• Columnists
    Competition and cooperation, two sides of a coin
    By Zhang Ming | chinawatch.cn | Updated: 2019-04-03 11:54
    Zhang Ming

    Premier Li Keqiang will soon come to Brussels again and co-host the 21st China-EU Summit with President Donald Tusk and President Jean-Claude Juncker.

    The summit will be the last one before the end of this EU leadership mandate so it is befitting to take stock of what have been achieved in the past five years and chart the course for the future. Our teams are now working on the agenda, topics and deliverables.

    And last month, Premier Li expressed his expectations for the summit when he met the press.

    I want to emphasize that for any deliverable to move forward effectively, both sides need to make an effort. And we hope to work with the EU toward a successful summit and bring a positive and healthy China-EU relationship to the next EU leadership.

    Last month, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi co-chaired the 9th High-level Strategic Dialogue with High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, and was invited, for the first time, to an informal working lunch with the EU28 foreign ministers.

    Also, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid state visit to Italy, Monaco and France on his first overseas trip this year, which speaks volumes about China’s support for Europe.

    I have also noticed that China was on the agenda of the recent EU Summit, and that a joint communication on China was published last week.

    To me, such intensity of visits, meetings and exchanges is an indicator of the great significance that China and the EU attach to each other and to our relations.

    To get a thing right, it is crucial to grasp its defining features.

    As State Councilor Wang Yi said, cooperation is the mainstay of China-EU relations and mutual benefit is the goal.

    In 2018, our trade went over $682 billion, hitting a record high.

    For 15 years, the EU has remained China’s top trading partner, while China is the EU’s second largest trading partner. In the past 40 years of reform and opening-up, European capital, technology and management expertise have given a boost to China’s industrialization.

    And the vast Chinese market has generated huge opportunities to European companies.

    Last year, EU28 investment in China grew by more than 22 percent, the United Kingdom and Germany by 150 percent and 79 percent, respectively. Also, European companies were among the first to benefit from China’s new steps to further open up the automobile, finance, telecommunications sectors. Besides, Chinese capital, technology and services also contribute to growth and employment here in Europe, with a helping hand extended when Europe was in a difficult situation 10 years ago.

    Chinese and EU leaders have agreed on forging synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the EU Strategy for Connecting Europe and Asia. And businesses are running ahead of us by already engaging in concrete projects, in observance of international rules and market principles.

    China-EU cooperation keeps moving forward in a wide range of areas, like finance, research and innovation, and people-to-people exchanges. And more horizons could be opened in our cooperation, as we go deeper in our respective reform agendas.

    Admittedly, there is competition between us. And we won’t shy away from that. Competition in itself is not a bad thing.

    China’s development comes with a growing appreciation of the value of competition. And we have learned much about that from European partners. Without healthy and rules-based competition, businesses won’t thrive and citizens won’t get the best goods and services.

    Competition among Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, Toyota, Ford and other carmakers is what has driven sustained innovation and progress of the car industry.

    Competition and cooperation are two sides of one coin. Competition is not a you-lose-I-win or winner-take-all game. Rather, it goes hand in hand with cooperation.

    Take 5G for example. It is a product of joint innovation and international cooperation.

    The much-talked-about Huawei has a global network of 13,000 suppliers, extending to the United States, Japan, Europe and many other countries and territories.

    The global supply, industrial and value chains are so interlinked that not any country or enterprise can claim dominance. So, the interplay of competition and cooperation eventually delivers benefits to all.

    Since I started working in Brussels, I have heard complaints about so-called unfair competition. Some are saying that China is buying its way into Europe while putting barriers to the European companies’ entry into Chinese market. So Europe is no longer naive and must strive for reciprocity. There are three issues involved here.

    First, Chinese investment in Europe. A growing number of Chinese firms have an interest in expanding their global footprint, and Europe is a popular destination. But there is a myth about Chinese investment and it must be put into perspective. We appreciate the benefits brought by European enterprises to China over the decades, while Chinese business operations in Europe are still at an initial stage.

    According to Chinese statistics, Chinese investment only accounts for 2% of all foreign direct investment flowing into the EU. And Eurostat figures show that in 2017, Chinese FDI only took up 0.41 percent of total FDI received by the EU.

    Some European businessmen with long-time engagement with China told me that Chinese investment has helped with local growth and employment, and thus is something to be welcomed, not to be feared.

