Expert: China, Europe ‘have much to say and much that can be said’

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks to journalists at the Dutch embassy in Beijing, March 27, 2024. /CFP

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks to journalists at the Dutch embassy in Beijing, March 27, 2024. /CFP

China and Europe “have much to discuss and much that can be said” as recent visits by officials from European countries to Beijing signify a stronger willingness to cooperate, a Chinese expert on international relations said.

In recent weeks, China has received a number of European officials, including Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne and climate envoys from other countries, a development that echoed what Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said was a full resumption of interactions between China and Europe since the beginning of this year.

On the one hand, China and Europe need to discuss myriad matters “because events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict have had a certain impact on China-Europe relations, and some misunderstandings and prejudices between the two sides urgently need to be resolved through communication,” Chen Yang, executive director of Institute of European Studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said in an interview with

On the other hand, he added, China and Europe “have a lot that can be discussed,” as they have broad common interests and a cooperation foundation in fields such as economic and trade exchanges, and global governance.

Remarks by the visiting officials also resonated with Wang’s recent statement that Europe is understanding China with increasing rationality. Rutte, who was in Beijing late last month, said de-coupling is not a policy option for the Dutch government, as any act harming China’s development interests will hurt the Netherlands itself.

Earlier this month, the top climate diplomats sent by the European Union, Germany, France, Denmark and the Netherlands landed in Beijing, marking an unprecedented diplomatic move that was coordinated multilaterally to discuss climate change with China.

Against the backdrop of closer ties between China and EU countries were growing signs of them coordinating with the U.S. on pursuing economic and trade protectionism, which analysts attribute to not only the ideological differences between China and the West but also the fact that Western countries are facing economic and social development challenges.

The exacerbation of income inequality in EU countries has significantly affected their political development, and some politicians lay the blame on “unequal competition” caused by developing countries, represented by China, which they say is using low labor costs and government subsidies to seize markets, Li Xiangyang, director of National Institute of International Strategy (NIIS) in Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told

Nonetheless, EU members’ eagerness to communicate with both China and the United States indicates that they do not wish to take sides with either of them, Chen said.

China and the United States have different strategic objectives regarding their approaches to Europe, with the U.S. focusing on preserving the status quo while China, in pursuit of incremental growth, directing its attention to future developments, he added.