Xi’s fruitful Europe visit brings new impetus to ties

By Wang Wenwen and Zhao Juecheng in Budapest Published: May 11, 2024 12:38 AM

President Xi Jinping left Budapest on Friday, wrapping up his fruitful three-nation Europe visit, which both Chinese and European analysts believe injects momentum into China-Europe relations as well as future multipolarity and global stability.

At a farewell event held by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his wife on Friday, Xi said China is now advancing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through Chinese modernization, and China’s high-quality development and opening-up will provide more opportunities for Hungary.

On Thursday, China and Hungary decided to elevate bilateral relations to an all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership for the new era. To enrich the new relationship, the two sides are committed to enhancing synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Hungary’s “Eastern Opening” policy, said a joint statement released after Xi’s meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

According to the statement, the two sides will further deepen cooperation on finance, encourage financial institutions of both sides to provide financing support and financial services for trade and investment cooperation, further tap the cooperation potential in green finance and other fields, and continue to jointly issue green Panda bonds. They will also strengthen exchanges and cooperation on land and spatial planning, expand cultural and people-to-people exchanges and cooperation, and strengthen coordination and communication on tourism policies.

“In a world clouded by the threat of protectionism and economic decoupling disguised as de-risking, economic and trade cooperation needs a surrounding atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. The now elevated strategic partnership between China and Hungary can generate not only such a solid atmosphere, but also the solid ground for long-term secure investment environment,” Zoltan Kiszelly, director for political analysis of the Budapest-based political think tank Szazadveg Foundation, told the Global Times. 

Hungary was the last leg of Xi’s Europe visit, which also included France and Serbia. This is the first time in five years that Xi has visited Europe, and each stop during the trip had its own highlights and memorable moments. 

In Serbia, Xi was greeted by thousands of Serbians in Belgrade. President Xi and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic signed a joint statement on the building of a China-Serbia community with a shared future in the new era, making Serbia the first European country to build such a community with China. In the joint statement, the two countries decided to deepen and elevate the China-Serbia comprehensive strategic partnership. 

On his first day in France, President Xi said during a trilateral meeting in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that China-EU cooperation is “complementary and mutually beneficial” in essence. China-EU relations enjoy a strong endogenous driving force and bright prospects for development, and this relationship does not target any third party, nor should it be dependent on or dictated by any third party, Xi added.

Xi and Macron also held talks at the Elysee Palace. President Xi said that the two sides should stay committed to the spirit that guided the establishment of their diplomatic ties, namely, independence, mutual understanding, long-term vision and mutual benefit, and enrich it with new features of the new era. Xi and Macron also reached agreements to strengthen cooperation among small and medium-sized enterprises.

The next day, amid falling snow in the picturesque mountains in the Hautes-Pyrenees Department in southwestern France, Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan were warmly received by Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron at a mountain restaurant for a closed meeting. Experts believe that this personal touch marks a new climax in high-level exchanges that can boost mutual trust and understanding.

Building trust

Despite the EU’s definition of China as “a partner for cooperation, an economic competitor and a systemic rival” and voices calling for de-risking, a milder version of the US’ “decoupling” rhetoric, President Xi’s Europe trip was preceded by a series of visits from European leaders to China this year – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the prime ministers of Belgium and the Netherlands. Serbian President Vucic and Hungarian Prime Minister Orban both participated in the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation when they held bilateral talks with President Xi.

Zivadin Jovanovic, president of the Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals, who served as the minister of foreign affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between 1998 and 2000, told the Global Times that President Xi’s Europe visit represents continuity of the highest-level dialogue and expression of a mutual interest to reinforce the strategic Europe-China partnership and cooperation.

“The visits to France, Serbia and Hungary, as well as the tripartite meeting between Xi, Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have led to the conclusion of many new agreements for future cooperation and to the removing of unnecessary barriers,” Jovanovic said.

Some Chinese experts noted that as intensifying major-power competition and geopolitical rivalry deal a heavy blow to the existing global order, the importance of China-Europe relations is rising, as is the complexity of this relationship. There have been voices from Western media saying that China’s boosting of its relations with Europe aims to undermine the transatlantic relationship between Europe and the US and even to undermine the European Union. 

Xin Hua, director and chair professor of the Center for European Union Studies, Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times that this mind-set underestimates Europe’s interests.

“China and Europe need each other. In a certain sense, Europe needs China to counterbalance the US, given the contradictions and divergences between Europe and the US. Europe will not shut its door to developing relations with China,” said Xin.

“There is no fundamental conflict of interests between China and Europe. For Europe, the real risk would be to do without China,” Sébastien Périmony, an expert from the Schiller Institute in France, told the Global Times.

He Zhigao, a research fellow with the Institute of European Studies from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that if China and Europe work together, camp confrontation, bloc politics and a new Cold War will not emerge, and this is related to the future of an equal and orderly multipolarity.

“From the perspective of global economic development, if China and Europe work together to develop, protectionism, decoupling and de-risking will not happen. This is related to the future of inclusive globalization,” said He.

Périmony added that it is obvious to any rational person that the only solution to today’s problems lies in a multipolar world based on the concept of mutual development, with new agreements in place for a security architecture and win-win growth strategies for all of the world’s nations.

Source: https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202405/1312061.shtml

Author: Београдски форум