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Asia, Europe must partner to address global challenges

By Fu Jing | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-10 08:02

A tiny airport in my mountainous hometown in Sichuan province, where a small number of farmers still live in absolute poverty, has been put into trial operation. It means that next year, if all goes well, I will be able to visit my parents and relatives within half day by taking a flight from Beijing.

This is revolutionary change for the 4 million residents (one-third the total population of Belgium) of Bazhong in Sichuan province. In the early 1990s, when I travelled between my hometown and Beijing for higher education, the time-consuming, overcrowded journey over bumpy roads and by slow train was nostalgic, but also arduous and distressing.

In addition, construction work on Beijing's second international airport, now officially named Beijing Daxing International Airport, is in full swing. And Chongqing, about 300 kilometers away from my hometown, is reportedly talking with Belgium about a direct flight between Chongqing and Brussels. A Beijing-Brussels flight was launched more than 10 years ago, and such linkages have also been established with Shanghai and Shenzhen.

These are vivid examples how China, no matter whether it be big Chinese cities or tiny villages, where people still in poverty, passionately engages with the world by offering infrastructural connectivity. There has been a growing number of direct flights been China and other countries in recent years, and an increasing diversity of destinations. There has also been a surge in other means of connectivity between China and other countries.

These encouraging actions and ambitions must be reflected at the upcoming summit of Asian and European leaders to be held in Brussels on Oct 18-19, where the participants are to discuss "joint actions" against "global challenges".

Indeed, the 12th Summit of the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM12), is being held against the complicated and worrying backdrop that the United States has escalated its trade frictions with China and other partners. The country's politicians have even started spreading fabricated narratives about China in order to influence the world.

But we should not be frightened when the global power temporally takes irresponsible actions. Instead, Asian and European countries, natural neighbors on the Eurasian continent, should stick to their own agenda of identifying common priorities and targets and rolling out regional and continental action plans to become closer in more convenient ways.

Asian and European leaders meet every two years. This is a rational arrangement, which leaves a lot of time for concrete actions. When the leaders of about 50 countries meet, they identify doable goals and then after two years, they can check delivery.

Right now, connectivity, infrastructure, education and industry are still the key requirements for the Eurasian continent. Between West Europe and East Asia, there is a vast number of regions, countries, counties and villages still in isolation, poverty, and even conflict.

Luckily, across the continent, many countries are actively pursuing integration, although extremism and populism are also challenging. The European Union has recently announced its own connectivity plan for the continent, many EU member countries have their regional ambitions, and Russia, India and Mongolia have also their own designs for regional development. China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative five years ago.

In facing this fascinating landscape of increasing connectivity, instead of building walls and madly levying tariffs, the leaders of Europe and Asia must think ahead how to better coordinate and accommodate their countries' differing needs.

In doing so, Asia and Europe would indeed be fighting against the global challenges. That will also help create more Asian and European stories similar to that of my hometown, which was isolated from the rest of the world until just a few decades ago.

The author is deputy chief of China Daily European Bureau.

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