Examination of Witnesses (Questions 500
THURSDAY 14 MAY 2009
Professor Xinning Song
Q500 Lord Inge:
A lot of my question has already been answered but perhaps I could
just talk about one bit of it, which is the Common Foreign and
Security policy. How seriously does China take Europe's Common
Foreign and Security Policy?
Professor Song: The Chinese side cannot take
the CFSP very seriously because we do not really know what it
is. That is the problem. In terms of EU-China relations it also
refers to EU-China security co-operation. The military exchange
is not China-EU; it is China and EU Member States. We have no
project at European level. The argument is, is there a real CFSP
after ten years? Probably the European defence policy is more
relevant because with the CFSP the argument is, is it possible
for the EU in the near future to have a coherent foreign policy?
The answer is no. That is related to this.
Q501 Lord Inge:
Can we go to the security policy? Are you saying China does not
take Europe's military capability seriously or are you saying
also that it does not understand what the policy is?
Professor Song: Basically, it does not understand
what the policy is, especially the external part. We know that
Europe as a whole has no military capacity. It is the EU and NATO,
and in terms of externally, that means China and EU co-operation
in this area. So there is almost none. There is also the argument
about Iraq and Afghanistan: is it the EU or EU Member States?
It is NATO, not the EU. Where is the EU?
Q502 Lord Inge:
Do you keep an eye on NATO?
Professor Song: Yes. China has informal contacts
with NATO. The Ambassador in Brussels has met the NATO people
on several occasions, but it is still on an informal or unofficial
basis. The argument from the Chinese side, especially with the
military or foreign affairs people, is that there is an arms embargo.
Q503 Lord Crickhowell:
This is a minor point perhaps, but China has, quite interestingly,
sent a ship to the Indian Ocean to help to deal with the piracy
problem and is working quite effectively alongside the European-led
initiative. Was there any particular feature or aspect of policy
that led China to do that? What do you think the objective was?
There is not an obvious immediate Chinese interest.
Professor Song: First, there is a clear Chinese
interest there. For the last four or five years the protection
of Chinese economic interests overseas as well as the security
of Chinese citizens has been a big topic of debate. There is also
strong debate about whether China should send ships that far away.
The leadership still worries about this kind of action and how
the outside world perceives it. The Chinese leadership is always
worried about the so-called China threat. They prefer to keep
a low profile in the international arena. Most of the time they
feel they have no choice, they have to do something, and then
they act; otherwise they prefer to do nothing.
Q504 Lord Inge:
Can I just ask briefly, has China suffered any ships being taken
Professor Song: Yes, and Chinese people working
on ships. I think also a Taiwanese ship was captured.
Q505 Lord Anderson of Swansea:
Professor, the spirit of co-operation, the wish to co-operate,
is in some ways more important than the actual institutional framework.
Nevertheless, it is important to ensure the smoothest institutional
framework, like plumbing, to remove any obstacles to a smooth
relationship. In your view, is the current institutional framework
between Beijing and Europe adequate, fit for purpose? If not,
how can it be improved, and what can you say about the PCA negotiations,
the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement negotiations?
Professor Song: In terms of the institutional
arrangements for EU-China relations, we have different levels.
There is the annual summit and probably 30 different types of
sectoral dialogue. It seems to me that the institutional framework
is structural and stable. I am not familiar with the detail of
that sectoral dialogue but the structure looks good.
Q506 Lord Anderson of Swansea:
So you cannot suggest any improvements?
Professor Song: It needs deepening. I know a
little about the technical dialogue but a good example is the
dialogue on human rights. It is quite interesting. There is a
lot of argument about whether it is useful or not. I have heard
the complaint from the European side, especially from NGOs, that
it is pointless, but it seems to me it is quite useful from the
Chinese side. Some of my students from various ministries are
involved in this. They say they have to do something every time
there is a dialogue. That is the impact. They have to respond
and that is good. This kind of structure has a problem on both
sides. On the Chinese side it is basically governmental people;
on the European side it is NGOs, so how can they have a real dialogue?
