Delegation of the European Union to China

China and the EU

20/01/2020 - 14:52
EU relations with Country

This page gives an outline of the relations between the European Union (EU) and China.

The EU's China policy is defined by the 'Elements for a new EU Strategy on China' and 'Council Conclusions EU Strategy on China' which were reviewed in 2019 in the 'EU-China Strategic Outlook'. Together these documents reflect the fundamental premises of EU's engagement based on a realistic, assertive and multi-faceted approach in order to promote of democracy, rule of law, human rights, and respect for the UN Charter and international law, with the pursuit for reciprocal benefits in political and economic relations.

The practical cooperation agenda for the EU and China is set out in the  EU-China Summit Joint Statements and the mid-term 'EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation', jointly signed by the EU and China in 2013. The latter covers the areas of peace and security, prosperity, sustainable development, and people-to-people exchanges.

Bilateral relations are conducted at the highest level through the annual EU-China Summit, which is usually preceded by the key bilateral dialogues: the Strategic Dialogue, the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, the High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue (HED) and the High-Level People-to-People Dialogue.

On 30 December 2020, the EU and China reached an agreement in principle on a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment:

i. Political relations

The EU and China hold regular bilateral discussions and an annual Strategic Dialogue to discuss bilateral relations with a focus on foreign and security policy, at the level of the High Representative/Vice President on the EU side, and the State Councillor for Foreign Affairs on the Chinese side. On a day-to-day basis, the EU Delegation in Beijing works closely together with Member States Embassies to defend EU interests and values and engage with Chinese counterparts to implement concrete results.

The EU aims to reinforce its engagement with China on foreign policy and security issues and will continue to:

  • encourage China to mobilise its diplomatic and other resources to support international security; contribute to peace and security in the EU's neighbourhood in line with international law;
  • ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in the East and South China Seas; settle disputes peacefully and in accordance with the rule of law;
  • seek common ground with China on disarmament, non-proliferation, counter-terrorism and cyberspace; and
  • explore opportunities for establishing trilateral cooperation with China to support development, capacity-building, and peacekeeping operations in developing countries.

In addition, the EU continues to explore ways how to advance relations through connectivity, infrastructure, trade, digital, and people-to-people connections between Europe and China. Recently, the European Council approved a new geostrategic and global approach to connectivity. The Council Conclusions build on the 2018 Joint Communication and Council Conclusions, “Connecting Europe and Asia – building blocks for an EU Strategy”. They reaffirm the same basic principle, namely that connectivity should be sustainable, comprehensive, and rules-based. The new approach highlights the importance of connectivity for economic growth, security and resilience. Better connectivity would contribute to the diversification of value chains, reduce strategic dependencies and boost competitiveness for the EU and its partners. In line with their UN and G20 commitments, the strategy navigates the EU to find practical ways to engage China in accepting new responsibilities.

In April 2021, the Council adopted Council Conclusions on the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. This demonstrates the EU’s recognition of the growing importance of the region and its commitment to reinforcing its role in cooperation with its partners there. This renewed commitment to the region is inclusive of all partners wishing to cooperate with the EU. The strategy is deliberately pragmatic, flexible and multi-faceted, allowing the EU to adapt and build its cooperation according to specific policy areas where partners can find common ground based on shared principles, values or mutual interest.


ii. Human rights


The EU adheres to international rules and norms, and respect for human rights, as set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Principles of Engagement set out in the strategy state that:

"The EU's external action is governed by the principles which have inspired its own creation: democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for the principles of the UN Charter and international law. These principles are reflected in the Chinese constitution and in the international instruments that China has signed. The protection of human rights will continue to be a core part of the EU's engagement with China. The EU believes that treating human beings with dignity and respect is essential if citizens are to fulfil themselves and flourish creatively, and is good for the stability and security of Chinese society and the world order."

The EU is committed to promoting the universality of human rights and to improving the human rights situation in China in an active and sustained way. In doing so, constructive dialogue and outreach remain the European Union's preferred means of action.

The EU and China discuss human rights during high-level dialogues and under a dedicated Human Rights Dialogue. The EU-China Human Rights Dialogue was established in 1995 and has been meeting ever since. However, travel restrictions imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic have created a new set of challenges to the continuation of this Dialogue.

