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Saturday, April 4, 1998 Published at 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK


China's role in Asem

China's National Peoples' Congress Chamber

This week's Asia-Europe Meeting in London symbolises the strengthening of political ties between Beijing and the European Union.

During the meeting, the two sides held their first ever summit.

The BBC's Chinese affairs analyst James Miles says China hopes the London meetings will strengthen Europe's confidence in Beijing's sweeping economic reforms and promote its image as an important player in international diplomacy.


[ image: China's new Prime Minister, Zhu Rongj]
China's new Prime Minister, Zhu Rongj
For China, the meeting in London of Asian and European leaders came at an opportune moment.

Just a few days after the appointment of China's Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, it provided a valuable opportunity for the new head of government to explain his programme of bold economic reform to an international audience.

The European Union's view of China's economic transformation is important to Beijing. The EU is China's fourth biggest trading partner and a major investor. Its support is also essential to China's campaign to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The EU has pledged its backing for Beijing's bid, but wants to see further liberalisation of its trading regime.

The Asia-Europe Meeting in London (Asem) will also provide an important opportunity to China to assess the impact of major economic and diplomatic changes that are now under way in Europe - the introduction of a single European currency and the proposed expansion of the European Union to include countries of central and eastern Europe.

A senior EU official, Sir Leon Brittan, has said these changes will force Europe's world partners to adjust their strategic vision of the European continent.

China hopes that Europe's integration will further the creation of a multipolar world, rather than one dominated by the United States.

It must have been pleased that the European Union announced its decision not attack China's human rights record in the United Nations this year before Washington had made up its mind on the issue.

While most of the Asian countries taking part in Asem came London hoping for support in their efforts to overcome the effects of the regional financial crisis, China projected itself not as a victim of the turmoil but as a key force in the maintenance of Asian economic stability.

The Prime Minister, Mr. Zhu, repeated Beijing's pledge not to devalue its currency - a promise that Chinese officials hope will strengthen Beijing's application for WTO membership.

Mr. Zhu's most difficult task will be to convince Western business leaders that the financial crisis in Asia and the difficulties encountered by China's own economic reforms should not deter them from investing in China.

Beijing badly needs foreign investment in its state-owned enterprises if it is to achieve its target of making most of them profitable within three years.



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Foreign Office information on Asem 2

First Asem summit home page


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