There is every reason why China and Europe should be on the best of terms. Together, they can help surmount challenges and provide opportunities, to the benefit of both. It is why there has been a flurry of visits by officials of late and the agreements signed bode well for future ties. But bringing down the great wall of mistrust that separates the sides requires more than debt reduction commitments, trade, investment and tourism spending; it is a matter of resolve, determination and time. Premier Wen Jiabao, Communist Party propaganda chief Li Changchun and State Councillor Liu Yandong have had such thoughts in the back of their minds on their European trips this month as will Vice-Premier Li Keqiang as he visits Russia, Hungary, Belgium and the European Union's headquarters in coming days. To have so many top officials in the region at a similar time is unusual, but it is more about circumstances than coincidence. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the normalisation of ties with many European countries, providing an opportunity to push resolutely forward on strengthening a comprehensive strategic partnership agreed to with the EU in 2010. Although trade and investment deals help further understanding, it is interaction and co-operation by people from all walks of life from both sides that is most beneficial. Top level face-to-face meetings are the best place to start. A Chinese tycoon's failed bid last year to acquire 300 square kilometres of Iceland for a resort foreshadowed Wen's visit to the island. Suspicions that the businessman's company was a front for efforts by Beijing to tap the region's rich oil reserves typified concerns across Europe about mainland intentions. But the premier left on Sunday with the trip being hailed a success. Among the achievements was a deal on co-operation on thermal energy and support for China's request for permanent observer status on the inter-governmental Arctic Council. These may seem small steps, but they are crucial ones on the way to fostering understanding and friendship. Chinese and European civilisations have evolved largely independently over millennia, creating preconceived notions and different values. China's rise to the world's second-biggest economy and perhaps within the decade to its largest, necessitates a repositioning of global power. The financial crises that have torn through Western economies and continue to threaten the EU give cause for a rethink. The EU is China's biggest trading partner and China is the EU's second largest. Political obstacles lie in the EU's arms embargo, its refusal to recognise China as a market economy and mainland human rights. Summits and forums can work through the challenges, but people-to-people exchanges remain the best way to build mutual trust.