China intends to work more closely with the EU over cybersecurity, the central government has announced, a move analysts say is aimed at boosting capabilities at home and easing fears abroad of a "China threat".
The new direction was contained in a policy paper released on Wednesday that maps out China's priorities for its relationship with the EU for the next five to 10 years and came as President Xi Jinping wrapped up a 10-day trip to the continent.
China would strengthen dialogue with Brussels on cybersecurity and improve co-operation in fighting internet crime and responses to cybersecurity threats, the paper said.
It would also seek to bolster platforms such as the China-EU Cyber Taskforce.
"Cybersecurity is a concern shared by both parties. More co-operation in this field will also help soothe European concerns about the so-called China threat," said Zhao Junjie, a European studies specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "It's time for China and the EU to deepen their relationship, to make it more stable and sustainable. More practical co-operation on big projects would help."
The 10-part document, which is more comprehensive than its predecessor in 2003, also suggests China learn from Europe's experiences with urbanisation.
"EU countries have advanced technology and rich experience in urbanisation, making it a new area of co-operation for both parties," said Hu Ronghua, a professor specialising in the European economy at Fudan University.
The paper encourages Hong Kong and Macau to develop their own ties with the EU. "Such a statement is rare, as the central government is responsible for diplomatic issues on behalf of Hong Kong and Macau," Zhao said. "It shows Beijing pays special attention to Hong Kong and Macau's role as a bridge for the Sino-EU relationship."
China has not issued specific policy papers for its other key trading partners, such as the United States, Russia or Japan.
"This highlights the importance China attaches to its relationship with the EU," said Wu Yikang, deputy director of the Chinese Society for European Studies. "The second edition of the paper after a decade shows the relationship has entered a new era, becoming more sophisticated and stable."