The European Union can act as an intermediary to help “harmonize” relations between China and the United States and ease their trade tensions, says an advisor to the Beijing government, who believes stronger collaboration on areas of common interest can lay the groundwork for further compromise on other fronts.
“We actually recommend that the EU, the U.S., and China should have a trilateral summit on issues like pandemic fighting, vaccine injection, production, and distribution, and also climate change,” Wang Huiyao, counselor of China’s State Council, told 150sec in an interview.
He made the comments ahead of the Horasis Extraordinary Meeting on the United States of America on Thursday, during which senior political and business officials discussed restoring trust in the U.S. global leadership.
Wang, who is also the founder and president of a leading Chinese non-government think tank called the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), says the EU is more closely aligned with the U.S. over ideological issues but has huge economic interests in the Asian superpower.
In 2019, China ranked as the EU’s second-largest trade partner behind the U.S., with two-way goods commerce valued at over €1 billion a day.
This puts the European bloc in a “unique position” to be a “mediator” and “peacemaker” between Washington and Beijing, the official added.
The world’s two largest economies have been at loggerheads over trade and economic policy for years that has led to a deterioration in relations, including the imposition of trade sanctions, mutual visa restrictions, and technology bans.
The administration of new U.S. President Joe Biden has indicated it will broadly continue a tough approach to China laid out under his predecessor Donald Trump.
However, the path forward is being explored by top officials from both sides during a two-day summit in Anchorage, Alaska, starting Thursday—the first such high-level talks since Biden took office.
The president of CCG is “cautiously” optimistic about the discussions and says dialogue is the first step that should be taken to enhance mutual understanding and tip Sino-American relations in a more cooperative direction.
Wang added that the two governments should then review their Phase 1 trade deal signed by Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping last year—which signaled a limited truce in the protracted trade war—and move on to the next phase.
The mutual removal of tariffs and other trade barriers can also help set the stage for a broader agreement down the road that can stimulate the global economy as a whole, he noted.
Asked if the U.S. would welcome the help of the EU in negotiations with China, the official said it can be a “positive influence” considering that it is a traditionally close ally of Washington.
“It can’t completely persuade the U.S. to change direction but can certainly have an influence and impact, and I think the influence would be positive. The same is true about China. The EU can influence China, too.”
Wang hailed as a “great achievement for both sides” the recently announced EU-China investment deal, which gives European businesses access to various Chinese markets in return for allowing China to make larger investments in European industries.
It would greatly facilitate business dealings between the EU and China, he said of the accord, which could enter into force in early 2022.
Human rights issues
On human rights sanctions on China, the advisor to the Beijing government stated that they reflect a double standard and are not based on the realities on the ground.
EU ambassadors, according to multiple diplomats, agreed on Wednesday to sanction four Chinese individuals and one entity over alleged human rights abuses against the country’s Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang.
The measures, which are expected to be formally approved at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday, are the first sanctions against Beijing since an EU arms embargo in 1989. The Chinese government has said it will retaliate against any EU sanctions.
Last summer, the EU approved some penalties on China over its actions to contain anti-government protests in Hong Kong, which critics fear could undermine the pro-democracy opposition and crush freedoms. The U.S. has also levied human rights sanctions on the country.
Wang said different countries have “ideological differences” on various issues and China chooses a model that works better for it.
There is no universal model of governance and countries should not try to impose their model on others, he noted, adding, “We have to have a peaceful consultation and learn from each other rather than condemn each other.”
The counselor of China’s State Council says Hong Kong is “flourishing” again following the measures taken to restore order and is no longer “dead” or in a “chaotic situation”.
He compared China’s measures in the former British colony to the move by the police force to secure the U.S. Capitol when it was overrun by a mob of Trump supporters in January or similar actions aimed at protecting security. “There’s a double standard issue here.”
Wang also dismissed the outgoing Trump administration’s accusations of “genocide” in Xinjiang, saying that such “exaggerated” statements have no basis in fact.
The official acknowledged that the situation is not “perfect” in the remote region of Xinjiang, adding that the government is working to improve the situation and address this “challenge”.
The path ahead
When asked if the U.S. is on the right track to burnish its global image that was tarnished during the presidency of nationalist Trump, the founder of CCG said the fact that Washington has rejoined the Paris climate deal indicates its support for multilateralism.
“I think there’s many good things we can work together on rather than being focused on geopolitical tensions. Let’s work on our common interests for mankind and for the future of mankind,” he noted.
In fact, China and the U.S., as global economic powerhouses, have a “moral responsibility” to work together and with other countries to help build a better world, Wang concluded.