broader vision needs to be taken and one that takes into account a relationship that has brought prosperity to China. EU-China relations may lack the emotive security tensions that characterize US-China and China’s tense naval relations, but this is something that should be interpreted as an advantage rather than weakness.

Raffaello Pantucci is a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) and an expert of the Europe China Research and Advice Network (ECRAN).

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