Editor’s note: Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Europe from May 5 to 10. What anchors the China-EU relationship? Do European companies still have confidence in the Chinese market? Jens Eskelund, the president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, shares his views and experience with us. Let’s check out this episode and hear his take. The views expressed in the video are his own and not necessarily those of CGTN.

CGTN: It is reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping will be visiting Europe soon. What are your expectations from his trip to Europe? And what do you think are Europe’s expectations?

Jens Eskelund: First of all, I think it’s excellent that the president is going to Europe. We also just had the German Chancellor Scholz visiting here in China. I think it’s very important that we keep up momentum with these high-level bilateral meetings. We had seven commissioners from the EU Commission also come to China, and in the past year, Ursula von der Leyen came twice. Very, very good.

I think one of the fundamental issues that we have now in the relationship is that we need to build trust, because trust is what will allow us to also have some of the difficult conversations that Europe and China need to have. I’m sure that some of those things that are a little bit problematical in the relationship right now will also be discussed. And we of course hope that this opportunity to re-engage at the highest level will provide some pathway to address these.

CGTN: On the overall China-EU relationship, we can’t get around the fact that the United States plays a critical role in this bilateral relationship. Its policies and attitudes towards China can, in some respects, affect Europe and actually vice versa. So, what do you think is anchoring the China-Europe relationship? What makes it work despite the influence of the United States?

Jens Eskelund: I think one good place to start is that increasingly (we are) beginning to think of Europe as an autonomous actor, able to make its own decisions. If you are approaching your relationship with Europe through a sort of U.S. filter, I think this is something that will lead to missed opportunities and obscure discussions that could be taken on different terms. I think we need, in some ways, also to see the EU-China relationship as an EU-China relationship, and make sure that even though that relationship is influenced (by) what happens in the China-U.S. space, (we should) also insist that there are things that are unique to the EU-China relationship and maybe try to focus on them.

CGTN: Let’s talk about the economic side. China proposed its “new quality productive forces” last year and this has become quite a central theme in China’s development. Where do you see Europe fit into that?

Jens Eskelund: I think it’s a very obvious path for China to take that you want to move into higher value-added, more sophisticated manufacturing, also, in order to boost productivity and be in line with overall Chinese development aspirations.

CGTN: Do you see Europe benefiting from that?

Jens Eskelund: I think Europe very much being a part of it. I think that the European industry, in many areas, is exactly in that space – you know, in qualitative, productive forces. There ought to be many opportunities for Europe and China to work on some of these industries and make progress together.

CGTN: Since you work with a lot of the European companies and corporations, what do you hear from them about the Chinese market? Do they still have confidence?

Jens Eskelund: European companies, our members, 1800 companies that are members of the EU Chamber, we remain deeply committed to China. No one is running for the exit here. You see, a lot of the very large companies for whom China is an existential market continue to invest here, some even doubling down on investment in China.

In addition to what you already have in China, where I think we are a little bit concerned is in regards to the small- and medium-sized enterprises. When you consider that the small- and medium-sized enterprises really are the backbone of the European economy, I think they need to be our focus. How can you continue to work with the SMEs, so they have an interest in coming into China? That would be a mix of things. But I think in that respect, supply chain resilience, geopolitics and predictability of how the business environment will develop would be important for these companies.