China, EU critical to multipolar world
The visit by European Council President Charles Michel to Beijing on Thursday comes at a critical time for China and the European Union as well as the entire world. It has sent a resounding message that China and the EU, as two major players in a multilateral world, oppose a new Cold War and any bid to divide the world into geopolitical blocs.
EU members were among those which suffered the most in the last Cold War, when many regarded each other as enemy states.
As a place which triggered the last two World Wars, the EU should not let its bloody history repeat itself by sleepwalking into another wider war.
The EU and its member states, many also NATO members, should use their influence to deescalate the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The lack of diplomatic efforts has exacerbated the suffering of Ukrainian people.
The spillover of the conflict has also harmed EU economies and the rest of the world, especially the poor developing nations given the rising energy prices and growing food crisis.
It is understandable that all sides want to appear a winner, but to stop the conflict means Russia, Ukraine and NATO need to reach a compromise, a compromise that everyone is a winner. China could help to find a consensus to achieve peace.
China has acted responsibly since the outbreak of the conflict by urging restraint and dialogue while refraining from adding fuel to the fire, a stance also held by many other countries such as India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa.
Stopping the hot war on European soil should indeed be a top priority for the EU, but preventing a looming new Cold War is equally urgent, if not more.
Having successfully pressured the EU countries to give Chinese telecommunication companies such as Huawei a cold shoulder, the US is now again abusing its out-sized influence in Europe in a bid to force the EU states to impose its strict curbs on semiconductor exports to China, a move that has nothing to do with competition but waging an economic war.
Some European leaders, including those of France and the Netherlands, have opposed such US attempts, which infringe upon their national sovereignty.
But the EU should speak with a stronger and unified voice against such bifurcation of the world in technology and supply chains, something that United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has long warned against.
China and the EU have benefited enormously from globalization. A deglobalized and bifurcated world means everyone will be worse off.
It will certainly make efforts to tackle common global challenges much more difficult. Climate change, nuclear proliferation, the pandemic, global governance and global economic growth all require concerted efforts by the whole world, especially China and the EU.
China and the EU don't see eye-to-eye on some issues, but those differences should not prevent them from engaging each other to expand mutually beneficial cooperation. On the contrary, only more engagement and cooperation could help narrow the differences.
As each other's major trading partner, China and the EU depend on each other. It’s a total fallacy to argue which depends on the other more. While some say that the EU has a dependency issue with China, many EU trade experts say that China depends on the EU more.
The fast-growing Chinese market with one-fifth of humanity is a huge opportunity for the EU. The EU market is also very attractive to China. It would be a shame for political leaders to let zero-sum geopolitics waste such golden opportunity for their businesses and people.
The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.