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How should China and EU approach their relationship?

Leaders at the 23rd China-EU Summit presented different approaches for resolving the conflict in Ukraine, but they all sought peace and stability in the European peninsula. As ripple effects of the war reach regional economies, some of which are Beijing's key trade partners, the bloc would soon understand that the continent's security is in Chinese interests too.

Beijing and Brussels agreed that the war threatened international security and the global economy, European Council President Charles Michel tweeted. As major global powers and leading economies, they have a "shared responsibility" toward global security. There's also a need to count on this consensus and act independently and increase communication to safeguard international economy and stability.

An assessment of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) last month warned of the negative impacts of the conflict on the international economy and its alarming implications for the developing countries, especially the ones in Africa, as well as least-developed nations. The evolving situation necessitates an increased cooperation between China and the EU as the global body has downgraded global economic growth forecast from 3.6 percent to 2.6 percent for 2022.

The rapidly worsening economic outlook from the UNCTAD is a stark reminder of cataclysmic effects of the war. With conflict putting further upward pressure on energy and staple food prices and adding to production costs, trade disruptions and sanctions may have a crippling effect on long-term investment. These factors, coupled with heightened financial volatility and complex global supply chain reconfigurations, could mark a potential shift from land to "expensive and overstretched" maritime transport between Asia and Europe.

Even in a pandemic-stricken 2021, China's trade with the EU rose 27.5 percent to more than $828 billion. The China-Europe freight train service, an important component of the Belt and Road Initiative, also reported sizable growth of 22 percent, making 15,000 trips last year. This mutually beneficial partnership and deepening bilateral relationship shouldn't be influenced by the U.S.-concocted "China threat" narrative.

Realizing the intensity of economic challenges, Brussels took the summit as an opportunity to pore over the state of its relationship with Beijing and reiterate the importance of cooperation in the areas of mutual interest, including trade, climate change and health, to pave the way for the next high-level trade and economic and digital dialogues, foster constructive engagement on decarbonization and mull over an international plan to respond to future health crises.

At the summit, China and the EU evaluated the progress on bilateral cooperation and mandated top-ranking consultations to make headway on issues including environment, trade, digital technology, energy and food security. Brussels supported the one-China principle and intended to move toward renewables and decarbonization with Beijing. It explained the European leaders were deeply concerned about economic fallouts of the conflict, expecting China to play a positive role in the middle of an uncertain regional economic future.

Ahead of the meeting, Brussels argued neutrality wasn't possible in the Moscow-Kyiv conflict. The stance is a bit too hard and oppugnant to the norms of diplomacy and international relations. Since the EU goals, such as establishing a ceasefire, ensuring safe humanitarian corridors and quickly ending the war, are in tune with those of China to obviate the risks of further escalation, the bloc ought not to oppose an objective and impartial position that provides a fair view of the conflict and may help to calm tensions.


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