The future of relations between the EU and China will largely depend on Beijing’s attitude towards Russia’s war on Ukraine, warned Ursula von der Leyen. However, she judged that it is in Europe’s interest to continue the dialogue.
The President of the European Commission is due to visit the Chinese capital next week with the French Head of State Emmanuel Macron. This trip comes two weeks after that, with great fanfare, of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow where he praised the “special relationship” with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
“We must be frank: how China continues to react to Putin’s war will be a determining factor in the future of EU-China relations,” Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday in a speech to Brussels.
China, which has never denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine, proposed in February a “peace plan” to end the war which has lasted for more than a year but the United States and the Europe remain skeptical about its ability to play a mediating role. Washington and the EU have also repeatedly warned Beijing against the temptation to supply arms to Moscow.
“Far from being taken aback by the atrocious and illegal invasion of Ukraine, President Xi maintains his ‘unbounded’ friendship with Putin’s Russia,” said the President of the European Commission.
“China has a duty to play a constructive role in promoting a just peace. But this peace can only be just if it is based on respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” she continued.
“Any peace plan that would enshrine Russian annexations is simply not viable,” insisted Ursula von der Leyen, who traveled to Washington in mid-March 10 for talks with President Joe Biden.
The Europeans are increasing contacts with the Chinese president. The head of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, is currently in Beijing. The “voice” of China “must be listened to if we want to be able to end” the war in Ukraine, said the latter before leaving for the Chinese capital.
After German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in November, he is the second leader of an EU country to visit China since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic more than three years ago.
Summit in Preparation
According to diplomatic sources, an EU-China summit in Beijing is in preparation but no date has yet been set. The President of the European Council Charles Michel, who was received in December by Xi Jinping, is to participate with the President of the Commission.
The relationship between the EU and China is one of the “most complex and important” in the world, the latter underlined in her speech. But she has become “more distant and more difficult” in recent years, she lamented.
“Our relationship is far too important to be jeopardized by not setting the terms for a healthy engagement,” she insisted.
A China That Has Become “More Aggressive”
But “China has become more repressive internally and more aggressive externally,” she said, recalling that President Xi Jinping asked the Chinese to “prepare to fight”.
“The objective of the Chinese Communist Party is a change in the international order with China at the center,” she noted, in an intervention without complacency vis-à-vis Beijing. “We must not cut ourselves off from China, but we must reduce the risks,” she insisted.
The President of the European Commission listed the strategic economic sectors for the European Union and the dangers of too much dependence, particularly with regard to the raw materials needed for new clean technologies.
“We must prepare for a refocusing on the most important issues and we will have to adapt our strategy towards China according to the way the Chinese Communist Party seems to evolve”, she concluded.
This article is originally published on bluewin.ch