Notwithstanding the significant differences between the EU and China concerning human rights, both sides are committed, as agreed in the EU-China 2020 Agenda, to engaging on these issues and to conducting open and frank discussions. The Human Rights Dialogue allows the two sides to convey their concerns about issues such as the rule of law, freedom of expressionfreedom of religion and belief, freedom of assembly and association, the death penalty, prevention of torture, the situation of human rights defenders, the rights of persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities, social integration and other issues relating to social, cultural, civil and political rights.

The dialogue, together with public diplomacy and outreach efforts by the EU and its Member States, has contributed to some positive results. The EU is determined to continue to work with China, building on China's own Human Rights Action Plan, to promote respect for international human rights obligations.

The EU is committed to using its co-operation programmes to promote human rights in China. In this regard, it supports a number of projects to promote the universal values of human rights in China, including through projects specifically funded under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights(link is external) (EIDHR). It also supports seminars and other activities that allow European and Chinese experts to exchange views and experiences.

i. Economy & Finance

Inter-connectedness between the EU and China has experienced a remarkable pace of growth. Increased interdependence demands closer cooperation to face common challenges, such as ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth, making financial systems more stable and robust, and addressing the economic and social consequences of an aging population. For this reason, the EU and China work together on a large number of economic and financial matters, ranging from prevention of regulatory arbitrages between financial jurisdictions, promotion of sound financial innovation and supervision, and synergies in addressing structural issues.

The EU promotes reciprocal understanding between the EU and China of our respective economic and financial market developments. This helps managing the EU and China's impact on each other's economies and finding common solutions.

One specific area of cooperation is sustainable or green finance, given the EU and China’s commitments to achieve their respective climate and carbon neutrality goals. The EU and China are founding members of the International Platform on Sustainable Finance (IPSF), launched by the European Commission in October 2019. Within IPSF, the EU and China co-chair the Working Group on Taxonomies, which compares existing taxonomies for environmentally sustainable investments. In addition, they cooperate with the existing IPSF members in other areas, such as sustainable disclosures.

EU-China cooperation requires close and regular contact, and is formalised through the following annual dialogues:

  • the High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue, chaired by a Vice President on the EU side and a Vice-Premier on the Chinese side;
  • the Economic and Financial Dialogue between the European Commission and the European Central Bank, on one side, and the Chinese Ministry of Finance, the People's Bank of China and the Chinese financial market regulators, on the other;
  • the Macroeconomic Dialogue between the European Commission and the National Development and Reform Commission of China.


The European Investment Bank and China

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the finance arm of the European Union (EU). Owned by the Member States, it is the biggest multilateral financial institution in the world and one of the largest providers of climate finance. Headquartered in Luxembourg, the EIB is now represented in 23 Member States and 28 countries outside the EU. In China, as in many other cases, the EU Delegation hosts an EIB Office.

EIB’s recent work in China is guided by the EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation and other joint statements on climate cooperation. The latest climate statement came from the 21st EU-China summit, held in 2019 in Brussels. EIB has made climate action a priority in China. The aim is that all the lending in China supports the climate and the environment.  EIB has invested more than €3 billion in China till 2020, which has mobilised €9 billion to improve forestry, energy, transportation and other sectors. It’s estimated that energy projects financed by EIB reduced carbon emissions by 3.4 million tonnes a year and created nearly 1700 permanent jobs. Forestry projects created about 800,000 hectares of forests, reduced about 2.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year and created 120000 full-time jobs. The EIB’s 25th anniversary report on China highlights how the partnership has supported many major climate and environment projects. We also cooperated with the Green Finance Committee of China Society for Finance and Banking on the need for a common language in Green Finance (Phase I Report and Phase II Report).

For more information, please visit (external link) or contact


ii. Trade

The European Union and China are two of the biggest trading partners in the world. As of 2021, China is the EU's second trading partner, behind the United States, and the EU is China's biggest trading partner. Therefore, the EU and China hold major stakes in one another's sustainable growth and prosperity.

The EU is committed to open trading relations with China, and wants to ensure that China trades fairly, respects intellectual property rights, and meets its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

EU's trade policy towards China is set out in the EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation and in the EU-China Strategy of 2016, later updated by the 'EU-China – A Strategic Outlook' communication of March 2019.

EU-China trade and economic priorities, reiterated at the 21st EU-China Summit in 2019, include:

  • Investment negotiations;
  • WTO work;
  • negotiations of an agreement on Geographical Indications;
  • Quest for reciprocity, ensuring a level playing field;
  • Tackling overcapacity; and
  • Increased market access.