I have heard from the European side that most of the people involved
in the EU-China dialogue from European NGOs know nothing about
China, so how can they have an effective dialogue? They always
say, "You should do this, you should do that, you should
do the other," according to their general knowledge, but
they need specialist knowledge of the Chinese situation. That
would be more effective. Also, the Chinese side should have non-governmental
people involved and on the European side governmental people should
play a more active role. The EU and China should do something
to follow up this dialogue in the form of a specific project.
It should not just be talk. We have these kinds of things going
on with the Australians. An Australian NGO came to China. They
have to work with the Government, otherwise it is difficult, but
there is a concrete project. The Chinese Government allowed them
to go into Chinese prisons to do a project. That is something
real. There is no specific project of this nature with the EU.
Dialogue is not enough. That is an area where something could
Q507 Lord Anderson of Swansea:
What about the PCA?
Professor Song: I am not sure. The PCA is a
totally internal negotiation. We do not know what they are talking
about or what progress is being made. Yesterday we had a conference
in Bristol and the Commission people were asked why they need
a PCA. There is this argument on the Chinese side: everything
is fine without a PCA, so why do we need it? There is the human
rights issue, which could be put into a framework and constrain
China, but if you look back at why we started this, it dates back
to 2003-04. That is the basic background, the expectation. At
that time the Chinese Government believed that the EU would lift
the arms embargo and grant Market Economy Status to China but
nothing happened. From 2006 we had discussion with the Commission
in Beijing. They asked why China was not interested in the PCA
initiative. Our argument was that they needed to look at the background,
which they are doing now. The debate is how we reach agreement.
The Chinese will argue what the EU can offer China. Otherwise,
there should be less talk. We can have a negotiation and we can
even reach agreement, it will probably take another five or ten
years to be ratified. That is useless. That can be the situation
legally. The problem is that we have no common understanding on
certain specific issues. The PCA is an example of this.
Q508 Lord Anderson of Swansea:
Are you in fact saying that, in your judgment, the institutional
framework is currently adequate and that you have no particular
suggestions for improvement of that framework?
Professor Song: On the technical side, it is
okay. We have solved the technical problems with trade and the
environment. They are different. The only other issue I am familiar
with is human rights; the human rights dialogue needs improving
but basically I think it is good.
Q509 Lord Crickhowell:
On human rights, we did meet the EU people who deal with the regular
dialogue with China on human rights. I was not aware until I went
there that there is in fact a regular six-monthly meeting and
they all sit round the table, apparently get on very well, and
very, very occasionally, some significant movement is made, though
not very often. I therefore saw a distinction arising. Clearly,
China very much dislikes the moral lecture which you said the
UK rather went in for, telling people how to behave, but China
seems quite prepared to sit down in a regular meeting and have
a civilised discussion about these issues, which perhaps does
have a long-term impact, not least the knowledge in China that
these exchanges are going on. So there is a quite well structured
relationship on this taking place on a regular basis.
Professor Song: Yes, I agree. The structure
is good, but it could be more effective on human rights.
Q510 Lord Hamilton of Epsom:
Can we now move on to the more economic questions about the existing
financial crisis and the downturn in world trade. How is that
affecting the relationship between the EU and China? What are
the more long-term perspectives, looking forward to the next ten
years? Does China see itself as being an economic leader in terms
of the global economy in the future?
Professor Song: As we discussed before, EU-China
economic relations are very good. Despite the financial crisis
and the sharp downturn in trade, the EU is still China's number
one trade partner. In terms of economic co-operation, there is
another argument: the EU as a trade bloc is number one for China
but it is 27 countries, and economically it seems to me China
will pay more attention to East Asia. The EU 27 makes up something
like 17 per cent of China's total foreign trade. East Asia we
call the ten plus two plus two, that is, the Asian ten, plus Japan
and South Korea, plus Hong Kong and Taiwan. That represents more
than 40 per cent of China's foreign trade, so much bigger than
the EU. They are only 14 countries but represent a bigger share
than the EU 27.
