This morning I attended the opening session of the eighth China-EU Round Table, opened and hosted by the EESC President, Staffan Nilsson. The round table has now reached a sort of cruising speed. The institutions and participants know each other well and a structure and a relationship of mutual trust and respect and good humour has been established within which such sensitive issues as the impact of the financial crisis on social dialogue and the rights of the child (both on the agenda this time) can be discussed frankly and productively. Such dialogue gives both sides the chance to avoid equating size with monolithism. It’s always invidious to single out speakers but I thought that, in his opening remarks, Chinese Ambassador Song Zhe was particularly eloquent on this theme: ‘I often say that because China is so far away, our friends in Europe often see China with the help of a telescope. yet more often than not, the telescope we count on betrays the reality with distorted images.’ One distortion, he continued, is to see China as a developed country only just behind the United States: ‘People are no longer able to see our numerous developmental challenges and the fact that we are still behind 100 countries in terms of per capita GDP.’ A second distortion sees China through its past ‘as a closed and conservative state with rigid system and institutions. Such a situation prevents people from appreciating the remarkable progress we have achieved…’ Dialogues, he concluded, help reduce difference, build agreement and promote cooperation. Today’s meeting provides a graphic illustration of that.