With Chinese President Xi Jinping due to visit Brussels on Monday, influential Member of the European Parliament Elmar Brok says EU-China relations are at a "critical" stage and depend on both sides to develop them in fruitful and positive ways.
In the light of today′s global geopolitics, the "self-contained" pursuit of national interests has become "unrealistic" – in Europe just as much as in China and what is needed now is that both sides should "make the necessary efforts and that both should foster mutual trust."
But, says German deputy Brok,"it's not only on the EU side that EU-China relations are at a pivotal point: The EU also expects its Chinese partner "to behave" according to its "rhetoric."
Brok is the current chairman of the European Parliament´s Committee on Foreign Affairs. He was elected on the CDU ticket and sits with the European People's Party group, easily the biggest and most influential in the Brussels-based assembly.
On the Chinese President´s current visit to Europe, which will take in Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, Brok says,"The fact that the Chinese President is visiting Brussels with a large delegation demonstrates the deep and important relations between China and the European Union.
"China and the EU have become increasingly close trading partners. Trade has been a vital source of China's economic boom, but it depends on the commitment to open borders. The meetings in Brussels are therefore a particularly good occasion to discuss how to deepen our trade relations which is in our mutual interest."
Politically and with an eye on current tumultuous events in Ukraine, Brok hopes the visit by Xi Jinping marks China's increased involvement in becoming a "stabilising player" on the international scene.
The centre-right politician, who is widely respected on all sides of the political spectrum, also hopes that China s market-oriented reforms will make the superpower ever more efficient.
"One thing is clear," he believes. "China's economic success depended on the market-oriented reforms of the past. This path of reforms must continue."
An MEP since 1980, Brok has held many leadership positions in German and European politics. As a member of the Convention on the Constitution for Europe he contributed crucially to the Constitution of the European Union.
Turning to China´s new political leadership,he speaks glowingly of 60-year-old Xi, who rules over 1.3 billion people - close to 20% of the world's population.
"I am very pleased Xi Jinping has chosen to come to Brussels to meet with EU leaders," commented Brok. "It demonstrates his interest and commitment, and that of the entire Chinese leadership, to deepen ties between the EU and China."
"Even with economic growth slowing down, China remains an economic powerhouse. The question is rather how China uses its economic clout to become a political source of stability in a world increasingly marked by friction."
The Westphalia-born Brok, aged 67, is also impressed by China´s efforts to fight corruption.
"Corruption is always, in any country and society, an obstacle to growth and progress. A stable and durable long-term economic development is only possible when corruption and its sources are being tackled. This includes establishing and respecting the rule of law and respecting human rights."
In a wide-ranging interview, Brok says China wants Europe to be its partner, just as Europe wants a strategic partnership with China.
EU-China relations, he believes, have become "deeper and deeper" over the years, "reflecting a mutual respect and closer trade links."
He goes on, "It is in our joint interest to create the conditions to further deepen our relations. This also includes creating stable legal conditions for European investment in China, just as China enjoys stable legal conditions in Europe."
One cause for concern, however, are current China/Japan relations and, on these, he says, "China has inherent interest in geopolitical stability, world-wide and in Asia in particular, not least since China's economic boom depends on open borders and global trade. This interest carries an obligation to assume responsibility for regional stability in Asia, and presumes a policy based on respect, mutual trust, and actions aimed at dissipating tensions."
Nearly everybody would agree, he argues, that no single nation can tackle today’s challenges alone, adding that the economies and security of Europe and China are interconnected. To handle global challenges, he believes the EU, the U.S. and China must all play a "prominent" role within the international community and contribute to a "stronger, fairer and more effective" multi-lateral system.
The history and reality of EU-China relations is of co-operation and rapprochement, but also one of conflicts and tensions, the German veteran points out.
In the light of today's global geopolitics, the "self-contained" pursuit of national interests has become "unrealistic" – in Europe just as much as in China and what is needed now is that both sides should "make the necessary efforts and that both should foster mutual trust."
He also supports those who call for a "new type" of relationship between the US and China, adding, "I think it is clear by the sheer size and nature of their economies and the importance of their political actions that the United States and China do have an important relationship.
But, as he is keen to emphasise,words are easily spoken…"we must see the reality beyond the rhetoric."