Q511 Lord Hamilton of Epsom:
What about the US?
Professor Song: As a single country, the US
is number one.
Q512 Lord Hamilton of Epsom:
Professor Song: Fifteen or slightly less. There
is also the argument that if we take the United States, Canada
and Mexico together, it is almost the same as EU, but East Asia
is more. China's economic relationships with East Asia, with the
EU and with the United States are at different levels. In those
terms, China very much pays attention to the economic relationship
with the United States and the EU. The two together are about
one-third of China's total foreign trade. Also, what is very important
for China is technology transfer. Interestingly, we have difficulty
getting technology from the United States but we get lots of technology
from Canada that is really from the United States. If you look
at the 16th Party Congress in 2002, and the 17th Party Congress
of 2007, when they talk about China's external relations, it is
always its relationship with developed countries first, which
means economic and security aspects. That is very important to
China. Recently we have had what is called the "new left"
in China criticising the current leadership strongly, saying they
Q513 Lord Hamilton of Epsom:
What is the overall state of Chinese exports compared with a year
ago? They have dropped, have they not?
Professor Song: For the first four months compared
with the same period last year there has been an average 20 per
cent drop. Interestingly, however, total trade dropped by something
like 20 per cent but the trade surplus increased by 35 per cent
in the last four months, some 70 billion.
Q514 Lord Hamilton of Epsom:
Can I just come back to something you said earlier, which was
that China looked at the EU as a social power. I do not quite
know what that means but certainly what is true is that EU social
costs are at one end of the spectrum when China's are at the other.
Do you see a convergence of China and the EU? Do you see China's
social costs going up? Is the EU economic model a thing to admire
in the global market we are in today, where it seems we are still
determined to load costs on to employers all the time? What is
your view on all that?
Professor Song: The EU as a social power means
the EU as basically a kind of social model. People consider the
European Continent practises what is called social capitalism
as opposed to in the United States free market capitalism. China
faces a challenge domestically on social security. China has no
social security and we are trying to build up social security
systempensions, health care, medical carenot on
models relying on market forces like the United States but more
like Europe. According to research, the Chinese prefer the European
model to solve this problem, but we have still not actually adopted
the European model. There are lots of research projects on the
issue. A recent health care project came up with four proposals,
two based on research on the European medical care system. That
is very important for China in the long term. Despite the financial
crisis, lots of people argue, as can be seen in the newspapers,
that the Americans are losing their houses, they are living in
their cars, and there is none of this kind of thing happening
in Europe. The Chinese see that as being because the Europeans
have social security.
Lord Hamilton of Epsom: But are the Chinese
prepared to see the state spending 40 per cent of Gross National
Product, which is what they do in most European countries?
Just a quick answer to that one, please.
Professor Song: I still think the Chinese may
prefer the European model. Social stability is very important
for the Communist Party.
Q516 Lord Jones:
Earlier on, professor, you did mention the hope of a technological
partnership. I am wondering whether the aerospace industry in
China might be the means for that. You might know that Airbus/EADS,
with the Chinese, are producing aircraft in China now. Is there
the prospect of that industry growing to the point where you would
be satisfied that there was partnership between Europe and China?
Professor Song: Yes, not just that but the automobile
industry is also very important. There are more European projects
in China than Japanese or American. If you look at the profile
of the EU or Europe, it is very high in China compared with other
Asian-Pacific countries. We have had projects for the last few
years, and the European profile is comprehensively the highest
in China. So there are the social foundations in China for working
with the EU. That is one way of managing EU-China relations.
Chairman: We have covered human rights to a
large degree so I think we will move on to co-operation in other
Q517 Lord Crickhowell:
I am turning to question 9 but I want to break it up into two
separate parts, because I think there are two quite different
areas. First, international policy global governance issues. How
do you see the ability of the EU and China to co-operate on things
such as non-proliferation, Iran, North Korea, nuclear programmes
and so on, and the situations, which were briefly mentioned earlier,
in Afghanistan and indeed in Africa, the role of China, for example,
in Sudan? Would you like to say a word about the effectiveness
of the EU and China working together on issues of this kind?
