Interview: EU-China cooperation vital as U.S. unilateralism writ large: EU expert

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-17 01:22:52|Editor: Mu Xuequan
Video PlayerClose

by Zheng Jianghua

BRUSSELS, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- The importance of EU-China cooperation is becoming more and more obvious, as the United States' unilateralism is writ large, EU expert Gerhard Stahl said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Stahl, the visiting professor at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium, and the Peking University HSBC Business School, said: "The increased importance of good EU-China relations for international peace and prosperity becomes obvious" in the context of the Trump administration's challenge to high-profile multilateral agreements such as Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement.


The EU and China cooperated successfully in the fight against climate change, Stahl said, underlining that the two powers have been "the driving forces" to hammer out "the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal" in 2015.

He praised the two sides' "important role" in striking the nuclear deal with Iran, saying: "For this agreement, the good cooperation between Britain, France, Germany, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and China was essential."

Stahl also noted Washington's decision on Thursday to quit the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), saying the move, as well as withdrawal from international trade agreements, "is in opposition to the European and Chinese commitment to international trade and a multilateral international system."


Recent international accords have helped deepen cooperation between the EU and China, who have developed a "comprehensive strategic partnership" over 14 years with several results.

"There are a lot of regular expert and political meetings on all the topics covered by the partnership. These meetings improve understanding and help build confidence," said Stahl, also a former secretary general of European Committee of Regions.

As both sides have a sophisticated governance system, Stahl stressed the importance of "learning."

"Over the years, many Chinese partners learned to understand the unique EU political system with European and national competences. But also, more and more Europeans understand the specific Chinese political system."

Regarding the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, the professor said the EU wants to contribute to the success of the initiative. He noted that the EU and European countries have backed the creation of the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB).

"The importance of the AIIB can be also seen by the fact that the United States is opposed to increase the lending capacities of the World Bank, making developing countries in Asia more dependent from support by the AIIB," he said.

The EU hopes that the Belt and Road Initiative will facilitate essential investment in Asia, Africa and Europe, he noted, underlining the significance of deepening the cooperation between the two great powers.

"The deepening of EU-China cooperation can demonstrate that international trade, an open international economy, the free exchange of ideas and scientific results is beneficial for everybody; that a globalized economy can continue to be the driver for growth and prosperity in developing and developed countries," Stahl said.


When it comes to economic spats between the EU and China, including the EU's reluctance to recognize China's market economy status, and the EU's complaints over Chinese steel industry, Stahl said instead "these examples show the intensity and success of the EU-China economic cooperation."

"It is obvious that increased trade and cooperation has increased repercussions on the internal development of the partners. Therefore, additional questions arise," he explained.

The EU has not taken a position on granting China the status of a market economy, a move seen by China in violation of WTO rules.

Stahl, however, is optimistic about this sore point, saying: "The EU is updating its trade policy instruments and I assume that this revision will enable the EU to grant China the market economy status."

"To achieve this solution, a determined Chinese policy to tackle the overcapacity of the Chinese steel industry will be very helpful," he added.

When asked about the European Commission's plan to establish a new framework for screening foreign investment, which may have impacts on investors interested in EU, including those from China, Stahl proposed increased exchange of information.

"I think increased exchange of information and recognition of the different national policy objectives in China and the EU can be very helpful to understand the different rules on foreign direct investment better," he said.


Stahl praised China as "the poster child" for economic development in the past three decades, saying European policymakers need to learn from the success of the Chinese model, a socialist market economy "with Chinese characteristics."

"International competition doesn't just exist between companies. In the global economy of the 21st century, it also exists between political and regulatory systems," he said.

Stahl observed that the Chinese government exerts considerable influence on economic and social development, in particular through its five-year plans that give political and economic guidance to businesses, and to national and regional authorities.

"But this does not make China a planned economy. Competition plays an important role in Chinese society," he noted.

"That's not just true in China. The U.S. government also exerts a massive influence on the economy through public procurement, military research expenditure and security checks on foreign investment," said the expert.

Highlighting the "competition between political systems," Stahl said European policymakers not only need to adapt to it, but also "need to learn from the successes of the Chinese model."

"The answer can't be isolation and national protectionism. Rather, we need to develop structures at national and European level that are capable of withstanding this intersystem competition," he said.

"The only way to secure long-term competitiveness is through successful collaboration between government bodies, universities and companies," Stahl said.