With super-powers jostling for influence, how do Europe and China forge a new and more fruitful relationship, especially through tourism and culture?
At the Friends of Europe conference ‘Understanding China’s “soft power” and influence’ in Brussels on 21 November 2017, experts debated the key challenges and opportunities of fostering a better relationship between Europe and China, saying there was a need for sustained effort to bring the continents closer together.
‘Tourism can help the EU and China build trust, openness and mutual understanding,’ noted Anna Athanasopoulou, head of the European Commission’s Unit for Tourism. She highlighted the benefits of more exchanges based on culture and heritage, which will feature largely in the EU-China Tourism Year in 2018. Chinese experts said that Chinese tourists make up 20% of the world’s tourism market, but still face European visa problems. So Europe must roll out a warmer welcome to Chinese tourists – especially the young and digitally savvy – and focus on quality experience rather than mass travel.
Soft power was analysed in the conference’s second EU-China debate. Panellists agreed that China is a fast-emerging global player, despite widespread European scepticism (dubbed ‘a great wall of ignorance’ by author Diego Gilardoni) about China’s soft power goals and plans such as the Belt and Road Initiative.
With the United States increasingly isolated, Europe and China have common cause in global trade, multilateral deals and fighting climate change. Hence their need for more dialogue and cooperation in the media, cultural and artistic spheres. ‘We must promote exchanges between each other, so as to introduce China to the world and Europe to China,’ added Gao Shijun, from China Radio International.
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