He also expects the European population (欧洲民众) to increasingly gain better understanding of the Belt and Road Initiative. He also observes that implementation of the investment screening mechanism will inevitably lead the EU to seek a new balance between market protectionism and openness. In short, the situation is far from being all black. Over the long term, the two sides have a "common interest in cooperation, not confrontation" (合作而非对抗).
Wang Haochen ends his recommendations on how to promote convergence between the Belt and Road Initiative and the EU Investment Plan, and places importance on the learning curve of Chinese firms operating in Europe. It is understandable that the concentration of Chinese investment in M&As and shareholding creates opposition forces in Europe. The answer to dispel such concerns is to increase joint investment in third countries and greenfield investment inside Europe, also together with European firms. The long-term game for Chinese firms is to get European companies accustomed to cooperation with China so that the Europeans "improve their attitude" (改善态度).
Interests over rules
Such optimism should be placed in the larger framework of China’s foreign policy strategy. Ambassador Su Ge, Chairman of China’s National Committee for Pacific Economic Cooperation, recalls the outcome of the June 2018 Central Work Conference on Foreign Affairs that took place in Beijing and was the occasion to pin down China’s foreign policy strategy, or in his own words, "great power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics under the guidance of Xi Jinping thought". The priority defined in 2018 is to "stabilize great power relations" in the context of the US trade war. As a result, deepening China’s relations with the EU, France, the UK and Germany is a matter of strategic balance, and Chinese optimism is also a diplomatic effort to create positive outcomes.
As Sun Yan from the European Studies Department of the China Academy of Social Sciences makes it clear, the main challenge in EU-China relations is how the two sides manage their "normative competition" (规则之争). On this issue, like many Chinese analysts, she places expediency and relative power over absolute values. "In reality, in this world, there is no absolute justice in international rules, and no international system is able to fully satisfy all its stakeholders. The best rule is to grasp the guiding principles and the big direction of the interests of all stakeholders and set rules that take good care of the interests of the majority of countries". This vision of international rules and standards as reflecting a global balance of power rather than any benchmarking or best practices also permeates Chinese analyses of the ongoing investment negotiation with Europe.
(1) "Make joint efforts with a positive and pragmatic attitude to reach a win-win bilateral investment treaty, and launch a joint feasibility study on China-EU Free Trade Area at an early date to build a sound institutional framework for upgrading the economic and trade cooperation". "China’s Policy Paper on the European Union", Xinhua, 18 December 2018. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-12/18/c_137681829.htm