There has been an enormous amount of nonsense reported in the last couple of months about the state of economic relations between the European Union and China.

First we heard that the EU was adopting an altogether more assertive, even confrontational, stance towards Beijing.

Brussels had declared China to be a “systemic rival”, European politicians were slamming the Chinese government’s protectionist industrial policies, and the EU was vowing to stop the Chinese from obtaining cutting edge technologies by acquiring European companies.
Relations, it seemed were rapidly deteriorating.

Then, miraculously, the skies cleared, with much of the international media proclaiming “a breakthrough” trade and investment agreement at last week’s meeting between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and the EU’s top bureaucrats.

Well, if diplomatic platitudes to deepen partnerships, strengthen cooperation, and “to work together for peace, prosperity and sustainable development” can be considered a breakthrough, then perhaps the Brussels get-together really was a game-changer.

But a close reading of the joint statement released last Tuesday reveals no hard and fast commitments at all. The closest either side came was the vaguely-worded intention to reach a mutual investment agreement some time next year. Big deal.

But if the achievements of the Brussels “breakthrough” were grossly exaggerated, so were the stories about the EU’s new aggressive approach to its economic relations with China.