Ahead of a two-day EU-Asia summit in Beijing, the European Union said Thursday China had to play its part in helping to resolve the current global economic crisis.
German Chancellor Merkel with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing on Thursday
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday, Oct. 23, said China should have more say in international financial institutions, but also urged Beijing to play its part in helping to resolve the global financial crisis.
"We need a coordinated global response to reform the global financial system. We are living in unprecedented times, and we need unprecedented levels of global coordination," Barroso told reporters in Beijing.
"I very much hope that China gives an important contribution to the solution of this financial crisis. It's a great opportunity for China to show a sense of responsibility," he said. "It's very simple: we sink together or we swim together."
"We need Asia on board"
Barroso's comments came ahead of a two-day summit in Beijing of the 27 EU member states and 16 Asian countries covering the global downturn, climate change and international security.
Chinese investors too are an anxious lot nowadays
Outlining the "unprecedented" challenges facing the global economy, under threat of a looming worldwide recession, Barroso said: "We need Asia to be on board, and more particularly countries like China, India (and) Japan."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, has already said he would use the ASEM summit to seek Asian backing for his bid to rebuild the world's financial system.
European governments have already committed more than two trillion dollars to help bail out struggling banks and shore up plummeting stock markets in largely coordinated actions.
Unlike in Europe, Asian banks have not responded to the crisis with coordinated action, but rather have focused on cutting interest rates, guaranteeing bank deposits and injecting money into credit markets.
"The present gathering could not be more timely. We face challenges which don't respect any borders," Barroso said. "No one in Europe or Asia can seriously pretend to be immune. We are living in unprecedented times, and we need unprecedented levels of global coordination."
Barroso says China could enjoy greater influence
Barroso also hinted that in return Beijing could be given greater clout on the world financial stage.
China this year won a modest increase in its voting power at the International Monetary Fund but argues that it is still not being given adequate leverage as the world's fourth-largest economy and the one that is growing fastest.
Sarkozy, right, and Barroso want China to step up to the plate on financial reforms
"We think China could and should have a greater voice in international financial institutions," Barroso said in a speech at a school for civil servants.
China is among the Group of 20 industrial and emerging nations that US President George W. Bush invited to a finance summit in Washington on Nov. 15.
More concrete internationally coordinated action is expected to come out of the Washington conference that Friday and Saturday's Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Beijing.
Merkel affirms economic ties to China
Speaking to reporters in Beijing after meeting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that "cooperation with China is of utmost importance" for Germany.
"It is important to bring China into a new financial system," she said, adding that China was already making efforts.
"With China's strong economic growth, China by itself is already making a contribution," Merkel said.
Economic issues dominate Merkel's visit to China
In a speech ahead of his talks with Merkel, Wen said cooperation with Germany was "extremely important" and that China "counts on investment from Germany."
German officials said the fact that Merkel was one of the few foreign leaders making a formal state visit to China for the ASEM summit showed the importance of ties between the two nations.
Chancellor defends jailed Chinese activist
Merkel, who was scheduled to meet President Hu Jintao Friday, said she raised human rights issues, including the situation of China's Tibetan and Uighur minorities, during her talks, adding that Germany wanted to continue dialogue with China on human rights.
She welcomed Thursday's award of the EU's Sakharov Prize for human rights to recently jailed Chinese dissident Hu Jia.
"The German government has always called for the release of Hu Jia and will continue to do so," she said, adding that she didn't expect the issue to cast a cloud over the ASEM summit.
The EU's human rights award for Hu Jia has irked the Chinese government
China expressed anger at the decision to award the prize to Hu, 35, who was imprisoned for three-and-a-half years in April on subversion charges.
"This is gross interference in China's domestic affairs," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.
But experts say the incident is unlikely to seriously mar the summit or strain ties between China and the EU.
"The fact is, in spite of all the political irritation and debates in the last few months about the Dalai Lama and the Olympics, the significance of bilateral economic relations between Germany and China or Europe and China was never denied by anyone," Eberhard Sandschneider, research director at the German Council on Foreign Relations told Deutsche Welle.