Relations between the EU and China have intensified in recent years, partly as a consequence of China’s economic growth and increasing importance on the world stage. China’s rapid development has had an effect in a wide variety of sectors. Sectoral dialogues have helped to develop a solid foundation for the EU-China relationship which is now characterised by increasingly close policy co-ordination in many important areas. The European Union strongly encourages these dialogues, which are an important area of support to the overall relationship with China.

The dialogues have constituted an effective tool for further widening and deepening EU relations with China, for exploring new areas of common interest, for exchanging know-how, and, especially in the area of economic reform, EU models and best practices. Sectoral Dialogues cover a wide spectrum of fields and sectors, like Education and Culture, Environment, Energy, Employment and Social Affairs, Information Society, Public Health, Agriculture, Regional Policy and Food Safety. Sectoral dialogues have also paved the way for businesses and other sectors by eliminating potential regulatory obstacles and through raising awareness and facilitating contacts. Regular exchanges between specialists, officials and the business community, meanwhile, have served to boost mutual understanding and provide the substance for further developing the EU-China strategic partnership.

The EU-China Policy Dialogues Support Facility (PDSF) is an initiative co-funded by the European Union and China to facilitate and support current and future implementation of Policy Dialogues between the EU and China on a broad range of key sectors and issues, with the overall aim to strengthen strategic relations between the EU and China. The second phase of the EU-China Policy Dialogues Support Facility (PDSF II) started in March 2012 and ran for 4 years. It followed on from PDSFI which ended in December 2011.

The PDSF has been providing a unique and flexible mechanism to support a wide variety of activities in the context of Sectoral Dialogues between the European Commission’s Directorates-General (DG) or European External Action Service (EEAS) and Chinese Ministries or State Agencies.

Smaller activities often prove more effective than conventional projects, provided that they can be quickly mobilized and respond to an immediate demand. PDSFI implemented 26 activities with 62 separate events over five years, involving 19 Chinese Ministries and State Agencies and 12 DGs with a total budget of almost €6.6 million. More than 200 senior policy-makers and experts were involved in these activities. The launch of this follow-up phase manifests the obvious demand of continued support to the dialogue partners in the EU and China.

China and the EU attach great importance to cooperation in the field of Smart Cities. At the end of 2011, in Chengdua and in the context of the 3rd ICT Dialogue Meeting between the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and the European Commission's Information Society and Media Directorate-General (now DG CONNECT), Vice Minister Yang Xueshan and Deputy Director General Zoran Stančič jointly determined to develop “Green Smart City” cooperation, to establish an expert framework for promoting EU-China Smart Cities cooperation, to select pilot cities from China and the EU and establish a technical experts group to carry out related research and cooperation. 

The Policy Dialogues Support Facility (PDSF) has supported the following actions:

  • An inception seminar scheduled for May 2013 to start up the Smart Cities Technical Expert Group, drawn from the Ministry of Industry & Information Technology (MIIT), the Chinese Academy of Telecoms Research (CATR), DG CONNECT, the EU Delegation, the EU Chamber of Commerce (EUCCC), private sector operators active in the ICT sector, plus officials from the pilot Chinese and European cities as speakers.
  • A comparative study providing an overview of best practises and lessons learned in the development of smart cities in China and Europe. The comparative study led on to the publication of a White Paper on smart cities cooperation to form the basis of further cooperation between MIIT and DG CONNECT under the ICT Dialogue and considering inter alia a definition of “Smart City” which could define more precisely that Smart City projects are those that have a strong focus on “making best use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to make the critical infrastructure components and services of a city in the areas of administration, education, healthcare, public safety, real estate, transportation and utilities more aware, interactive and efficient."
  • An experts’ meeting conducted in one of the Chinese pilot cities in September 2013 in order to review interim results of the comparative study with representatives from municipal government bureaux, local and international companies and research organisations. The experts’ meeting brought together European experts and practitioners in the field of Smart Cities to visit their Chinese counterparts in the selected sectors.
  • A study visit to Europe visiting a selection of pilot cities in October 2013. The study assignment supported the comparative study by bringing practitioners from MIIT, CATR and the pilot Chinese cities together with their European counterparts to assess, first-hand, the implementation of smart cities initiatives in the respective sectors in Europe. 
  • A high-level dissemination event taking place in another of the Chinese pilot cities in early 2014 as part of the next ICT Dialogue meeting. The dissemination event will involve the main partners including MIIT, DG CONNECT, CATR, the EU Delegation, EU Chamber of Commerce (EUCCC) and international and local ICT companies plus possible participation from representatives of the EU Member States.

Further information can be found in the EU-China Smart Cities final report of July 2014 and the EU-China Smart Cities White Paper.