China cites "vital" self-interests in EU debt fix

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 17, 2011 12:38 AM
China cites "vital" self-interests in EU debt fix

By Chris Buckley

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's "vital" interests are at stake if Europe cannot resolve its debt crisis, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday as it voiced concern about the economic problems of its biggest trading partner.

At a media briefing ahead of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Europe next week, Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying made plain that China had tried to help Europe overcome its troubles by buying more European debt and encouraging bilateral trade.

"Whether the European economy can recover and whether some European economies can overcome their hardships and escape crisis, is vitally important for us," Fu said.

"China has consistently been quite concerned with the state of the European economy," she said.

Wen is due to visit Hungary, Britain and Germany late next week, just months after he visited France, Portugal and Spain and offered to help Europe overcome its debt woes.

With Greece on the verge of a debt default, investors will focus on whether China promises to buy even more debt from beleaguered European nations including Greece, and increase its investment in the region.

China is a natural prospective investor in European assets and government debt because it has $3.05 trillion in foreign currency reserves, the world's largest.

With a quarter of the reserves estimated to be invested in euro-denominated assets, it is clearly in Beijing's interest to help Europe survive its debt turmoil.

"We have supported other countries, especially European countries, in their efforts to surmount the financial crisis," Fu said. "We have, for example, increased holdings of euro debt and promoted China-European Union trade."

Beijing has said in the past that it has bought Greek debt, but has never revealed the size of its investment.

Since euro zone debt worries first rippled through markets last year, China has repeatedly said that it has confidence in the single-currency region.

"We have hoped to help euro zone countries in overcoming the crisis, and this is also a measure that is beneficial to China's own economic development," Fu said.

But mirroring deteriorating market confidence on Europe, China's central bank published a report this week saying the economic bloc risked worsening its problems if it did not contain debt levels.

(Editing by Chris Lewis and Robert Birsel)