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赖雪仪:Joint EU-China effort needed to boost Asia-Europe connectivity

2020-07-17


我院赖雪仪博士在智库“Friends of Europe”发表关于中欧关系的评论,原文如下:

A decade on from the global financial crisis and eurozone debt crisis, the world of today seems only more divided between adherents and opponents of globalisation. The outbreak of COVID-19 has shown just how connected the world already is and has served as a stark reminder of the necessity of international cooperation in such times of crisis.

The world’s top three economies, China, the European Union and the United States, should be leading global efforts. Yet the US, under the Trump administration, has chosen the path of unilateralism and ‘America First’. Now, this great responsibility falls on the shoulders of China and the EU. It is up to them to maintain their partnership and jointly sustain multilateral cooperation. China and the EU can start by enhancing the Asia-Europe relationship.

Despite the rise of nationalist and protectionist sentiments over the past decade, Asia and Europe have persisted in strengthening ties and exchanges. For instance, the EU has signed free trade agreements with South Korea, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam in the past few years to boost trade and investment flows. The highest level of exchange between Asia and Europe, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), has grown in size from 45 members in 2008 to 53 today. ASEM now accounts for 60% of global population, 65% of global economy and 75% of global tourism. A constructive relationship between Asia and Europe could ‘spill over’ to other regions of the world.

Both China and the EU support continued globalisation and recognise the untapped potential in further connecting Asia and Europe. As such, in 2013 China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), while in 2018 the EU unveiled its Strategy for EU-Asia Connectivity. Both plans seek to boost Asia-Europe connectivity. They are also founded on the shared belief that improving networks in transport, digital and energy, and bolstering people-to-people exchanges will increase the wealth and well-being of all partners involved.

 

Both sides agree on the necessity of enhancing connectivity

However, due to a number of differences – in economics, politics, values and culture – China and the EU have yet to coordinate their two connectivity initiatives, which indeed share common goals. Many EU observers view the Strategy for EU-Asia Connectivity as the EU’s counter-reaction to China’s BRI. Worse, the EU has officially labelled China as a “systemic rival” in a policy paper released in March 2019.

While the EU has voiced concerns about the sustainability, rules-based principles, and transparency of China’s BRI, the Chinese have expressed exasperation at the growing antagonism with which its desire to promote growth and development has been treated.

The current focus on divergences instead of convergences hinders not only the China-EU partnership but also their contribution to wider Asia-Europe cooperation. Both sides agree on the necessity of enhancing connectivity. They also share the understanding that no side individually can provide adequate funds to meet the enormous demand for development.

If joint efforts on an inter-regional level are not feasible for now, China and the EU can return to a basic bilateral approach. Though less well-known than other such initiatives, the EU-China Connectivity Platform established in 2015 demonstrated the willingness of both parties to cooperate on transport infrastructure development. Yet, as of its most recent meeting in 2019, no concrete project has been implemented.

 

The current focus on divergences instead of convergences hinders not only the China-EU partnership but also their contribution to wider Asia-Europe cooperation

Hopefully, the two sides can soon agree to realise some projects from the list proposed by the Expert Group meetings of the EU-China Connectivity Platform. Good practices and lessons learned from these concrete projects can serve as the basis for a code of conduct on connectivity. This bilateral code can also guide trilateral cooperation – such as joint EU-China projects with third countries in Africa or Central Asia. Eventually, the EU and China can share such codes with partners in ASEM.

This code of conduct should collect opinions from as many stakeholders as possible, namely international financial institutions, multilateral development banks, industry representatives, and civil society. Another principle to keep in mind is simplicity. As each project involves different participants, each party should be able to add those elements which are essential to their own core interests and/or values. If the basic code of conduct itself is already too long and complicated, it would make implementation of such projects difficult.

Without any concrete examples of success, policy papers and codes of conduct are just words on paper. If the EU and China want to take the lead in boosting connectivity between Asia and Europe, initiating tangible projects via the EU-China Connectivity Platform is a good start.

 

原文链接:https://www.friendsofeurope.org/insights/connectivity-views-from-east-and-west/



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