All these priorities seek at the same time to support genuine reform and opening up of the Chinese economy. These are key conditions to keep trade and economic relationships that are mutually healthy and prosperous, as well as to hold China responsible for maintaining the rules-based multilateral system.

The EU and China established a range of regular dialogues to discuss issues that arise in the bilateral trade and investment relationship.

Trade between the EU and China has been thriving despite the absence of a formal framework. There is, however, potential to tap, particularly in the field of investment. For this reason, the EU and China have engaged in negotiations on a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. On 30 December 2020, the EU and China reached an agreement in principle on this agreement, which needs to be ratified by both sides before it can enter into force. 

Beyond bilateral trade an investment relations, the EU engages China on trade and investment matters also at multilateral level, notably at the WTO. The priorities here are to make progress on WTO reform, and that China joins the Government Procurement Agreement, as committed in its WTO accession.


Learn more:

EU-China trade relations   


IP Key program (external link)

EU SME Centre (external link)

China IPR SME Helpdesk (external link)


iii. Investment

On 30 December 2020, the EU and China reached an agreement in principle on a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. The agreement needs to be ratified by both sides before it can enter into force. This agreement would improve market access conditions for EU companies in China, helping to rebalance current asymmetries in market openness between EU and China. It would also level the playing field for EU companies operating in China, and promote sustainable development.

Learn more: Press Release

EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment


iv. IP

Enforcement of Intellectual Property (‘IP’) rights is a priority of EU’s trade strategy for China and a key condition for the development of bilateral trade and investment. The EU has established a dedicated cooperation channel with China: the IP Key program (link is external). IP Key China is directed by the European Commission and implemented by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

The European Union Intellectual Property Office also has a dedicated IP attaché in Beijing.

The EU is also active in helping European small and medium enterprises (SMEs) interested in the Chinese market, namely by providing assistance through the EU SME Centre (link is external) and the China IPR SME Helpdesk

Keep informed of upcoming events: (external link) (external link)


v. Agriculture

The EU and China are major global players in agriculture.

In 2020, EU exports of agri-food to China reached a record level of EUR 17.693 million, corresponding to 9.71% of total EU agri-food exports. On that year, China was the 3rd destination of EU agri-food exports.

On the imports side, the EU bought agri-food products from China worth  roughly EUR 56.1 billion, accounting for 4.25 % of total EU agri-food imports.

Learn more:

The main channels for EU-China government cooperation are:

  • EU-China Dialogue on Agriculture - Since 2006, the EU and China hold annual meetings in the framework of the EU-China Dialogue on Agriculture. This dialogue is part of the EU-China High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue (HED), where both parts discuss topics of mutual interest, including agricultural policies (e.g. sustainable agriculture, rural development), agricultural trade and market access, agricultural research and innovation, cooperation in agriculture in international bodies (WTO, FAO,).
  • Other bilateral negotiations - The EU and China accomplished a major milestone in November 2019, by concluding negotiations on the Agreement between the European Union and the government of the People’s Republic of China on cooperation on, and protection of, geographical indications (GIs). The conclusions of these negotiations on the EU-CN GI Agreement represent an important deliverable of the EU-CN Summit of April 2019. The EU-CN GI Agreement has entered into force in March 2021.

Learn more about this agreement:

Photo: Commissioner Hogan signs the conclusions of the negotiations of the EU-China GI Agreement with Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan, in Beijing, China, on 6 November 2019.


vi. Customs cooperation and fight against fraud

Customs cooperation with China with a view to preventing, detecting and combating breaches of customs legislation is based on:

The operational cooperation framework is underpinned by an action plan, whose implementation is overseen by several steering groups established under the Joint Customs Cooperation Committee (JCCC). 

This action plan contributes to:

  • Enhancing supply chain security and facilitation for reliable traders

    • Upgrading cooperation on mutual recognition of Authorised Economic Operators (AEO)

    • Implementing the Smart and Secure Trade Lanes (SSTL) project

  • Strengthening enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR)

  • Fighting against fraud

  • Developing statistical cooperation

  • Establishing customs cooperation in cross-border e-commerce

  • Carrying out horizontal actions such as:

    • Enhancing policy exchanges;

    • Developing information technology (IT) cooperation;

    • Cooperation in the multilateral framework.

