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  William Vocke    Special to The China Post
President Xi Jinping's proposal that China and the European Union explore a free trade agreement is a sign of Europe's pivotal role in the trilateral economic relationship between the United States, the European Union and China.
Over the last 35 years, China has mesmerized the world as it transformed itself from one of the world's poorest countries into its second largest economy and top trading nation.
In 2010, when China-India trade was on a roll, the two countries set a goal of US$100 billion in trade in 2015. Indeed, in 2011, trade rose to US$74 billion, a 23-percent increase over the previous year.
Xi Jinping is leaving on Saturday on his first visit to Europe since assuming the presidency a year ago with the aim of enhancing economic ties between China and the European Union.
The world is courting Africa, and about time too. The United States has fallen way behind China and is now trying to make up lost ground. Meanwhile other emerging economies, led by China, are strengthening their ties with the rapidly developing continent.
Gary Locke's appointment as U.S. ambassador to China in 2011 triggered huge expectations. His departure last week was marked by an official commentary that used language that demeans a great power and the supposed heirs of an ancient civilization.
Almost seven decades after the end of the Pacific War, the main protagonists seem to be tussling again, albeit so far only rhetorically. Chinese and Japanese voices have been raised in anger; now the Americans are also involved.
In 2008, after Ma Ying-jeou was elected president, he halted the political war over sovereignty between Taiwan and mainland China and focused on improving cross-strait relations. Dialogue with the mainland since then has resulted in more than a dozen agreements, primarily on economic issues.
Business leaders, it seems, are increasingly worried about the continuing hostility between China and Japan. The New York Times reported that at the World Economic Forum in Davos, despite general optimism about the global economy, there was growing concern that the Sino-Japanese dispute "may be close to boiling over."
Last month, China disclosed figures for 2013 confirming that it had replaced the United States as the world's largest trading nation, passing another milestone in its march towards superpower status.
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