This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of EU-China diplomatic relations, with joint events and initiatives in education, research, youth and culture - both in China and in the EU.
A central part of EU-China relations are personal contacts. That is why the EU-China high level people-to-people dialogue, launched in 2012, is so important.
It brings people together, allowing us to discuss common challenges and to deepen mutual understanding and friendship, while fully respecting our differences.
These people-to-people contacts complement the other two pillars of EU-China relations: the high level economic and trade dialogue and the high level strategic dialogue.
The high level people-to-people dialogue is not just about talking: Europe is now offering more opportunities to students, staff and researchers from both the EU and China, particularly through its Erasmus+ programme.
We have supported initiatives to train Chinese teachers of lesser-spoken EU languages and European interpreters of Chinese.
And more than 3500 young people have already been involved in joint seminars and cooperation projects on issues relevant to youth.
In the field of culture, we have identified a number of avenues for cooperation on heritage, the cultural and creative industries and contemporary art.
This kind of cultural diplomacy is the best way of building mutual understanding and respect. That is why I also want to put people-to-people contacts at the heart of a broad European strategy for cultural diplomacy that I am currently developing with EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.
This anniversary is a milestone along a road which has become increasingly important for both sides. Personal contacts are vital in the relationship we are building between the EU and China as we look forward to 50 years and beyond.
The EU and China launched diplomatic relations in 1975 and, 40 years later, the EU has become China’s largest trading partner.
However, our cooperation now goes way beyond this and is deeper than simple trade.