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) investigates matters relating to fraud, corruption and other illegal activities affecting both EU expenditure and EU revenue. In particular, OLAF is responsible for investigating customs fraud (for instance, false declarations of origin, undervaluation or mis-description of goods imported into the EU with the purpose of evading EU customs duties). OLAF carries out such investigations in close cooperation with national customs authorities, both inside and outside the EU. Due to the sheer size of EU-China bilateral trade, China is understandably a key partner in this regard. In addition to its investigations concerning cases of revenue fraud, OLAF also coordinates or participates in large-scale Joint Customs Operations (JCOs) involving EU and international operational partners, including China.

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i. Environment

China and the EU share a strong focus on green low carbon transition towards carbon neutrality. The EU is implementing the Green Deal that will transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where growth is decoupled from resource use and GHG emission.

Presented by the Commission on 11 December 2019, the European Green Deal sets the goal of making Europe the first climate-neutral (net zero GHG emissions) continent by 2050 to tackle climate change and environmental degradation.

The EU, as a global leader, will continue to promote and implement ambitious environment, climate and energy policies across the world. It will develop a stronger ‘green deal diplomacy’ focused on convincing and supporting others to take on their share of promoting more sustainable development.

Ongoing EU-China Dialogues on environmental matters:

Executive Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans and Vice Premier Han Zheng of China’s State Council met during the first EU-China High-level Environment and Climate Dialogue, on 1st February 2021. This new dialogue is to date the highest level of cooperation between EU and China on climate and environment matters, undoubtedly a priority area for both sides.

Prior to this new dialogue, the EU has regularly engaged with China through other thematic channels on environment matters.

  • Environment

The Environment Policy Dialogue (EPD) has been held at ministerial level since 2003. In 2017 meetings, the EU and China agreed on principles of technical cooperation. In the latest EPD meetings, in April 2021, both parties agreed to promote further policy exchanges on biodiversity conservation on land, forests and seas, air quality, harmful chemicals, the Minamata Convention, marine litter and micro-plastics.

  • Circular economy

Mr. Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Mr. He Lifeng, Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, on 16 July 2018, during the EU-China Summit, signed the MoU on Circular Economy Cooperation. Following this MoU, the EU and China established a ministerial dialogue to accelerate bilateral collaboration on responding to common challenges and supporting a global transition to a resource-efficient and circular economic model in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

In April 2019, the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Mr Karmenu VELLA had a constructive meeting with Mr. Zhang Yong, Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China, where both reaffirmed that cooperation on circular economy will be of the benefit of the people and therefore contribute to the mitigation of climate change of the planet. Given the increasing challenges from plastics waste and pollution to the environment, both leaders decided to take plastics as the priority area for both sides to work on together at the first stage. Scope for future cooperation includes dialogue on the design, planning, and implementation of policies in areas of mutual interest, such as design for circularity, extended producer responsibility, waste sorting, collection and recycling as well as further development of circular economy in key sectors such as plastics, textile, electronics, housing, packaging, etc.

Circular Economy remains an important political priority both in the EU and in China. The New Circular Economy Action Plan issued by the Commission in March 2020 and the 14th Five Year Plan for the Development of Circular Economy issued by NDRC in July 2021 provided new guidance on concrete cooperation between EU and China on Circular Economy.

  • Water resources

As a reinforcement of Cooperation between the EU and China on water resources, both sides agreed to upgrade the level of cooperation to a ministerial level dialogue in 2017. On 2 April 2019, EU Commissioner Mr. Karmenu Vella and Mr. E Jingping, Minister of Ministry of Water Resources of China co-hosted the first Meeting of the EU-China Water Policy Dialogue .

Besides this high-level dialogue, the EU plays a crucial role in supporting the China-Europe Water Platform (CEWP) established in 2012 to encourage an integrated approach to water management in China. The CEWP is a partnership between the EU, EU Member States and China represented by the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources. CEWP is supported by the EU and the People's Republic of China. It promotes policy dialogue on water sector reforms and encourages capacity-building, technical and business cooperation. The latest meetings of the China Europe Platform was the 8th High Level Dialogue Conference China Europe Platform took place on 22nd January 2021.

  • Forestry

The Bilateral Cooperation Mechanism (BCM) on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance and Trade (FLEGT), with the Chinese State Forestry Administration, aims to tackle illegal logging and associated trade through domestic measures (information, legal frameworks and policies) and through joint work with other countries, including in Southeast Asia and Africa, to stem the trade in illegally logged timber. The EU FLEGT Action Plan includes the EU Timber Regulation, which aims to reduce illegal logging by ensuring that no illegal timber or timber products can be sold in the EU. In July 2021, the Commission proposed the New EU Forest Strategy 2030.

