BRUSSELS — “China-EU comprehensive cooperation is conducive to global growth, peace and stability. Under the current global circumstances, both sides wish to present a positive outlook on China-Europe cooperation,” Zhang Ming, head of the mission of the People’s Republic of China to the EU, told Handelsblatt, a leading German-language business newspaper, in an interview on July 5.
China and the European Union (EU) are working intensively to prepare for the 20th China-EU summit to be held in Beijing from July 16 to 17, said the ambassador.
“The summit is expected to achieve the following goals. First it will fully demonstrate the positive commitment of China and the EU to deepen practical cooperation. And it will also highlight the consensus of the two sides on international issues and on the strategic significance of China-EU relations,” he said.
“The second goal is to chart the future course and identify new areas of cooperation. And the third goal is that in light of the current hotspot issues and global challenges, we hope to send a positive message on upholding the multilateral trading system,” said Zhang.
As to bilateral investment treaty talks, he said the two sides take the talks as a priority in the economic and trade relations.
“According to the agreement reached during last month’s China-EU High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue, both sides would seek to exchange market access offers during the upcoming summit. If that happens, it would be a significant and encouraging progress,” said Zhang.
INVESTMENT IS DEVELOPING IN MUTUAL WAY
Commenting on some European countries’ anxiety about Chinese investment, he told Handelsblatt that bilateral trade has enjoyed a fast development and exceeded $610 billion in 2017, and with that, investment is developing as well in a mutual way.
“The EU is currently the third largest source of investments for China. A growing number of Chinese companies are now going global and looking for global partners including European partners. No doubt that such investments have contributed to growth, employment and tax revenues of the host countries. Especially when the financial crisis hit Europe, Chinese investment played a positive and helpful role,” said Zhang.
“Not far from here in the city of Ghent, a factory owned by the Volvo car company was in a very difficult situation in 2008. Then a Chinese company acquired Volvo car company. With capital coming in and innovation motivated, this factory in Ghent has managed the turnaround,” he noted.
Concerning the investment screening scheme proposed by the European Commission, Zhang noted that “investment is driven by market forces. So it is not true to say that Europe does not welcome Chinese investments.”
“If an investment is not a win-win deal for both sides, it could not happen at all. If the project itself is not attractive enough, no investor would put money in. Investment is a market behavior in nature. Market as an invisible hand is playing its role. But currently unfortunately there seems to be a busy hand that is trying to do a disservice, trying to tie down the invisible hand of the market,” he said.
MORE DIFFICULT TO GO FROM EXTRAVAGANCE TO FRUGALITY
Responding to Handelsblatt’s question about governmental subsidy in China, Zhang said that “I think this is just your assumption. The pockets of the Chinese government are not as deep as you believe. And the vast majority of Chinese companies in international markets are private companies.”
European companies are very active in the Chinese market. By the end of April the EU’s stock investments in China amounted to $120 billion, accounting for 4 percent of the EU’s total stock investment overseas. And China’s stock investments in the EU amounted to a little over $80 billion, only 2 percent of the total FDI flows into the EU, said Zhang.
As for Handelsblatt’s question about the opening of the Chinese market, Zhang reaffirmed China’s commitment to further open up its markets.
“Last October and again April this year China made announcements to further open up its markets. (In June) the Chinese government announced even more measures, including the new negative lists for foreign investment, to cut restrictions on market access. These measures include further opening of 22 sectors. The manufacturing sector is now basically opened up. And the level of opening-up in the service sector has fairly increased,” said the ambassador.
“China is delivering on its promise. I have seen positive comments in European and American media on this and also by the European Chamber of Commerce in China. The business climate in China is not bad. According to a survey conducted by the World Bank, the ranking of China in terms of ease of doing business has gone up by 18 places, and the ranking in terms of setting up a business has gone up by 65 places,” he said.
According to the latest business confidence survey issued by the European Chamber of Commerce, more than 60 percent of European companies are optimistic about their future in China. Of course nobody is perfect and so is China and we will continue to improve the business environment.
“There is another fact that about 20 to 30 years ago, the decades that I personally lived through, foreign investors were granted supra-national treatments. After China’s accession to WTO in 2001, these supra-national treatments have been gradually replaced by national treatments.”
“As we Chinese often say, it is more difficult to go from extravagance to frugality than the other way round. It is natural for companies to have some complaints, but we will continue our efforts to improve business environment as I said,” he noted.