In 2015, Sino-European relations continued to improve. Yet, the two sides tend to focus on different issues. China has continued its policy of ‘upgrading’ (shengji) relations with the EU, initiated after the landmark visit by Xi Jinping to EU institutions in Brussels in April 2014. Beijing has committed itself to increasing the political and security elements of the partnership with Brussels, while continuing to foster economic and trade relations.
Europe has responded to this by stepping up its relations with Beijing in the monetary and financial fields of policy. Such upgrading was best epitomised by the decision by Europe’s four biggest economies – Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy – to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as founding members in March 2015 – despite opposition from Washington. In 2015 we also witnessed a trend towards the re-nationalisation of the political and security elements of the partnership with Beijing. Away from Brussels, it is the most important capitals, in particular Berlin and – to a lesser extent – Paris, that are now driving forward the politico-security dimension with China.
The most important issues of the common agenda are: (i) China’s initiative called ‘One Belt, One Road’ and its possible synergies with Jean-Claude Juncker’s European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI); (ii) The bilateral investment treaty currently under discussion; and (iii) The decision by the EU as to whether – and how – grant China market economy status in 2016. There are also political and security elements of the partnership under discussion, including the prospect of joint peacekeeping operations, the stability in Africa and the Mediterranean, the fight against terrorism, cooperation in nuclear non-proliferation.
An expanded version of this interview was published in Chinaandgreece.com