Through technical projects, the EU also engages with the National Forestry and Grassland Administration on wildlife protection and implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) .


ii. Climate

Cooperation on climate change is a high priority for the EU and China. In 2005, the EU and China agreed to establish the Climate Change Partnership to provide a high-level framework for cooperation and dialogue on climate change policies, to exchange views on key issues in international climate change negotiations and to encourage low-carbon technology development and uptake.

Later, the 2018 leaders' statement on climate change and energy and an MOU to enhance cooperation of Emissions Trading Schemes (ETS) reinforced the targets of that partnership. Under the ETS MoU, the two sides confirmed their commitments under the Paris Agreement and agreed to step up cooperation to implement and promote low greenhouse gas emissions, climate resilient and sustainable development. The EU and China further agreed to intensify bilateral cooperation in a number of areas, namely:

  • Long-term development strategies for low greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Emissions trading;
  • Energy efficiency;
  • Clean energy;
  • Low-emission transport;
  • Low-carbon cities;
  • Cooperation in climate-related technology, including in Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS);
  • Investment in climate and clean energy projects;
  • Adaption to climate change and resilience;
  • Cooperation with other developing countries.

In the 1st EU-China High Level Environment and Climate Dialogue in February 2021, both sides restated their commitment to work closely together, as well as to take leadership in pressing ahead the international process and delivering the goals of the Paris Agreement. Regular exchanges are also taking place at technical level under the leadership of EU Director Generals Mauro Petriccione and Florika Fink Hoojier and Mr. Zhao Yingmin, China’s Vice Minister of Environment in preparation for every key milestones, starting with the yearly climate COP.


iii. Energy

EU and China share common interests and goals for energy security, global energy markets and clean energy transition. They are jointly responsible for one third of the world's final energy consumption. The EU’s energy cooperation with China thus focuses on supporting both sides’ clean energy transition while keeping in mind energy security.  Such transition is a prerequisite to successfully implement the Paris Agreement and to provide their citizens with clean, sustainable and affordable energy.

In April 2019, during the 8th EU-China Energy Dialogue, the EU and China signed the Joint Statement on the Implementation of EU-China Energy Cooperation. Later in May that year, the EU-China Energy Cooperation Platform (ECECP) was launched in Beijing.

The ECECP has been established as a practical tool to support and operationalise the Energy Dialogue and to deliver on the specific objectives of EU-China bilateral energy cooperation. The overall objective of the project is to enhance EU-China cooperation on energy, in line with the EU’s Energy Union, the Clean Energy for All Europeans initiative and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This enhanced cooperation will help increase mutual trust and understanding between the EU and China, and contribute to a global transition towards clean energy on the basis of a common vision of a sustainable, reliable and secure energy system. The Platform is jointly steered by the Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy and the Chinese National Energy Administration. In addition to supporting policy dialogue and cooperation, the Platform will also create opportunities for EU innovative energy companies.

 On 22 June 2020, during the EU-China Summit, EU Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson and the Administrator of the National Energy Administration of China Mr ZHANG Jianhua co-hosted 9th EU-China Energy Dialogue.

The dialogue focused on clean energy policies, in the context of both parties’ efforts to overcome the economic crisis caused by COVID-19. Discussions addressed the EU Recovery Plan and the European Green Deal and China’s measures to stimulate clean energy development, as well as the shared responsibility to promote green energy investments in third countries. Commissioner Simson and Administrator Zhang also discussed security issues of the global energy markets, diversification of currencies for energy transactions, progress on power market reforms in the EU and China, as well as energy innovation and business cooperation. European and Chinese businesses presented their views on the opportunities and challenges of energy investment in China.

Commissioner Simson and Administrator Zhang reviewed progress on the Joint Statement on the Implementation of the EU-China Energy Cooperation, which was signed in the margins of the 2019 EU-China Summit. They also took stock of the progress of the EU-China Energy Cooperation Platform (ECECP), launched in May 2019, and discussed activities that are planned under the second Annual Work Programme of the Platform.

Over the past two and half years, the Platform has provided a venue for numerous conferences and dialogues. It generated several comparative studies and reports, that provide useful conclusions and recommendations on developing capacity and integration of renewable energy, reform of the energy market, among other issues.  The Platform will continue to mobilize a wide range of energy players in China and the EU and to push political declarations into tangible actions.

