We are in good hands – reflections upon the speech of the EU Ambassador to China Mr Nicolas Chapuis during International Think Tank Forum in Commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of China’s Reform and Opening-Up in Shenzhen.
It took me some time to think over what the EU Ambassador to China Mr. Nicolas Chapuis decided to convey during his speech in Shenzhen last month. My immediate feeling was: finally, among the current cold-war like narrative around China, there is an EU representative not concentrating on confrontation, but openly and charismatically highlighting the concept of interdependence and the need for cooperation in relation to China. Ambassador Chapuis’ remarks oscillated around the following rhetorical questions: ‘What do we want? Do we want the world of war and confrontation or a world of cooperation?’ This remarks immediately drew attention of the whole public, which consisted (among others) of the Chinese, US, EU and UN delegates.
There are couple of reasons that postponed the publication of the following article. Firstly, the speech of the VP Mike Pence on the 4th of October, that presented a very critical approach towards China. It gave an impression of Washington treating Beijing as a rival and opponent in the zero-sum game. Secondly, the speech given in the middle of October by Micheal Weiss, that shocked the Central Eastern Europe. Speaking at the Atlantic Council Forum, he stated that the region lies in the Chinese sphere influences. Coming from CEE, I could hardly believe what I heard. Firstly, because the amount of investment coming to CEE is marginal when compared to the Chinese FDIs coming to Western Europe. Another shock came at the end of October, when a retired US general Ben Hodges announced at the Warsaw Security Forum (WSF) that we should prepare for the war with China within the next 15 years (his statement was followed by much disagreement in the corridors of WSF). Generally, to many people events of October seemed like a prelude to another kind of cold-war. It is in this tense international atmosphere, that I strongly support the EU Ambassador’s words that the need of cooperation and partnership is still much stronger than that of confrontation.
Mr Nicolas Chapuis had a chance to observe the opening up of China since 1979. It was the first time he paid a visit to the country, which back then was facing challenges of overcoming poverty and developing a new approach towards its economy. His 40 years of experience in observing the Chinese transformation, along with a personal charisma, openess and fluency in Chinese, made him perfectly tailored for the job. Being very far from giving compliments to politicians and administration on a daily basis, I must confess, that I feel proud of having such a representative in China. In the difficult months and years that are coming in connection to the trade wars, we certainly need more dialogue and understanding. Policy makers’ widespread confrontations and mistrust of each other will not to the peaceful and prosperous future. On the other hand, the speech wasn’t only optimistic, as the public’s attention was also shifted to the emerging challenges, i.e. the theft of intellectual property. EU wants to engage with China on a positive agenda, without omitting difficult topics, such as human rights.
The critical question posed by Ambassador Chapuis was how can China, having restored wealth and power, quest for more prosperity and more power taking into account the rest of the world. The future debate should concentrate on how Chinese and European governments are going to think about development via interdependence (huxiang yilai). Interdependence can potentially be a balanced driver of growth. Mr Chapuis added that China should consider the EU with open eyes and that the EU wants to work with China on an international level on many issues: ‘We are going to become a power- we are the payer, and we are going to become a player.’ Moreover, Ambassador added that the best way for the further development of relations is dialogue and engagement. China can play an important role in creating conditions for the global community. Ambassador Chapuis also expressed his hope about China’s fight against the climate change by developing the sector of electric cars and maintaining a policy of sustainable development. Innovation seems to be the next crucial driver for the Chinese growth, and we should prepare for that.
To sum up, the cold-war narrative of recent months provoked many vivid discussions in Poland. Unfortunately, many Polish experts concentrated solely on the Beijing-Washington conflict without paying enough attention to the potential EU’s role in the dispute. In the world of confrontation EU members should concentrate on elaborating a common agenda on pursuing contacts with China. It’s vitaly crucial today in order to support peaceful and respectful cooperation between nations, rather than to pour salt on the wound of the so-called ‚war-narrative’.