    Also, China’s Government Work Report pointed out the importance of further advancing China-EU bilateral investment treaty talks, which will give a boost to investment in both ways.

    Second, market access in China. Over the past two years, new measures have been introduced by the Chinese government to expand the opening. We have widened market access for foreign investors in the finance, agriculture, mining and manufacturing sectors. And in just over one year, China’s global ranking in ease of doing business went up by 32 places, according to a World Bank report.

    I have just returned from the annual session of China’s top legislature. And an important item on the agenda was the adoption of the Foreign Investment Law, which reaffirms the management system of pre-establishment national treatment plus a negative list.

    Sectors beyond the list will be fully open, with foreign investors and their Chinese counterparts being treated equally. This piece of legislation has clear provisions on intellectual property rights protection, transfer of technology and other issues of concern to foreign investors.

    Third, reciprocity. It’s true that China has developed fast. But absolute reciprocity, though it sounds nice, is still far-fetched between China, whose industrialization did not start until 40 years ago, and Europe, whose industrial revolution already started 260 years ago.

    So, it is premature to ask a Chinese U-15 soccer team to be on a par with a UEFA champion.

    Generally speaking, China’s level of development is far behind that of Europe. Our per capita GDP is only one quarter that of the EU. We just rank 87th in terms of the Human Development Index. And our industrialization is yet to be completed.

    We still have 600 million farmers whose per capital annual income is less than US$2,000. And there are 16.6 million rural people living in poverty and over 80 million people with disabilities, equivalent to the total population of Germany. A developing country is the fundamental status of China. And there is still a lot to be done to deliver a decent life to all 1.4 billion Chinese people. So, obviously, it does not make sense to force a blanket reciprocity.

    That said, China actively fulfills its due international obligations and responsibilities. And since joining the World Trade Organization, we have honored our commitment in earnest and have done even better than committed in terms of tariff cuts and opening of the services sector. And we will continue to exercise these responsibilities to the best of our capabilities.

    Zhang Ming is Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the EU.

    This article is a shortened version of the remarks by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Ming at the Friends of Europe Roundtable Debate in March.

    All rights reserved. Copying or sharing of any content for other than personal use is prohibited without prior written permission.

    Zhang Ming

    Premier Li Keqiang will soon come to Brussels again and co-host the 21st China-EU Summit with President Donald Tusk and President Jean-Claude Juncker.

    The summit will be the last one before the end of this EU leadership mandate so it is befitting to take stock of what have been achieved in the past five years and chart the course for the future. Our teams are now working on the agenda, topics and deliverables.

    And last month, Premier Li expressed his expectations for the summit when he met the press.

    I want to emphasize that for any deliverable to move forward effectively, both sides need to make an effort. And we hope to work with the EU toward a successful summit and bring a positive and healthy China-EU relationship to the next EU leadership.

    Last month, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi co-chaired the 9th High-level Strategic Dialogue with High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, and was invited, for the first time, to an informal working lunch with the EU28 foreign ministers.

    Also, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid state visit to Italy, Monaco and France on his first overseas trip this year, which speaks volumes about China’s support for Europe.

    I have also noticed that China was on the agenda of the recent EU Summit, and that a joint communication on China was published last week.

    To me, such intensity of visits, meetings and exchanges is an indicator of the great significance that China and the EU attach to each other and to our relations.

    To get a thing right, it is crucial to grasp its defining features.

    As State Councilor Wang Yi said, cooperation is the mainstay of China-EU relations and mutual benefit is the goal.

    In 2018, our trade went over $682 billion, hitting a record high.

    For 15 years, the EU has remained China’s top trading partner, while China is the EU’s second largest trading partner. In the past 40 years of reform and opening-up, European capital, technology and management expertise have given a boost to China’s industrialization.

    And the vast Chinese market has generated huge opportunities to European companies.

    Last year, EU28 investment in China grew by more than 22 percent, the United Kingdom and Germany by 150 percent and 79 percent, respectively. Also, European companies were among the first to benefit from China’s new steps to further open up the automobile, finance, telecommunications sectors. Besides, Chinese capital, technology and services also contribute to growth and employment here in Europe, with a helping hand extended when Europe was in a difficult situation 10 years ago.