Professor Song: Yes, I think China would like
to work with the EU on different international or global issues.
At the moment the debate in China is about whether the EU has
the capacity, because the United States certainly has this capacity;
China has worked with the United States in North Korea and even
Iran and elsewhere. We worked together in Iran but not with the
EU; it was with the Member States. That is the dilemma. The EU
and China have a joint declaration on non-proliferation and arms
control. It is a question of whether the EU can play a real role
in this area or whether we prefer to work with the two other Security
Council members, the UK and France. That is the crucial problem.
Again, China and the EU have a dialogue on Africa but nothing
happens. This is related to how China and the EU at European level
work on this. It is probably better to work with the Development
Departments of the UK or Germany on these kinds of issues. That
is the big debate: should we concentrate more on the Member States
or the EU in different issues? With Afghanistan, as I mentioned,
is it the EU or NATO? There is actually no role for the EU; it
is the EU Member States, the NATO Member States. That is the dilemma
on this. Last year there was a Commission policy paper on EU-China-Africa
trilateral co-operation, which raised a similar problem. What
is Africa? With whom do we deal? We cannot work with more than
50 countries. Does the EU have this capacity? No. There is a paper
but no action. That is the problem.
Q518 Lord Crickhowell:
Can I turn then to an area where perhaps the EU has a leading
role and does act coherently as one, and that is on environmental
policy, where Europe has actually taken a lead. While President
Obama is now moving in the same direction in a very welcome way,
it has been Europe that has taken the lead, and there is already
a great deal of co-operation, exchange of financial assistance
and so on, and huge scope for technological development; clean
coal technology is crucially important for both countries. Again,
we heard in Brussels that there are really quite encouraging noises
coming out of China about the approach to Copenhagen and really
making progress. How do you see the climate change and environmental
Professor Song: This is a very good area that
China and the EU can work on, and I think have worked on together.
There are quite a number of EU-China co-operation programmes on
environmental issues, not directly related to climate change,
but if we look at the EU-China leadership, when they meet, it
is probably the easiest area in which to have a common understanding.
I am not sure what they can realistically do, especially in Copenhagen,
because China still has its own domestic problems. I would suggest
that there is great potential for co-operation in this area but
we also need to be careful, especially on climate change. The
European side says, "You have done wrong. You must do something
about it." The Chinese people can very easy argue that in
per capita terms you have caused much more damage than us."
We should concentrate more on a common responsibility, rather
than saying, "It is your responsibility Because you pollute
more." This approach is very important, because the Chinese
leadership is concentrating more on domestic problems. If they
have to succumb to international pressure or domestic pressure,
they will always go with the domestic. They cannot say, "We
do not care." That approach is very important.
Lord Crickhowell: Can I just follow that
up? You are absolutely right. I think there has been a difference
of expectation between Europe and China but there does seem to
be a growing recognition in China that they have to move along
this road, not least because of the environmental threat to China.
Can I say how much I sympathise with what you said about the lecture
point? Indeed, at a meeting we had with senior Brussels officials
dealing with this, they kept using the words "We expect China,"
and I criticised them; I said, "You should not be talking
in language indicating that you `expect' China. You should be
seeking a common interest in doing something," and I think
you have made a very important point.
Q519 Lord Hamilton of Epsom:
I would just like to come back on the meeting we had in Brussels.
One of the things that they were putting enormous resource behind
was the whole idea of carbon capture. Carbon capture in power
stations is something that might happen in 2020, which is a very
long way off. We have absolutely no idea how much it is going
to cost. At the same time Europe is spending its time trying to
get China to sign up to these things when we have absolutely no
idea what effect this will have on the cost of your electricity
or whether in fact the technology can be had at all. What does
China feel about signing up to these things? That is what Europe
is trying to force you to do
Professor Song: I am not sure about this. I
know nothing about this. It is outside my knowledge.
Chairman: That is fair enough.