China-EU investment deal
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Chinese President Xi Jinping (centre) confers with (clockwise from top left) German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and president of the European Council Charles Michel, via video link in Beijing on December 30. During the meeting, Xi and the European leaders announced that the two sides have completed investment agreement negotiations as scheduled. Photo: Xinhua

Letters | EU deal with China is a win for economics over rights concerns

After seven years of negotiations, the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment between China and the European Union has finally been concluded. For China, this deal not only deepens economic relations with the EU but also gives Beijing some breathing space amid the trade war with the United States.

For the EU, this agreement levels the playing field for European companies and investors in the Chinese market, while committing Beijing to rules on, for example, technology transfers. Most importantly, the agreement serves as a testimony to the world that despite Europe’s concerns over China’s human rights violations, economic development takes precedence in EU-China relations.

Indeed, not so long ago, the EU had voiced “ grave concerns” about the human rights situation in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. However, after paying lip service to its domestic supporters and the international community, the EU once again decided to stay true to itself in international politics, which is to maximise its interests by acting in a pragmatic manner.


Germany presses China on Hong Kong security law, seeks access to Uygurs in Xinjiang

Germany presses China on Hong Kong security law, seeks access to Uygurs in Xinjiang
As with the Communist Party of China, the legitimacy of the EU depends largely on its economic performance. And as China became the EU’s largest trade partner for the first time in 2020, it is a sound, strategic choice for the EU to conclude this deal with Beijing.
The agreement has to be approved by the European Parliament before coming into effect. It must be noted that the current presidency of the Council of the European Union is with Portugal, a staunch supporter of Chinese investment, while the next presidency is with Slovenia, a huge beneficiary of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. They are unlikely to set agendas against the agreement or oppose it.

Who’s the real winner of the China-EU investment deal?

Second, and more importantly, while the European Parliament tends to give opinions about “soft” issues such as human rights, when it comes to “hard” and tangible topics related to economic and commercial interests, it has often shown a strong unity.

So, despite the EU’s unease with China’s policies in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and China’s fury at the criticism of its domestic politics, both sides need the agreement. Economic interests will continue to dominate EU-China relations.

Chin Hsueh, Bremen, Germany