The European Union’s top officials should have been sitting on a Chinese high-speed train on Tuesday morning, zipping between Beijing and Tianjin for an annual dialogue with their Chinese counterparts, writes Jamil Anderlini.
Instead the conference was postponed at the last minute and Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso were stuck in Brussels trying to hammer out a deal to save the eurozone.
The change of plans saved the three leaders from what would have been a rather uncomfortable summit, during which Chinese
officials would have tried to extract maximum political advantage out of their guests.
European politicians are not quite coming cap in hand to Beijing to ask for a bail-out, but they are clearly hoping that China and other developing countries such as Brazil will see it as being in their own interests to pitch in some cash to help out.
Suggestions include a plan for China and other governments to contribute money to the International Monetary Fund that is then used to support sovereign debt markets or recapitalise European banks, but Chinese officials coyly insist they have not been formally asked for anything yet.
They say they expect a formal request for assistance at the forthcoming G20 meeting in Cannes on November 3 and 4 and they may very well agree to help out – just as they did in the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2009, when they bought $50bn of special IMF bonds. That appears a trifling figure for a country with $3,200bn in foreign exchange reserves to throw around but don’t expect Beijing to cough up much more.
In public, the message is supportive and encouraging.
“China is confident that the EU has the ability and wisdom to overcome these straits. We have always provided what help we
can to the countries concerned via bilateral
and multilateral channels,” the government said on Monday.
But in private, Chinese officials say the suggestion that China will do much more to save Europe is preposterous.
“Ask a Chinese farmer if China should save Europe and he will ask who is going to save him,” one senior politician recently told the Financial Times. “The key issue at the moment is that the market doesn’t have sufficient confidence in [European] government policy and the ability of the government to carry out the right policies – so if your governments can’t convince the market then what can China do or say to convince them?”
China will keep making soothing noises about confidence and support for Europe and may even pitch in with some spare change from its foreign exchange reserves. But in the end China’s leaders believe it is up to Europe and its own people and governments to sort out their problems themselves.
然而，会议在最后一刻被推迟了；欧盟常任主席赫尔曼?范龙佩(Herman Van Rompuy)和欧盟委员会主席若泽?曼努埃尔?巴罗佐(José Manuel Barroso)被困在布鲁塞尔，试图撮合一个拯救欧元区的协议。
刚表态过的朋友 (2 人)