EU-China Energy Cooperation Platform (English): (external link)


iv. Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

EU cooperation with China has a long history, and is managed on the EU side by the European Commission Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE), under the leadership of Commissioner Virginijus SINKEVIČIUS.

At the 20th EU-China Summit, held in Beijing on 16 July 2018, the two sides expressed their satisfaction with the successful EU-China Blue Year in 2017 and agreed on a Blue Partnership for the Oceans as a means to improve cooperation aiming at better ocean governance, sustainable fisheries, and a thriving maritime economy between the EU and China. Both sides also reaffirmed their commitment to fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and their shared interest in dialogue on matters related to the Law of the Sea and polar affairs.

At the 21st EU-China summit, held in Brussels on 9 April 2019, the two sides reaffirmed their commitment towards the effective implementation of the Blue Partnership for the Oceans, including cooperation on promoting sustainable fisheries and fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and exchanges on the conservation and sustainable use of Antarctic marine living resources, including by the establishment of marine protected areas in the Antarctic Ocean. The two sides endorsed the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles promoting sustainable investment in the oceans.

In this context, Mr Karmenu VELLA, then European Commissioner for Environment, Ocean Affairs and Fisheries, hosted the 1st EU – China Blue Partnership Forum for the Oceans in Brussels on 5 September 2019 for European and Chinese stakeholders, including representatives of EU Member States, business, academia, think tanks and NGOs, to discuss topics of common interest and identify possible joint actions.

The EU and China meet annually for High Level Dialogues (HLDs) in three related areas: HLD on Ocean Affairs; HLD on Fisheries; and HLD on Law of the Sea and Polar Affairs. Due to restrictions connected to the COVID pandemic, the three dialogues took place in virtual format (online) in 2020.


v. Transport

Transport is a core element of the EU-China relationship, crucial for advancing people-to-people relations, investment and trade. In 2019, before the COVID pandemic, there were over 200 flights weekly between China and Europe. That year, 19.1 million Europeans visited China, and 15.5 million Chinese citizens travelled to Europe.  Shipping, and more recently rail cargo, are the basis for our bilateral trading relationship.

The EU Delegation works closely with its counterparts in China, with EU Member States, with EU companies and with the EU-China Chamber of Commerce to ensure success, as well as to resolve any issues.

International transport links have been severely affected since the outbreak of the COVID pandemic in late 2019.


Caption: EU Ambassador Nicolas CHAPUIS meets Minister for Transport LI Xiaopeng, Beijing, 1 June 2021


Sustainably and Smart Mobility

The European Commission’s Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, adopted on 9 December 2020, sets targets for the next 10-30 years, aimed at enabling the EU transport system to achieve green and digital transformation, and to become more resilient when facing future crises.

The EU and China face similar challenges related to transport, notably pollution, accidents and congestion. There is potential for cooperation to stimulate decarbonisation and modernisation of the world transport and mobility system, working together bilaterally and in international organisations.


EU-China Connectivity Platform

In an effort to improve transport connectivity, the European Commission Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) and the National Development and Reform Commission of China (NDRC) established a Connectivity Platform in 2015.

The main objective is to explore potential to improve transport links between Europe and Asia in a sustainable manner and based on market principles. Both sides have committed to openness, transparency and a level playing field.

In July 2018, the two sides reached agreement to carry out a Joint Study on sustainable railway-based comprehensive transport corridors between Europe and China, to define the most appropriate railway corridors, to identify bottlenecks, and to identify and prioritise the missing links to improve the capacity and efficiency of rail corridors.  The fourth Chairs’ Meeting of the EU-China Connectivity Platform in April 2019 endorsed the Terms of Reference of the Joint Study.


Related documents:


Terms of Reference of the Joint Study on Sustainable Railway-based Comprehensive Transport Corridors between Europe and China

Minutes of the 4th Chairs Meeting of the EU-China Connectivity Platform - EN

Minutes of the 4th Chairs Meeting of the EU-China Connectivity Platform – CH

In the context of EU-China relations, Research and Innovation(R&I) is an essential area of cooperation.  A policy priority both in Europe and in China, Research and Innovation is driven by ambitions of ensuring a sustainable and inclusive future of their peoples and of the planet.


i. Cooperation instruments

The EU and China have signed the Agreement for Scientific and Technological Cooperation, which has been in force since December 1998. Later, in 2012, the two sides signed a joint declaration to set up a High Level Innovation Cooperation Dialogue (ICD). Through this dialogue, which first took place in 2013, the two sides have been working together to improve mutual understanding of their respective innovation systems and policies, to promote effective innovation policies and support measures, and to tackle the framework conditions for innovation. The ICD is conceived as a high-level dialogue between European Commission and the government of the People’s Republic of China. It is co-chaired at the Commissioner-Ministerial level and gathers all relevant administrations of both sides to review bilateral cooperation on innovation and underlying framework conditions.

