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Friday, November 6, 2015

What’s Ahead for Sino-EU Ties

The day’s speakers included: Vice Chairperson of China’s 12th NPC Standing Committee Yan Junqi (centre), Former European Commission President Romano Prodi (3rd right), CEIBS Chinese President and Professor of Management Li Mingjun (3rd left), CEIBS European President Professor Pedro Nueno (2nd left), SIIS President Professor Chen Dongxiao (right), Founder of Chengwei Capital Eric Li (left), SIIS Director of Academic Committee Dr. Yang Jiemian (2nd right). 

November 6, 2015. Shanghai – High level officials from both sides of the 40 year old EU-China relationship gathered at CEIBS Shanghai Campus today for a frank assessment of what’s ahead. The talks during a CEIBS-organised symposium come on the heels of a flurry of official visits over the last two months between China, the UK, Germany and France. CEIBS, established 21 years ago as joint venture between the EU and China, was the perfect vehicle to host the event, along with co-organiser Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS). The day saw presentations from Former European Commission President Romano Prodi, Chairperson of the China Association for Promoting Democracy Yan Junqi, Founder of Chengwei Capital Eric Li, members of the CEIBS leadership, as well as other members of academia and government.

Here are a few highlights from the day’s event which was moderated by CEIBS Vice President & Dean Professor Ding Yuan:

In his welcome address, CEIBS Chinese President and Professor of Management, Li Mingjun, spoke about the role the school has played in fostering EU-China ties over the last two decades and its eagerness to continue this trend in the years ahead.

SIIS President Professor Chen Dongxiao spoke of the need to focus more on empathy in building mutual trust between the EU and China. The SIIS is one of the Top 10 think tanks in China in the field of international diplomacy.

Yan Junqi, who is also Vice Chairperson of China’s 12th NPC Standing Committee and a member of the CEIBS Board, noted during her opening address that the Sino-European relationship is growing in importance as evidence by bilateral trade which now stands at 467.3 billion euros. She is confident that the relationship will continue to be a fruitful one that will benefit the entire world.

Speaking in his capacity as an individual, Romano Prodi, who is also the former Prime Minister of Italy and current Sino-Europe Dialogue Chair Professor and Member of the Board at CEIBS, summed up the EU-China relationship in a metaphor that many other participants referenced throughout the three-hour event. “There have been some years of tension, long periods of honeymoon but never a marriage – and never a divorce though there have been difficult moments. There have been many children,” he said with a chuckle. In his keynote speech he looked back at the last four decades and also at what comes next. China, he said, is clearly backing the EU which is itself showing increasing interest in China as evidenced by the reception President Xi got in the UK during his recent trip, the recent visit to China by French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s frequent visits. He also noted the UK’s “completely different policy from the US” on the AIIB, saying all these moves were hints at what’s ahead for Sino-European ties.

In the day’s second keynote speech, SIIS Director of Academic Committee Dr. Yang Jiemian spoke of the need to actually implement the four goals outlined in the EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation, the need to broaden and strengthen the China-Europe relationship, for both countries to work more closely on global and regional affairs as well as new concepts and ideas, and for academics to shoulder the responsibility of promoting the China Europe partnership in the years ahead.

During the panel discussion that followed, Eric Li noted that Sino European ties are becoming increasingly unpredictable as both sides are going through “a sea change in their outlook” with “China becoming qualitatively more ambitious in posture… and the opposite happening in Europe.”

In the Q&A session moderated by Founder of the Euro-China Forum David Gosset, participants – which included members of the diplomatic corps and the business community – asked about issues such as how to inject romance in the EU-China relationship after 40 years, the feasibility of a Europe-China think tank, if China’s interaction with individual states will eventually weaken the EU, how to reduce scepticism and mistrust on both sides, and if the EU will grow in members.

In closing, CEIBS European President Professor Pedro Nueno cited the school as one example of what can be accomplished when China and the EU work together. Participants continued their discussions over dinner. 

Charmaine N. Clarke