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To regard China-EU friction with usual mindset (2008-01-16)
2006-01-16 00:00
Sino-European Union (EU) ties have occupied an eminent position for some time on China's diplomatic agenda, and they have drawn a lot of media comments both at home and overseas. For instance, some comments say the Sino-EU honeymoon is over; Europe is now turning to the stance of being pro-America and alienating China, and it poses a thorny issue for China's diplomacy to respond to (deteriorating) Sino-EU ties.

How to view the current China-EU ties ? In my view, an all-round approach is most needed. China's relations with EU have scored a tremendous progress in the last 32 years since the forging of their diplomatic ties in 1975, and such an immense progress is beyond the expectations of those people who were most optimistic for Sino-EU ties. Please pay attention to the ensuing facts:

The Sino-EU trade volume has risen from 2.4 billion US dollars in 1975 to more than 330 billion dollars this year; the EU, which did not make any investment in China in 1975, input close to about 60 billion dollars in the country this year and, to date, some 20,000 EU firms have settled in China; the country, which did not see any tourists from EU in 1975, has so far received more than 2 million tourists from EU nations this year; and no students from China were around at schools in the EU in 1975, whereas the number of Chinese students in Europe has totaled some 200,000 at present.

Then, why is there a drastic rise in the number of problems and friction between China and EU? To my mind, it is primarily an outcome inflicted by the great expansion of bilateral ties. There was not any frictions when its EU trade was very limited and it did not draw any media coverage. To date, however, problems and friction are inevitable as EU has become China's biggest trade partner and China the second trade partner of EU. So any trivial matter will attract close media attention.

At the same time, people should note that Sino-EU friction only covers a very tiny part of the huge bilateral trade volume, and we should not only see trees but not the forests.

Is Europe really "Pro-America" and alienating China"? Yes, indeed, French-US ties have improved noticeably since Nicolas Sarkozy became the French president. The Improvement of French-US ties, however, does not mean to be estranged from China. During his visit to China in late November, he repeatedly stressed that he would follow in his predecessor's footsteps to further develop French-China ties.

Meanwhile, President Sarkozy in his China visit unequivocally called for seeking to lift the EU arms embargo against China and grant the country its full market economy status. His China trip, as a matter of fact, was crowned with a full success, and evidence has proven that French-China ties have not retrogressed in the wake of betterment in French-US relations.

Moreover, China's relations with other global powers have their respective independent values, and an overall progress has been scored in retrospective of the nation's ties with these powers: Sino-US ties are going on developing, Sino-Japanese ties are making improvements in a sustained way, and Sino-Russian ties are expanding smoothly. Sino-EU ties are charging ahead continuously, and the Sino-EU bilateral trade volume has risen to 330 billion dollars this year from 272.3 billion dollars in 2006, and this represent not a small progress in itself.

Of course, in last September, German Chancellor Angel Merkel, despite opposition from China, met with the Dala Lama in her official office in the Chancellery in Berlin. This action of hers has infuriated people in China, and the Chinese side, too, has made a prompt response. What meriting particular attention, however, is that this action of hers has also provoked denunciations of many people in Germany, including those inside her party in power.

Problems and friction between the two sides could be possibly inevitable along with the advancement of Sino-EU ties since China and EU are in the different stages of economic growth with different social systems, and different histories and cultural traditions. Overall, common interests are far greater than differences nevertheless, and these difference or disparities, should not to be overlooked.

What should people do with the emergence of differences (between China and EU)?
In my opinion, people in China should regard or approach them with a usual mindset. The so-called "usual mindset" is meant neither to exaggerate the existing problems nor to belittle them, but to dispose of them in a very realistic manner and, in other words, to settle them properly through dialogue and consultation. With the usual mindset, it is also meant not to carry away one's emotions.

Looking back, China has long been subjected to bullying by global powers in history, and so people in the country incline to be agitated easily whenever something hazardous comes up. Let bygones be bygones and things are entirely different today."The Chinese people have stood up," as late Chinese leader Mao Zedong declared at the inaugural ceremony on the founding of new China at the Tian An Men Rostrum on October 1st, 1949.

To date, China has played a vital role on the world arena, but its people, nevertheless, still have the resonance to sound their usual mindset. Whenever any problems arise, excessive emotions can only make matters much worse, more complex and hence it will be detrimental to their settlement.

In a nutshell, Sino-EU ties have both frictions and problems, but they are in a steady progress overall, and so the perspective for China-EU relations are quite optimistic.

By Wu Jianmin, President of the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, and translated by People's Daily Online
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