The EU and China are currently carrying out discussions over an EU-China Joint Roadmap for Future Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Cooperation. This roadmap aims to set joint thematic priorities and framework conditions to be fulfilled by both sides, in order to create a level playing field. Under the guiding principles of openness, reciprocity and mutual benefits, the EU and China will able to strengthen STI cooperation, while respecting fundamental values, high ethical and science integrity standards. As noted in the EC communication of 18 May 2021on the Global Approach to Research and Innovation, the adoption of the Joint Roadmap is a precondition to readdress the cooperation between EU and China in STI.

Agreements and arrangements

Agreement for scientific and technological cooperation between the European Community and the Government of the People's Republic of China

Agreement between the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and the Government of the People's Republic of China for R&D Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy (RD-PUNE) 

Joint declaration on EU-China innovation cooperation dialogue

Framework Research Arrangement between the European Commission Joint Research Centre and the Chinese Academy of Sciences


ii. Support to research and innovation

Under the EU’s research and innovation framework programme Horizon 2020 (2014-2020), numerous scientific collaborations have taken place between Europe and China to tackle jointly global challenges. With about 600 participants joining approximately 300 projects, China was the second most successful non-associated third country partner in Horizon 2020, after the US.

To support joint research and innovation projects between European and Chinese universities, research institutions and companies in strategic areas of common interest under the framework of Horizon 2020, the Chinese government launched a Co-funding Mechanism (CFM) on the occasion of the 2nd EU-China Innovation Cooperation Dialogue in June 2015. Through CFM, funds are provided by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) for China-based participants involved in Horizon 2020 research and innovation projects, particularly focussing on areas of mutual interest (flagship initiatives), although not limited to.

Under Horizon 2020, the EU and China identified five flagship initiatives, which refer to specific areas of mutual interest and concentrate most of the funding allocated to EU-China cooperation in R&I:

  • Food, Agriculture and Biotechnologies (FAB);
  • Aviation;
  • Sustainable Urbanization;
  • Biotechnologies for Health and Environment;
  • Surface Transport.

For Horizon 2020 projects that include Chinese participations, the CFM allowed the EU and China to provide an equal contribution in terms of effort and resources in selected areas (e.g. FAB and Aviation). For more details(links to 5 .pdf documents):

Horizon Europe (2021-2027) is the EU’s new framework programme for Research and Innovation succeeding Horizon 2020 (2014-2020). With a EUR 95.5 billion budget, it will provide support for a green, healthy, digital and inclusive Europe. Not only it aims to boost Europe’s scientific global leadership, excellent science, and breakthrough innovation,  it introduces at the same time commitments with societal challenges, by setting up specialised  ‘missions’ to work on the fight against cancer, adaptation to climate changes, greener cities, healthy food and soil, and protection of oceans, seas and waters. Horizon Europe seeks to extend international cooperation by teaming up the best talents from Europe and third countries. The programme aims to form new partnerships between research, innovation and industry that can enable effective solutions.


Horizon Europe will further strengthen EU-China cooperation through specific research projects that address thematic priorities agreed in the Joint EU-China Roadmap for future cooperation in Research and Innovation. As of August 2021, the EU and China have reached agreements on two flagship initiatives under Horizon Europe, namely:

  • Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology;
  • Climate Change and Biodiversity.


For more information on Horizon Europe:

Horizon Europe (

Communication on the Global Approach to Research and Innovation


iii. Our work

The EU Delegation to China plays an important role in strengthening EU-China cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). The Delegation promotes and facilitates dialogue among EU Member States’ diplomatic missions in China on a common approach towards China in research and innovation related issues. The Delegation also works to raise awareness on EU policies and programmes and supports coordination and development of joint activities. For more details (link to a pdf document):

Research, Innovation and Science cooperation between EU Member States, H2020 Associated Countries, the EU and China

The EU Delegation to China also actively assists European researchers, either based in Europe or China, that wish to develop professional connections with China. In close connection with EURAXESS, an EU initiative that supports research mobility and career development, the EU Delegation cooperates in the organisation of networking events, involves researchers in policy discussions, and promotes mobility opportunities.

