German Chancellor Angela Merkel (October 29-30) and French President Francois Hollande (November 2-3) will visit China. King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands is already there, and held talks with Xi on Monday. In this context, Xi’s U.K. visit is part of a broader context: China’s growing relationship with Europe (and particularly the European Union) as a whole.
China’s relationship with the EU has changed drastically in since the 20th century. That change is most obvious on the economic front. “Just two decades ago, China and the EU traded almost nothing,” proclaims one fact sheet from the European Commission. In 2014, total bilateral trade was worth 466 billion euros ($514 billion). Today, the EU, if taken as a whole, is China’s largest trading partner, accounting for over 14 percent of China’s total global trade in 2014. China, meanwhile, is the EU’s second-largest trading partner (after the United States).