China-EU relationship should move beyond purely strategic concerns

The value of personal and cultural exchanges should not be underestimated, writes Eva Paunova.

By Eva Paunova

01 Jul 2015

Strategic partnership, economic dialogue, trade exchanges - these are the key terms that come to mind when discussing China-EU relations. 

Indeed, Europe and China are crucial players in the global sphere and as such they work closely together in order to tackle common challenges, such as climate change and security threats, as well as to achieve advances on the economic and geopolitical front. 

Yet, for all these endeavours to be successful, the relationship between the two parties must go beyond the pragmatic - it needs to foster closer ties for us to move forward, to "work together to overcome difficult times" as the Chinese phrase "精诚携手, 共克时" recalls.


Like every relationship, the one between the EU and China is becoming deeper and more meaningful with time. As such, the 40th anniversary of our diplomatic relations is an excellent occasion to open a new chapter for multi-dimensional and multi-tiered cooperation. 

Of course, we will continue to implement the China-EU 2020 strategic agenda for cooperation, enhancing collaboration in travel facilitation, technology, infrastructure, energy, transportation and business in an effort to build a truly Eurasian market. 

But the work on these ambitious projects should be complemented by a greater focus on the social and cultural aspect of our relations. As we all know, economic prosperity cannot be a goal in itself - all we do is for better quality of life of our citizens, higher standards and greater opportunities for personal development.

In concert with its political and economic aspects, people-to-people exchanges form one of the three main pillars of the EU's comprehensive strategic partnership, and this is no accident.

The sociocultural dimension is just as important as the advancement of our more matter-of-fact, economy-oriented goals. For Europeans, cultural diversity is one of our most cherished values and something that has also fostered our development. 

Extending our connections to friends around the globe and the vibrancy of the relationships this creates is a demonstration of the real meaning behind the EU-China partnership.

So, what do these exchanges bring? They make people not only beneficiaries, but also drivers of the EU-China collaboration. They also enable economic and social ties due to the development of common goals. They build a deeper understanding of the other's values through enhanced cultural relationships. 

For example, owing to the partnership between the Bulgarian city of Veliko Tarnovo and Xi'an in China, I was able to see a replica of a terracotta warrior in my own country.

Being introduced to the history of another nation encourages to us to form a better knowledge of its understandings and goals, thus underpinning successful future relations.

A recent example of another initiative that brings our cultures together is the creative contest 'China unlimited', which inspires us to enrich our knowledge on the EU's historic and cultural ties with China. As an ambassador for 'China unlimited',

I welcome projects that stimulate us to look to the future and deepen our cooperation beyond diplomacy and economics.

Envisaging the future, how should EU-China relations evolve? As the youngest member of parliament's delegation for relations with China, I would like to see a collaboration fostering exchanges of people, cultures and ideas. 

This partnership would provide numerous opportunities for realising the potential of individuals and forming mutually-beneficial partnerships on both the social and economic front. 

We could develop a friendship that goes beyond the purely strategic and brings real value to our societies and cultures.


Read the most recent articles written by Eva Paunova - From assistant to MEP in five years