    Chinese and EU leaders have agreed on forging synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the EU Strategy for Connecting Europe and Asia. And businesses are running ahead of us by already engaging in concrete projects, in observance of international rules and market principles.

    China-EU cooperation keeps moving forward in a wide range of areas, like finance, research and innovation, and people-to-people exchanges. And more horizons could be opened in our cooperation, as we go deeper in our respective reform agendas.

    Admittedly, there is competition between us. And we won’t shy away from that. Competition in itself is not a bad thing.

    China’s development comes with a growing appreciation of the value of competition. And we have learned much about that from European partners. Without healthy and rules-based competition, businesses won’t thrive and citizens won’t get the best goods and services.

    Competition among Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, Toyota, Ford and other carmakers is what has driven sustained innovation and progress of the car industry.

    Competition and cooperation are two sides of one coin. Competition is not a you-lose-I-win or winner-take-all game. Rather, it goes hand in hand with cooperation.

    Take 5G for example. It is a product of joint innovation and international cooperation.

    The much-talked-about Huawei has a global network of 13,000 suppliers, extending to the United States, Japan, Europe and many other countries and territories.

    The global supply, industrial and value chains are so interlinked that not any country or enterprise can claim dominance. So, the interplay of competition and cooperation eventually delivers benefits to all.

    Since I started working in Brussels, I have heard complaints about so-called unfair competition. Some are saying that China is buying its way into Europe while putting barriers to the European companies’ entry into Chinese market. So Europe is no longer naive and must strive for reciprocity. There are three issues involved here.

    First, Chinese investment in Europe. A growing number of Chinese firms have an interest in expanding their global footprint, and Europe is a popular destination. But there is a myth about Chinese investment and it must be put into perspective. We appreciate the benefits brought by European enterprises to China over the decades, while Chinese business operations in Europe are still at an initial stage.

    According to Chinese statistics, Chinese investment only accounts for 2% of all foreign direct investment flowing into the EU. And Eurostat figures show that in 2017, Chinese FDI only took up 0.41 percent of total FDI received by the EU.

    Some European businessmen with long-time engagement with China told me that Chinese investment has helped with local growth and employment, and thus is something to be welcomed, not to be feared.

    Also, China’s Government Work Report pointed out the importance of further advancing China-EU bilateral investment treaty talks, which will give a boost to investment in both ways.

    Second, market access in China. Over the past two years, new measures have been introduced by the Chinese government to expand the opening. We have widened market access for foreign investors in the finance, agriculture, mining and manufacturing sectors. And in just over one year, China’s global ranking in ease of doing business went up by 32 places, according to a World Bank report.

    I have just returned from the annual session of China’s top legislature. And an important item on the agenda was the adoption of the Foreign Investment Law, which reaffirms the management system of pre-establishment national treatment plus a negative list.

    Sectors beyond the list will be fully open, with foreign investors and their Chinese counterparts being treated equally. This piece of legislation has clear provisions on intellectual property rights protection, transfer of technology and other issues of concern to foreign investors.

    Third, reciprocity. It’s true that China has developed fast. But absolute reciprocity, though it sounds nice, is still far-fetched between China, whose industrialization did not start until 40 years ago, and Europe, whose industrial revolution already started 260 years ago.

    So, it is premature to ask a Chinese U-15 soccer team to be on a par with a UEFA champion.

    Generally speaking, China’s level of development is far behind that of Europe. Our per capita GDP is only one quarter that of the EU. We just rank 87th in terms of the Human Development Index. And our industrialization is yet to be completed.

    We still have 600 million farmers whose per capital annual income is less than US$2,000. And there are 16.6 million rural people living in poverty and over 80 million people with disabilities, equivalent to the total population of Germany. A developing country is the fundamental status of China. And there is still a lot to be done to deliver a decent life to all 1.4 billion Chinese people. So, obviously, it does not make sense to force a blanket reciprocity.

    That said, China actively fulfills its due international obligations and responsibilities. And since joining the World Trade Organization, we have honored our commitment in earnest and have done even better than committed in terms of tariff cuts and opening of the services sector. And we will continue to exercise these responsibilities to the best of our capabilities.

    Zhang Ming is Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the EU.

    This article is a shortened version of the remarks by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Ming at the Friends of Europe Roundtable Debate in March.

    All rights reserved. Copying or sharing of any content for other than personal use is prohibited without prior written permission.

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