Marking the 45th anniversary of their diplomatic ties on May 6, the European Union and China have enjoyed sound bilateral relations over the period of time. However, the year 2020 can prove as a turning point for EU-China relations as the world grapples with a global challenge in the face of COVID-19 pandemic. Experts have asserted that a worldwide fight against Coronavirus can reform the relations between China and the EU, suggesting countries to work on strengthening their relations.
As the world struggles to flatten the Coronavirus curve, China’s support for European countries will be viewed as consequential in the world governance systems. Moreover, this year held crucial importance for China-Europe relations as prominent decisions were to be made on key issues as 5G licensing rules in Europe and a bilateral investment agreement. The Comprehensive Investment Agreement between the two countries, which would have resulted in the development of a broader free trade agreement, was on the brink of finalization.
Furthermore, the pandemic has haltered several planned activities including a series of summits in Brussels, Beijing, and Leipzig that would have enhanced the economic and business cooperation between the two global powers. Apart from the annual China-EU summit in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping was scheduled to travel to Leipzig for a special summit in September 2020 hosted by Chancellor of Germany Angela Markel in the presence of leaders of all 27 EU member states. No decisions on these summits have been taken yet.
Meanwhile, the focus has largely shifted to fighting the virus in a united way. As China was one of the first countries to counter the COVID-19 disease, Europe helped the Mainland by offering necessary medical assistance as early as in February. After the disease spread across European countries, China also sent multiple freight trains carrying medical supplies.
Notably, China and the EU are strategic markets for each other, trading on an average of over a billion euros every day. China is the second-largest trading partner for the EU after the United States. At the same time, the European Union is the largest trading partner for Beijing.
However, there have been some differences in opinions on questions of norms and values from both sides during the decades-old cooperation. China’s mismanagement of the pandemic crisis has also had a critical impact on Europe’s views on Beijing. Nevertheless, amidst these differences, analysts have called for closer cooperation and intensified dialogue mechanism to uphold multilateralism in addressing the global challenges.
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