The EU, China and the quest for a multilateral world

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The accelerated rise of the Chinese economy and the deepening of its relationship with the EU are likely to facilitate a change of forces in the international system and help promote the multipolarisation of international relations, argued panelists at a 2006 IFRI conference entitled “The EU, China and the quest for a multilateral world.”

The report first looks back at the thirty years of EU-China cooperation since formal diplomatic relations were established in 1975. 

The second part looks to the future of the relationship, with regard to new global issues such as sustainable development and the internal evolution of both partners. 

Following 25 years of continuous development, China has become the third-largest trader in the world. Meanwhile, the EU has expanded – both geographically and politically – and the world has experienced major changes, making countries in the globalisation process increasingly interdependent. 

The report therefore concludes that the deepening of relations between China and the EU is the natural consequence of great changes in the international situation.

China and the EU, although very different, also share major strategic concerns whose solutions depend on the widening and strengthening of the multilateral system, states the report.

Multilateralism, as described by Professor Xu Jian, is the “mechanism by which nation states re-adjust the way in which sovereignty is performed so as to better define both state interest and the common interest of the international community.” 

According to the panelists, China shares the European view of a world governed by rules created and monitored by multilateral institutions. 

While China and the EU already have a complementary economic relationship in manufacturing activities, the energy sector could lead to growing mutual benefits in the future. 

Moreover, as global players, the EU and China have a responsibility to work together to address the global challenges facing the world today – climate change, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and conflict resolution, say the authors; EU-China relations will therefore go from strength to strength, even if both must work hard to retain their position as global actors, concludes the report. 

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