For specific information on Euraxess in China, please visit (external link).

For both the EU and China, the fields of digital economy and society are strategic priorities. On the EU side in particular, the Digital Compass communication (external link), published by the European Commission in 2021, translates the EU’s digital ambitions for the next decade into clear, concrete targets. This document sets out a European way for the digital decade. Because digital transformation poses global challenges, the EU works at the same time to promote its positive and human-centred digital agenda internationally.

China is a key interlocutor in this field and digital economy’s increasing importance is reflected in the wider bilateral relations. The EU and China have addressed this topic regularly at the EU-China Summit, as well as in the High-level Digital Dialogue.

The European Commission's Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology (DG CONNECT) has also maintained an annual dialogue on ICT policy with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) since 2009 and has co-chaired the co-chaired the EU-China Cyber Taskforce since its creation in 2012.

DG CONNECT also contributed to trade and research-related dialogues and other cooperation mechanisms. In 2015, DG CONNECT signed with the MIIT a Joint Declaration on strategic cooperation in 5G mobile networks.

The EU Delegation to China takes a holistic view regarding the sector's value chain and addresses questions concerning digital policies, innovation and standardisation. It also closely cooperates with EU tech companies active in China.

Throughout the EU’s work on international partnerships, it is clear that China is a key player in almost all areas. China has shifted from a recipient to a provider of development assistance and plays an increasingly important role in international development as a donor and lender. Therefore, engaging China as a cooperation partner is critical for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs).


i. Our work

The EU Delegation engages Chinese counterparts to enhance mutual understanding between the EU and China on international development policies, promoting the exchange of information on best practices and international sustainability standards. The EU is the world’s largest provider of development assistance.  Sharing EU practices on international development and raising awareness of EU key policies is therefore an important regular component of EU Delegation’s exchanges with Chinese policy makers, academic institutions, think tanks, the development community and international organisations’ experts.  This includes discussion on the EU’s overall approach to development cooperation and key sectoral policies.  These are outlined in the European Consensus on Development, as well as the EU-Asia Connectivity Strategy, the EU strategy on Multilateralism, and the EU-Africa Strategy.

On the basis of common interests and international commitments, the EU and China must work together on tackling global challenges, such as those related to climate change, the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the international response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the establishment of the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) in 2018, EU-China exchanges on international development cooperation have intensified.


ii. Priority areas

In terms of international development cooperation in the period 2021-2027, the EU works on three priority areas in China, namely:

  • Promoting global public goods and addressing global challenges – including climate change, biodiversity, sustainable consumption and production, etc.
  • Underpinning EU values – including supporting a vibrant, empowered, pluralistic and independent civil society, as well as safeguarding human rights and fundamental freedoms, good governance, and the rule of law, etc.
  • Exploring innovative ways of cooperation between the EU and China in developing regions and countries.

Programmes like the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and the Civil Society Organisation–Local Authorities (CSO-LA) launch calls on a regular basis to provide financial support to civil society organisations working in China.

EU bilateral aid to China stopped in 2012.  However, due to the significant impact of Chinese development policies on global public goods (GPGs), the Green Deal, and the development pathway of other regions and developing countries the EU maintains active support in these fields in China focused on global development outcomes.

Under the current EU financial framework for 2021-2027, the EU's external action is supported by the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI – Global Europe). The NDICI ‘Global Europe’ provides funding for cooperation actions across the world and is underpinned by the “policy-first” principle, allowing for better alignment of international cooperation with EU political and policy priorities. This instrument also offers more flexibility and responsiveness to new emerging priorities and challenges in a fast-changing world.  

Recent examples of EIDHR and CSO-LA projects include

  • Promoting NGOs capacity to advocate in environmental policy and legal action;
  • Joint efforts on empowering NGO to create sustainable support to vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities in China, migrants and left-behind, child victims of abuse, rural and remote women, informal workers, etc.;
  • Supporting NGOs to advance women’s decision-making, gender equality and women empowerment, also in rural remote areas.

More details: 

Joint Efforts on Empowering CSO for People with Disabilities in China

Promoting NGOs’ capacity to advocate in  Environment policy and legal action

Supporting NGOs to advance women’s decision-making through healthy start in life program in Shaanxi


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