Speaking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone on Wednesday, President Xi Jinping said that by strengthening their cooperation, China and the European Union could achieve meaningful things.

Thanks to their shared belief in economic globalization and multilateralism, relations between China and Germany have enjoyed sound development. The two leaders talked on the phone four times last year, which, as Xi acknowledged, also played an important role in stabilizing China-EU relations.

On Wednesday, Xi said that he hoped that Germany and the EU would make an independent judgment of what was happening in the world and make positive efforts with China to give the world more “certainty and stability”.

The phone call came after the EU has seemingly jumped into bed with the new US administration by imposing unilateral sanctions on a number of Chinese citizens and an entity for alleged human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and calling off a meeting on the bilateral investment treaty that China and the EU have recently concluded their negotiations on.

If healthy Sino-EU relations are not restored, it will shake an important foundation of the rules-based international order.

Noting that China-EU relations are facing new opportunities as well as various challenges, Xi said that the key to seizing the former and managing the latter is to maintain the positive keynote of China-EU relations and to ignore any distractions.

The EU can only uphold its beliefs and values, and serve its own interests, by exercising its autonomy. Should multilateralism become cliquey, as the US administration is promoting, it will only lead to the EU being used as a grunt in another Cold War.

Pandemic prevention and control cooperation has deepened the mutual trust between China and many of the EU members, and the common interests between China and the EU have expanded as a result of the global health threat.

Last year, China replaced the US as the bloc’s largest trade partner for the first time, and China’s ambitious plans to pursue green development, upgrade its consumption and further open up its market all dovetail with the EU’s recovery plan.

Whether the US is back or not does not alter the fact that China’s development is an opportunity for the EU, and vice versa.

China and the EU should enhance their mutual trust through dialogue so that the US cannot hijack their relations. As two major forces in the world, by properly managing their differences, and working together to nurture new opportunities and open up new prospects, they can bolster confidence in a global post-pandemic recovery and give much-needed impetus to the crucial tasks of realizing carbon neutrality.