China wants to improve lives, not create rivalries, says Ambassador to EU Zhang Ming
Andrew Wilson


As China's Two Sessions gatherings get under way, the economic headline has to be the country's recently agreed investment deal with the European Union. 

It is being sold as a positive sign of multilateral economics at work, but also as a deal that need not necessarily exclude any other party.

The agreement has centered on opening up Chinese markets for European investment, but it also goes some way to addressing Chinese practices opposed by the EU concerning industrial subsidies, state control of enterprises and forced technology transfers.

China's ambassador to the EU, Zhang Ming, says a new partnership with EU need not frustrate any U.S. alliance with the European bloc.

"There are some noises across the Atlantic, saying that China is the major competitor, or challenge to the West," he said.

"I want to stress here that China knows well what it is doing and what it should do. 

"We just eradicated extreme poverty. There is a lot more to be done to deliver a better life for the 1.4 billion Chinese people.

"China does not have the time and energy or interest to be anyone's rival."



The sentiment is clear, but it does set the stage for talks that must eventually take place between Beijing and the new administration in Washington.

"The development of EU-U.S. relations," he went on, "should not affect the normal development of China relations, still less at the expense of China EU relations."

China will, of course, announce its five-year plan in the next few days, but much of the discussion about multilateralism is focusing on the pandemic and the route out of COVID-19 into recovery.

Already the first EU country has taken one of the Chinese vaccines and the country's officials are insisting that Beijing understands the need for international equity on pandemic prevention.

"Our efforts are only as strong as the weakest link," said Ambassador Zhang. "In the COVID-19 response, people and life always come first."

It's clear that China's closer association with the EU will allow it to demonstrate a willingness to get involved in international pandemic action and push back against accusations of "vaccine nationalism."

Another big question in London will be the effect of a post-Brexit EU deal with China and the implications that has for the UK and the recent deterioration in relations with Beijing over Hong Kong and 5G telecoms.

Thus far, outside players are clearly reserving judgment on those prospects.

"This is between the UK and EU. China will not interfere or comment," said Zhang.

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