Cultural Diplomacy News (CDN)
Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (Member of European Parliament)

16.09.2011 - Interview conducted by Jason Dudhee

Q) Can the EU overcome its issues of decision making to form a united policy regarding China, especially as individual members look to protect their own bilateral relations with China?

I am convinced that the EU must discuss what aims and objectives they hope achieve on behalf of the committee, because, unfortunately, European institutions and European heads of state have never discussed the strategy of the EU towards China. It is the first step, and with the European Conceal we have a good basis, but they should now discuss between European member states what they hope to achieve.  Some countries in the EU place more importance on human rights abuses, some emphasise the significance of environmental issues, and some countries are more concerned with economic relations. It is, at this moment, not coherent. I think that we should find a balance at a European level or else we will not be effective it pursuit of our objectives - whatever they may be.

Q) Many of the speakers at this conference have emphasised the need for better cultural understanding between China and Europe - how realistic do you think this is?

It is a key issue. We don’t know enough about each other, but if I were to compare I would say our Chinese partners know us in Europe better than we know them. Having said that, China should improve its knowledge of European decision making, because it is very, very complicated; it is a legal labyrinth, which very Europeans are able, navigate. On the other hand, we must develop our modern China policy studies; if we don’t know enough about their problems - real problems of rural development, 800 million people living in the countryside without social security, or 200 million migrant workers, problems of urbanisation, of education etc. - if Europe doesn’t have reliable, deep information on these issues, we won’t be able to establish a real strategy partnership. Language is also key; we in Europe have make more efforts to learn the Chinese language - again if I compare the 200 million Chinese people learning English with the few thousand (maybe less) Europeans learning Chinese, it is clear to me that we will be losers if we don’t change our behaviour.
Q) You talk of ‘partnerships’, but are this not just rhetoric? If you think there really is a possibility of cultural dialogue, is it not a contradiction that China is reluctant to allow, for example, French institutes or Spanish institutes to enter their country, whist being more than happy to spread Confucius institutes all over the world?

This is a legitimate question because more and more people amongst the European decision makers, the politicians and also the European public, there is an increasing fear concerning China as a big super power, threatening us and our Western way of life. But the facts suggest quite the opposite. For example, during the economic crisis of 2008, China helped the USA pay its substantial state debt with long-term state bonds that guaranteed long term stability for the USA. China understood very well that if they were to lose the USA as a trade partner, they would also lose out economically. I think Chinese leader is very, very reliable.

Q) Do you think that the EU and individual European countries should pursue the Human Rights issue with China?

We must defend and represent our core values. Without doubt. We are proud of the results and achievements of the European social model and our democratic roots. But we mustn’t confuse representing these values, with exporting these values. There are lots of examples that make it clear that exporting democracy or Rule of Law, is simply not possible. China will be a democracy, but it will not be the same as the European model. They have a completely different culture, with their own traditions and Confucian philosophies. We must have a structure dialogue in which the most sensitive issues can be discussed, but not as a schoolmaster, not as a teacher; rather on an equal basis.

Q) Finally, given how fragile the EU seems to be a moment, and how strong is, what do you think the future is for EU China relations?

It is very important that China is deeply concerned with the situation in Europe. For them, the stability and prosperity of Europe is a vital issue because they would like to have a balanced multi-polar world, and China cannot counter balance the USA. We have a mutual interest. Concerning the present situation in Europe, we can say that this is one biggest, deepest crises we have had to face, with new dividing lines being exacerbated by economic disparities. Having said this, I believe there is also that there has been much more united action, not at a national level, but at a community level. And I think our Chinese partners should be much more informed, not only about the increasing gap between member states, but also the increasing community based actions and decisions of the EU.