China-Europe Investment and Connectivity Cooperation: Where We Stand, Where We Go

A Future of Cooperation Ahead

On Monday 9th, the Chinese Mission to the EU, in cooperation with the Committee of the Regions, organized the China-Europe Investment & Connectivity Cooperation Forum, as an occasion to review and discuss the achievements of the EU-China partnership in year 2015, 40th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship.
Madame Yang Yanyi, Chinese Ambassador to the EU, addressed the audience with an inspiring keynote speech highlighting the many converging interests existing between Europe’s and China’s economic agendas. Convergences exist between China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative and the Investment Plan for Europe (IPE), between China’s Internet Plus strategy and Europe’s Digital Agenda, and in broader terms, between the two regions’ financial and economic reforms.
According to Ambassador Yang Yanyi: “The advancement of our shared vision and agenda, including the proposed China-EU joint investment cooperation, the launch of the China-EU connectivity platform and the AIIB, as well as China-EU cooperation in the digital economy including 5G will facilitate China’s medium-high-speed growth and medium-high-level development and the EU’s investment in resources of jobs and growth, and notably in its Single Digital Market, deepening its Economic and Monetary Union and consolidating the Euro area as well as achieving more fundamental reform.”
2015 has been an eventful year. ChinaEU started off in February 2015 with five proposed agenda points aimed at increasing the level of ambition in the relationship between Europe and China, and hoping to contribute to the implementation of the so-called ‘economic diplomacy’ by integrating these objectives in the EU-China Summit. Back then, at high-level meetings with the European Commission and a representation of the European and Chinese industry, ChinaEU suggested that China and Europe focus on the following cooperation areas:
  1. Joint development and promotion of mobile technologies for 5G;
  2. Encouragement of Chinese investments in advanced European digital infrastructure and services, in tandem with the new EU Investment Plan of EUR 315bn targeting 21st Century strategic infrastructures;
  3. Enhanced cooperation on Smart Cities, Smart Energy, and Internet of Things;
  4. Creation of a High Level Task Force to identify concrete​ new opportunities for European businesses in China and Chinese businesses in Europe, in fields such as Hi-Tech Innovation, E-commerce, On-line Services, Cloud Services, Big Data;
  5. Establishment of major ​investment funding and incentives focused on incubating hi-tech startups and collaborative innovation in both Europe and China.
The 17th EU-China Summit, held in June this year, incorporated several of these objectives in the conclusions and important progress was made at the High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue of last September.
On 5G, Commissioner Oettinger and MIIT Minister Miao Wei signed an agreement aimed at reaching common vision and common standards on the future mobile technology and committing reciprocity and openness in terms of access to 5G networks research funding, market access as well as in membership of Chinese and EU 5G associations.
On the investment front, China formally announced its contribution to the EU investment plan, becoming the first non-EU country to do so. Chinese Vice-Premier Ma Kai and Commission Vice-President Katainen agreed to set up a working group, including experts from China’s Silk Road Fund, the European Commission, and the European Investment Bank, with the goal to develop concrete opportunities for China to invest in the Investment Plan for Europe. AsAlessandro Carano, Senior Adviser of DG ECFIN, noted, “China could invest in established tools or in new investment platforms under the rules of the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI). These new platforms could pull together investors around a specific theme or geographical area giving a key role to regions and local authorities.”
On digital cooperation in broader terms, the EU-China Summit Joint Statement indicated: “Both sides acknowledged the key role of the digital economy in their societies and the importance of close cooperation in that field, and agreed to deepen dialogues and cooperation in areas of ICT”. This is the very first time that the word “digital” appears in the conclusions of a EU-China Summit, signaling the unprecedented synergies that can be created in this field.
According to Luigi Gambardella, President of ChinaEU, “China is all focused on upgrading its economic backbone and boosting consumption to rebalance its economy from the traditional investment-led growth model. The digital economy is seen as a major force to reach these objectives. Through the ‘Internet Plus’ policy and the ‘Made in China 2025’ strategy, the Chinese government aims at digitalizing the traditional manufacturing sector and allowing Internet to boost mass entrepreneurship, growth, jobs and consumption.”
In Europe, we talk about ‘Industry 4.0’, whose goal is identical: making production smarter and more efficient through the use of IT technologies. Markku Markkula, President of the Committee of the Regions stressed, “the digital economy is crucial to upgrade Europe’s single market, create jobs and ensure sustainable growth.”
Anna Krzyzanowska, Head of Unit of DG Connect, explained, “The Commission is pleased that China and Europe signed a declaration on joint research and development of 5G. Such agreement has already brought tangible benefits, leading to China’s announcement that it will open its IMT 2020 research group to European players. With this, Europe scored a great goal in terms of reciprocity.”
This is an excellent result, which should be accompanied by Europe’s efforts to ensure that EU-level research programs are open, transparent and non-discriminatory.
Xiao Ming, President of ZTE Europe, stressed, “Digital is key for growth – every 10% broadband increase translates into 2.5% of extra GDP growth – and research in this sector is key to ensure industry competitiveness. Strong industry players like ZTE are important actors to improve connectivity and increase the quality of R&D. Strong R&D will determine the future position of Europe and China, making the two regions more competitive on worldwide market.”
The European Commission has published a number of public consultations, seeking the feedback of companies and stakeholders on a series of dossiers, including electronic communications networks and services, Internet speed, ICT standards, VAT regimes, online platforms and unjustified geo-blocking. ChinaEU would like to see more Chinese companies actively participating in these consultations and it wishes to provide a platform to collect and submit the positions of Chinese ICT companies.
In 2015, leaders from China and the EU were able to identify a number of concrete areas of cooperation and to establish a number of platforms and joint initiatives. We may expect more concrete results in the year to come. According to Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen, “2016 will be the year of deliveries, creating business opportunities and concluding the investment agreement.”

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