China-EU summit: More appearance than substance
Updated at Wednesday, 17 Apr 2019, 05:33
The Hanoitimes - So far so good. The point - and the problem – is that all agreements are too general and too vague to be really useful.
This year's EU-China summit had a better fate than the last year's one because of a joint statement signed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Head of the European Council Donald Tusk. The two sides could not issue a joint statement at last year’s summit.
This joint statement sounded mostly like the EU was the winner. According to it, the EU and China agreed on three quite sensitive fronts: China commits to ease industrial subsidies and the obligation of technological transfers; a substantial opening-up of the Chinese market to EU companies and a complex, wide-ranging EU-China investment deal two sides want to sign "by the end of next year or earlier". These have been the compromises from the Chinese side that the EU has been fighting for a long time. The US also wants to have those concessions but until now the world’s largest power has been consistently refused by China.
European Council President Donald Tusk, left, with China's Prime Minister Li Keqiang. Photo: Stephanie Lecocq/EPA
In exchange, the EU did not blast China as a "systemic rival" as China was named in the recent report "EU-China: A Strategic Outlook" of the bloc, as well as no accusations of "unfair" trade hurled at China and no critics against China's records on democracy and human rights. On the contrary, the EU talked with China about engaging in building some sort of synergy between China's Belt and Road Initiative and the EU's Connecting Europe and Asia Project.
So far so good. The point - and the problem – is that all agreements are too general and too vague to be really useful. They are very hard to be both quantified and qualified. China's compromises to the EU were for the first time in an official statement with the bloc but in principle nothing new while the EU's restraint from criticizing China is very important to the Asian country.
The results of this EU-China annual summit seemingly created the impression that all problems existing between the EU and China were headed for solutions which satisfy both sides. But in reality, they postponed resolving them. They had to be so and had to do that for the need to be united to deal with trade conflicts with the US and not to let the US sow division between the EU and China.
Both the EU and China showed satisfaction with this summit. Mr. Juncker even praised it as a "breakthrough". But he has to be franker and more objective to recognize it’s more about appearance than substance.
Ambassador Tran Duc Mau