“Adhering to the Right Direction of China-EU Relations”, Ambassador Zhang Ming’s Farewell Letter

(Credit: The European Sting)

This article was published first at The European Sting and was written by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Head of Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union, His Excellency Mr. Zhang Ming. The opinions expressed in this article belong to our distinguished writer.


Dear Friends,

I took the position as the 14th Chinese Ambassador to the European Union in October 2017. Looking back over the past four years, my colleagues and I have made utmost efforts to promote the development of China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. We’ve had the good days and the not-so-good days. But at the end of the day, I’m relieved to see that China-EU cooperation has been making progress. On my departure, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to friends and colleagues from the European side for your care and support to China-EU relations as well as the work of the Chinese Mission and myself.

As pointed out by President Xi Jinping, China and Europe are two major forces, markets and civilizations. What we support and oppose means a lot to the world. After four years in Brussels, I fully relate to these remarks. Despite recent difficulties in bilateral relations, I’m still convinced that developing China-EU relations is in the interest of both sides, our two peoples, and the world. It’s a must rather than an option to strengthen China-EU cooperation.

To this end, we need to build our relations based on four keywords.

The first is perception. We need to stick to the right perception towards each other, which is the premise of healthy bilateral ties. The world is undergoing profound changes. China-EU relations are changing as well. What remains unchanged is China’s attitude towards Europe. Since the two sides established diplomatic ties in 1975, China has always maintained a highly stable and positive EU policy. Despite differences in systems, we sincerely believe that comprehensive strategic partnership remains our only appropriate positioning. We hope friends from the European side may also stand by such perception, and work with China to bring bilateral relations back to the track of cooperation.

This brings me to my second keyword: cooperation. We need to ensure win-win cooperation remains the mainstream of China-EU relations. There are already 70-plus dialogue and cooperation mechanisms between the two sides, which reflect the depth and breadth of bilateral cooperation. During the pandemic, such cooperation has demonstrated once again its resilience and vitality. Bilateral trade forged ahead against difficulties, and China became the largest trading partner of the EU. Looking into the post-pandemic era, China and the EU should cooperate to broaden common interests, which is vital for the economic recovery, green and digital transition of both sides and the world. To create a favorable environment for such cooperation, we need to oppose protectionism, decoupling and jointly uphold multilateralism.

Multilateralism, of course, is my third keyword, which is also our consensus and shared responsibility. One lesson we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic is that no country can face global challenges alone. For China and Europe, both important players on the global stage, the answer lies in sustaining multilateralism. We should uphold the central role of the UN in international affairs and reinforce the WTO-based multilateral trade system. Going forward, we should collaborate on the rollout of vaccines, the recovery of the world economy and the global climate cause. Joining hands, our close cooperation will become a victory of multilateralism.

Last but not least, management. We need to properly manage our differences through communication. China and the EU are different in history, culture, social system and development stage. It’s only natural that we sometimes have differences. The key is how to properly manage them. There is of course no magic formula, but communication and mutual respect are surely better than unilateral measures and forced will. I believe the splendid civilization of China and Europe shall equip us with the wisdom to manage our differences while also retaining our diversity.

It is a challenging time we live in. It is a hopeful time we live in. How will we rise to challenges? How will we realize our hopes? Though I’ll be leaving Brussels, I will always watch China-EU relations with hope whenever and wherever I am. I strongly believe that our relations will have a better tomorrow! Now, this better tomorrow calls for the joint efforts of you and I.

I wish you all an early Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in 2022 and the Year of the Tiger!

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