FT: Could I come back on one element which is the proposal for discussion by the European Competition Commissioner. There has been proposal by the Dutch government as well in this area to take a tougher line on state-owned or state supported enterprises, and in particular to consider rules which might make it more difficult for state-owned or state supported enterprises from outside the European Union to purchase European Union assets or companies. Could I get your views please on this proposal? Do you think this is directed at China and do you think it respects the concept of fair competition?
Zhang: For some time I've heard many European friends saying that Europe should no longer be naive. I am trying to figure out what that means exactly and I am still confused. But my impression is that the EU often says that multilateralism and market economy are in its DNA.
I have noticed some recent proposals and developments on the EU side regarding FDI screening, 5G, and free trade. That has got some Chinese entrepreneurs working in Europe suspicious. That also has some kind of impact on Chinese investments in the EU. My colleagues and I are strongly committed to promoting China-EU cooperation, so I am following the developments with interest and concerns.
But now I would not rush to a definite conclusion or give the EU a definition. I don't think that the EU friends want to see their DNA changed, otherwise it would be disastrous for them. What I hope to see is that the EU will keep to the principles of multilateralism, free trade as well as the principles of openness, fairness, justice and non-discrimination.
As for state-owned enterprises, as far as I know, there are a great number of SOEs in European countries as well. Whether nowadays or in history, these companies have played an important role in Europe's economic and social development. In China, we have a mixture of companies of different kinds of ownerships. We have state-owned enterprises, private enterprises and also foreign-invested enterprises. In the market economy, all these companies are treated as equals.
We hope that the EU would not discriminate against a certain kind of companies simply because of their ownership structure. Otherwise it's not fair and not in line with the spirit of fair competition. Be it European SOEs or non-EU SOEs.
FT: The European attitude seems to be that there are pan-European state aid rules governing European state-owned enterprises or those seeking state support. Those state aid rules do not apply to overseas companies or aid given to companies from outside European Union by foreign governments. So they say they are trying to create a level playing field. What you're saying is that you are concerned about the potentially disastrous move. Are you worried that Europe is going to become a less attractive place for China to invest?
Zhang: Actually capitals are very sensitive and even cowardly in some cases. In case of any signs of unwelcome changes, they would be highly vigilant or even scared away. To judge a policy is good or not, it is important to look at how market responds.