This month, China and the European Union mark 30 years of official relations. During that period, changes within China, and in the nature of those relations, have been dramatic. But how will relations evolve over the next thirty years? Will China and the EU be competitors or partners?
Many challenges face both China and the EU. The first are economic. China’s development in recent years has been magnificent. But speedy growth always incites turbulence, which China will have to minimize and manage. As it integrates into the world economy, it must seek to sustain growth while protecting the environment and reducing poverty and inequality. These are daunting tasks, and China cannot address them alone.
Indeed, sustainable development is a challenge for both China and Europe. After all, by far the most important factor determining whether our children and grandchildren will enjoy secure, healthy, and productive lives is whether the world’s natural ecosystems survive the pressures put on them by modern civilization. A recent UN report warned that we have already entered the danger zone. Numerous land and sea ecosystems are in danger of being destroyed forever, with effects that are hard to predict.
One downside to China’s rapid growth is its rising demand for energy and the increased CO2 emissions that accompany it. China is quickly turning into one of the world’s largest importers of oil and gas. The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2004 predicts that, between now and 2030, global demand for energy will rise by roughly 60%, with China and India accounting for nearly two-thirds of that increase.