Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova co-chair the second China-EU high-level dialogue in the digital area in Beijing, capital of China, on Sept. 18, 2023. (XINHUA)
As the first in-person meeting of its kind after the pandemic, the upcoming summit between China and the European Union (EU) is expected to devise a strategic blueprint for cooperation in a world afflicted with geopolitical uncertainties and economic challenges.
As agreed between China and the EU, the 24th China-EU Summit will be held in Beijing on Dec. 7, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
With joint efforts to revitalize trade activities, diplomatic engagements, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, mutually beneficial China-EU relations are set to contribute significantly to global recovery.
In the post-COVID-19 era, China and Europe have played significant roles in facilitating each other's economic bounce-back.
Official data indicates that China and the EU have remained as each other's second-largest trading partners, with two-way trade jumping by 22.8 percent to 847.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2022 and averaging over 2 billion euros daily.
Following the relaxation of COVID-related travel restrictions in China, dozens of provinces and cities have sent trade delegations to Europe since late 2022, aiming to solidify business connections.
"The current resurgence of Sino-European interactions across nearly all echelons is a promising development that may help bridge the gap in trust and communication," the China Chamber of Commerce to the EU said in a report.
Two-way trade benefits both sides and must continue as "each side needs the other and everyone benefits," Sergi Basco, associate professor of economics at Barcelona University, told Xinhua in an interview.
On top of traditional sectors, Chinese companies, not least those in electric vehicles (EVs), technology, and renewable energy, have sought partnerships and investments in Europe, contributing to innovation and economic growth.
Notably, Chinese EV manufacturers like BYD, NIO, Xpeng, Hongqi, and Lynk & Co are gaining traction in Europe, while German's Volkswagen has bought a nearly 5 percent stake of Chinese EV maker Xpeng for 700 million dollars and agreed to jointly develop two new models.
"Over the past 40 years, Europe and China have forged mutually beneficial, dynamic and symbiotic economic and trade cooperation, fostering prosperity and stability for both sides that extend to almost all industrial sectors," said Spanish economist Julio Ceballos Rodriguez.
People visit the booth of Chinese carmaker Xpeng during the 2023 International Motor Show, officially known as the IAA MOBILITY 2023, in Munich, Germany, Sept. 5, 2023.(XINHUA)
As the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which envisions trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, marks its 10th anniversary this year, it continues to be a driving force behind the robust connectivity and flourishing trade relations between China and Europe.
The China-Europe Railway Express, one of the BRI flagship enterprises, has proven to be a game-changer, shortening cargo transportation time between the two regions by more than 20 days compared to shipping by sea.
Till the end of November, some 81,000 China-Europe freight train trips have been made, providing services for 217 cities in 25 European countries, according to China's National Development and Reform Commission.
"Over the past decade, it (the China-Europe Railway Express) has grown into a bustling network, contributing to keeping global industrial and supply chains stable and injecting new impetus into world economic development," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.
In southern Croatia, the 2.4-km Peljesac Bridge, constructed by a Chinese consortium under the initiative, connects the Croatian mainland with the Peljesac Peninsula, bypassing a short strip of land belonging to Bosnia and Herzegovina and giving Croatia better access to the area.
More than 250 locals were employed by the Peljesac Bridge project, which involved 18 design consulting companies, 45 construction companies from the EU, and 112 equipment and material suppliers from Croatia, Germany, Poland and other countries.
"That is a great benefit of the bridge. Thanks to the bridge, benefits will be bigger and bigger in the future," said Selma Knudsen, a Croatian civil engineer who worked on the project.
"On global development, China's Belt and Road Initiative and the EU's Global Gateway strategy can complement each other to support developing countries and contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goals," said Fu Cong, Chinese ambassador to the EU.
Smarter and Greener
Facing the growing challenges of artificial intelligence technology and climate change, the two sides have coordinated on various technological fronts, including AI governance, and clean energy initiatives.
In September, the second China-EU high-level dialogue in the digital area was held in Beijing, co-chaired by Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing and European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova.
The two sides had in-depth discussions on issues including development and policy in digitization, artificial intelligence, standards of communications technology, cross-border data flows, and the safety of non-food products, with a series of results achieved in the process.
Companies from across the world, including Europe, are welcome to share the development opportunities of China's digital economy and achieve mutual benefit and win-win results, Zhang said.
Scientific and technological cooperation between China and Europe is also creating a greener future for mankind.
In the department of Bouches-du-Rhone in southern France, scientists and engineers are busy building the world's largest fusion experiment machine, the ITER Tokamak, or "artificial Sun," as it generates clean, carbon-free energy in a way similar to the sun by emitting light and heat through fusion reactions.
This photo taken on Nov. 24, 2023 shows the assembly building on the construction site of the ITER Tokamak, the world's largest fusion experiment machine, in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France. (XINHUA)
"We have a long list of key components delivered by China. They are very important components in different parts of the project, from the power conversion, the magnet system to the feeders and so on," said ITER Director-General Pietro Barabaschi.
As major players in tackling climate change, China and the EU agreed, at the fourth High-level Environment and Climate Dialogue in July in Beijing, to deepen cooperation and play a leading role in global environmental and climate governance.
"China is ready to work with the EU to make better use of the dialogue on environment and climate ... and open up more space for the development of China-EU relations," said Chinese Vice Premier Ding Xuexiang at the dialogue.
Diplomatic engagements have played a crucial role in shaping the China-Europe relationship. High-level exchanges and dialogues have been conducted throughout the year, reinforcing diplomatic ties and promoting understanding between the two entities.
Over the past few months, the two sides have resumed high-level dialogues of environment and climate, digitization, economy and trade, energy and strategy, and reached consensus and tangible results, greatly boosting the confidence of the business community.
Besides political ties, China has decided to implement a unilateral visa-free policy for ordinary passport holders from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain on a trial basis, a move to further facilitate people-to-people contact between the two sides.
From Dec. 1, 2023, to Nov. 30, 2024, holders of ordinary passports from the above countries may enter China visa-free for business, tourism, visiting relatives and friends and transit for no more than 15 days.
Such a move was applauded by European industries and people from all walks of life, as many were planning their trip to this exotic country.
"People need to gain first-hand experience to have a real understanding of a different country and a different culture. Many people's visits to China have changed their stereotypes of China," said Luigi Gambardella, president of ChinaEU, a business-led international digital association in Brussels.