Stars and Dragons: The EU and China - European Union Committee Contents


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 520 - 525)

THURSDAY 14 MAY 2009

Professor Xinning Song

  Q520  Lord Jones: Very briefly, professor, why not send us your publication on the EU environmental policy and its implication for China?

  Professor Song: It is a project from early 2000. At that time we talked about the importance of environmental issues to economic development. It was published in 2002.

  Q521  Lord Inge: Can I come back to defence policy for a minute—not the Common Foreign Security Policy. When China modernised its armed forces, a key part of that modernisation was to allow it to project military power. Why do you think that was?

  Professor Song: I do not know. Project?

  Q522  Lord Inge: In other words, to allow you to deploy military power overseas.

  Professor Song: My understanding is every kind of military modernisation needs to do that.

  Lord Inge: You might tell Europe that!

  Q523  Chairman: We can obviously learn in that area perhaps. Professor, just following up a point on the military side, the arms embargo was a pivotal point in EU-China relationships. Where would China like to see that go, or is it a subject that has to be avoided completely?

  Professor Song: On the arms embargo issue, from my point of view, in 2003 and 2004 they made the mistake of expecting that the arms embargo could easily be lifted. In 2004 and 2005 they even put the arms embargo as a precondition to the further development of EU-China relations. That was another mistake. Very quickly they realised that, and though lots of people criticised that mistake and they realised it is not easy, that it is very difficult to solve this problem and they should put it aside and not allow it to be a major issue in EU-China relations. I think that was the correct decision. Currently the arms embargo is not a major issue.

  Q524  Chairman: Is there anything else, Professor Song, we have not covered that you feel you would like to give evidence to our inquiry on briefly?

  Professor Song: One thing I would have liked to mention, as we are in the UK House of Lords, is that I am the Vice President of the China Association of British Studies. The UK is the first place where I studied overseas. I was in London for a year at the LSE. As I mentioned, on the Chinese perception of the major EU Member States, there is also an expectation from the Chinese side as to the UK playing a more active role in EU-China relations. This also refers to the UK's—as we used to say but I think it is still relevant—special relationship with the United States. China also has a special relationship with the United States. I think China hopes the UK can play a more productive, constructive role. You have this capacity.

  Chairman: Thank you very much for that. That is a very useful point.

  Q525  Lord Selkirk of Douglas: Can I ask a quick question on a lesser issue. There is a rising interest in the European Union in tourism to China, seeing heritage sites, the Emperor's warriors and so on. How important do you see cultural, tourist contacts as being? Is that a small issue from your point of view or do you see it as a growing matter?

  Professor Song: I think it is very important. We always say historically China and Europe are closer than China and the United States. More Chinese come to Europe. From the Chinese side that is very important. One point I also forgot to mention was the special role of the UK in Contemporary China Studies. We always say the Chinese like to work with the United States because it is easy. One very important reason is that there is lots of personal contact academically. There is a lack of these kinds of things between China and EU, but compared with other European countries, we have more of this kind of contact with the UK through Chinese Studies, which is strongest in the UK. Some people will argue it is probably still comparatively weaker than the United States but I think that is very important.

  Chairman: Professor Song, can I thank you very much for your performance and evidence over the last one and a half hours. It has been full of insight. Thank you very much indeed. We will obviously send you the transcript in due course. Thank you very much indeed.



 
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