The consensuses reached between leaders of China and the European Union at their video meeting on Monday show that no matter how much the COVID-19 pandemic — and the political virus it has bred in the United States — are challenging multilateralism, these two economies at least will continue to work together. Not only to make their own relations more productive and substantive, but also to promote the much needed global solidarity to address the pandemic and other pressing challenges.
Despite it being a video meeting, the 22nd China-EU leaders' meeting on Monday, was significant, not only because it was the first of its kind since the inauguration of the new EU leaders last year, but also because it was the highest-level meeting between the two sides since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which has resulted in tremendous changes in the world since the last such meeting in Brussels in April last year.
Although there were hard choices and decisions to be made, the discussions between President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang and Charles Michel, president of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, proved productive.
Encompassing a variety of topics, from COVID-19 pandemic control to trade, investment, security, technology, climate change and reform of global governance, the leaders of the two sides kept the focus on cooperation.
Considering that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had just pressed the EU leaders at the virtual 2020 Copenhagen Democracy Summit on Friday to choose between Beijing and Washington, saying the choice is "between freedom and tyranny", the positive talks between the EU and China drives home not only how much the EU cherishes its freedom of choice but also how much it values multilateralism and a global outlook.
Although China and the EU have different understandings on some issues and even on how they should be resolved, their common interest in realizing more inclusive globalization and rules-based global governance, and their shared belief in bridging their differences through discussions characterized by mutual respect, have enabled them to forge a close partnership on many crucial fronts, and so harvest due returns.
That mutual regard, evidenced by the helping hand many EU members extended to China during the most difficult period of its fight against the virus and tremendous assistance China has provided the EU in its battle against the pandemic, is why, despite this being the first time the Chinese leaders had met with the new leadership of the EU, they were able to reach consensuses on a broad range of issues.
With those consensuses set to be materialized in a series of new projects and breakthroughs in old ones, it should help instill confidence that if countries are committed to solidarity, cooperation and trust, both the pandemic and its aftershocks can be overcome.