Europe is an irreplaceable 'heavyweight partner'

context: Europe Watch is an academic community made up of European studies scholars at Fudan University. Its latest discussions were held right before the 24th and latest annual EU–PRC summit, a crucial high-level meeting held in Beijing.

On 6 December, members of Europe Watch and invited guests discussed Sino–European relations. One of the issues they debated was Europe's position in China's diplomacy.

Song Lilei 宋黎磊 Tongji University School of Politics and International Relations professor and Centre for European Studies deputy director stated that Europe's position in China's foreign strategy can be examined from three dimensions, in particular

  • is the Sino–European relationship an integral part of the Sino–American relationship?
  • Europe's continued decline, though a long-term process, will inevitably affect China's 'strategic judgment' in foreign policy
  • the EU has never been China's 'primary partner' in its great power diplomacy

Although Europe's economy is showing a downward trend, China's economic and trade ties with Europe, and engagements in other fields, are still irreplaceable, claims Jian Junbo 简军波 Fudan University Centre for China–EU Relations deputy director. To prove his point he brought up the following arguments

  • the European market does not have an alternative in the short term
  • the Global South has potential as a substitute market, but it is not clear whether its rapid development is sustainable considering the setback of globalisation

Jian added that Europe is also China's important partner in international governance. He concluded that strengthening cooperation with Europe cannot be ignored.

Zhang Biao 张飚 China University of Political Science and Law School of Political Science and Public Administration said that Europe still occupies an important position in China's foreign policy. The government always stresses that it views Sino–European relations 'from a strategic height.' It means, he stressed, that Europe is officially positioned as a 'heavyweight' and is considered to play a key role in the global order and the great powers' relations.