China is the largest country by population in the world (1.4 billion) and with a GDP of €12 trillion, the world’s second largest in PPP terms. Between 1978 and 2013, the Chinese economy grew by an average rate of 10% a year, producing a tenfold increase in average adult income.
This lifted around 800 million people out of poverty and dramatically improved a wide range of human development indicators. Nevertheless, regional differences remain significant, and China is classified as an upper middle-income country with a GDP per capita of around €8,500 (roughly 54% the EU average in PPP terms).
The EU and China are committed to a comprehensive strategic partnership, as expressed in the EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation.
As China has graduated from bilateral development assistance, reflecting fast-paced economic growth, it has become a strategic development partner engaged with the EU on a wide range of policy issues.
The EU remains committed to cooperating with China to ensure continued progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Agreement targets.
- The 2019 Joint Communication “EU-China – A Strategic Outlook” reiterates the need to work with China as a donor and partner. The EU and China share a commitment in global sustainable development, the implementation of Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement, which presents opportunities for closer cooperation, including in third countries.
The 2019 Joint Summit statement reflects the breadth and depth of ambition in EU-China cooperation, including deepening cooperation in all 3 pillars of the UN (human rights, peace and security and development), working jointly to implement Agenda 2030, and on the fight against climate change in particular. The EU will also cooperate with China on sustainable economic development and connectivity, circular economy, biological diversity, ocean governance, and regional peace and security, among others issues.
- The EU continued to support low-carbon urban development in China in 2018. European cities including Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Valencia and Bologna provided technical advice to the city of Zhuhai, Zhuzhou, Guilin, Luoyang and Qingdao on developing resilient cities, solid waste management and wastewater treatment. The EU also contributed to updating the local urban planning and technical standard guidelines, drawing on EU best practices. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development was supported in developing new and comprehensive green financing guidelines. Training courses in 10 pilot cities benefited 1,000 municipal staff working in low-carbon sectors and over 100 EU low-carbon best practices were compiled into toolboxes as practical guides for Chinese cities.
- EU projects helped SMEs adopting energy efficient solutions to reduce their environmental impact. Over 50 local SMEs in Xi'an were supported in securing green financing to invest in clean production businesses. Less-developed regions in western China were assisted in promoting green practices in the construction sector. 3 public events were held in 2018 to share EU best standards, technologies and policies, benefitting around 300 stakeholders from public, private and civil society organisations.
- The EU collaborated with China in the reform of its social protection system. 24 research projects were conducted and accompanying reports were published in 2018, supporting the development of legal frameworks based on EU experiences. More than 60 high-level officials from key ministries were trained and 100 officials and experts, from both China and the EU partnered to support social protection reform.
- Over the last 8 years, the EU Small and Medium Enterprises Centre has delivered some 175 publications and sector reports (downloaded over 100,000 times) and responded to 4,300 enquiries from interested EU SMEs from the 28 EU countries. In addition, 550 training courses and workshops benefitted some 23,000 participants and 180 webinars were followed by over 9,300 participants (downloaded over 45,000 times). In 2018 alone, the Centre has been contacted over 585,000 times through various (social) media channels.
- The China-EU School of Law celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2018. In the past 10 years, 700 students graduated from the law school and 9,000 professionals were trained. In total, over 10,000 Chinese and European law students, legal scholars and practitioners have taken part in the law school’s activities. Some 35 research projects involved 150 scholars from China and the EU, and 21 books and 22 issues of the China-EU Law Journal were published throughout the period.
The EU has been adapting its tools to fit the cooperation with countries such as China. Specifically, the EU has blended initiatives which combine grants from the EU with loans from international financial institutions, who in turn leverage additional funding for specific nationally identified development needs. Blending activities in China through the Asia Investment Facility allows the EU to support the implementation of China’s policies to reach its climate change mitigation goals. One example is the China Green Cities Development Fund, which supports urban green and environmental investments in second tier cities.
The EU is also engaged with China via thematic and regional programmes focused on areas of importance for sustainable and inclusive development in China, and the broader Asian region. They include low carbon development and sustainable urbanisation, environment management and governance, trade and the private sector, good governance and rule of law, reducing vulnerabilities and inequalities, support to EU-China Sectoral Policy Dialogues and people-to-people exchanges.