Envoy to France: China, Europe not mutual threat

Ambassador urges lifting trade barriers and reinvigorating bilateral exchanges

China and Europe "do not pose a geopolitical, strategic threat to each other", and they should work hard to eliminate divergences and prejudice, said Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye, a member of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

"Chinese warships do not sail to Europe to 'flex their muscle'. Individual European countries have followed the US 'Indo-Pacific strategy' and sent warships to China's doorstep, making China their target," he noted.

In an exclusive interview with China Daily, Lu said "the key variable in China-US-Europe ties is the United States".

As some European politicians and scholars urge economic "decoupling" from China and view China as a strategic rival in terms of security, Lu noted that the European Union is China's second-largest trading partner and China is the EU's top trading partner, and "China always bears goodwill and is willing to do its best to improve China-EU ties".

Both China and the EU are important economies in the world, sharing a strong sense of strategic autonomy and a desire to play their role in international affairs, he added.

The European Parliament froze the ratification of the landmark China-EU Bilateral Investment Treaty in 2021.

Lu said he hoped that the treaty can be approved and entered into force at an early date, trade barriers broken down and that the impact of the protectionist policies adopted by the EU and some European countries against China in the past two years could be offset.

He also hoped that China and the EU can maximize efforts to improve their ties and advance high-level contacts in the next phase, including at the China-EU Leaders Summit.

It has been more than a year since the major escalation of the Ukraine crisis, and Lu said it "has dealt a heavy blow to Europe's strategic autonomy and strengthened its strategic dependence on the US".

"The US cut off Europe's economic and trade links with Russia one after another, making Russia an enemy of Europe in a military, security context. Meanwhile, due to factors including the loss of cheap energy and US domestic legislation, Europe's businesses in sectors such as manufacturing are moving to the US, and the foundation supporting Europe's strategic autonomy is being hollowed out," he explained.

Regarding building a balanced, effective and sustainable European security architecture, Lu said that if the architecture does not incorporate Russia, it will not even be possible.

On China-France bilateral ties, Lu said that in recent years the developing relationship has been relatively successful for China's relations with Western countries due to its strategic, stable and mutually beneficial nature.

Three years since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, ties have maintained a stable momentum thanks to the strategic navigation by the two heads of state, he added.

"President Xi Jinping and President Macron have maintained frequent communication to steer the development of the relations between the two countries," he said.

Macron publicly expressed his willingness to visit China in the near future at an event last month.

Lu said he took note of Macron's remarks and he hopes that China and France can work together to plan and prepare for high-level exchanges in the next phase.

Noting China's optimized and tweaked epidemic prevention and control policy at the end of last year, he said the country's foreign relations and cooperation have resumed rapidly.

He said that if Macron visits China, Beijing and Paris should gear up for efforts to implement a new consensus reached by the two heads of state.

"The two sides should work in a spirit of having no time to lose to resume their three high-level dialogue mechanisms focused on strategy, finance and culture," he said.

Next year marks the 60th anniversary of China-France diplomatic ties, and Lu said both sides should start organizing commemorative events as early as possible.

On specific areas of bilateral cooperation, Lu noted that in culture and tourism, France is expected to be included in the list of the second batch of pilot destination countries available for Chinese citizens' outbound travel.

He said both sides need each other's markets in the agriculture and food sectors, and they should "talk and work in two ways for achieving mutual benefit".

He also envisioned greater teamwork in the aviation sector and in the prevention and treatment of emerging infectious diseases and the training of scientific personnel.

On the coordination between the two countries in multilateral frameworks such as the United Nations and the G20, Lu noted both countries' common ground in such areas as upholding multilateralism and their common language in global governance.

Their cooperation should "set aside differences as much as possible, accumulate consensus and join hands to form synergies and make progress", he said.

"Despite some differences in their wording, both sides are fundamentally subscribing to the rule of law," Lu said, adding that they should not impose one's will on another.

By doing so, the two countries "can lead their relationship toward more positivity, and play a great role as major countries for world peace, development and global governance", he added.