Top EU officials met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Thursday for their first face-to-face summit in four years to discuss issues ranging from trade imbalances to Ukraine, with an agenda full of tough rhetoric but little results.
During the meeting, Xi urged the EU to cooperate with China to ensure global stability, improve mutual political trust and “eliminate all kinds of interference” in bilateral relations, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Josep Borrell will also meet with Chinese Premier Li Qiang on a one-day visit.
It will be their last chance to face top Chinese officials ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections, which will trigger changes in the bloc’s leadership.
Both sides sought to play down expectations ahead of the summit, with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warning EU member state diplomats based in Beijing on Monday that Europe should choose “peace and stability” over “a new cold war”.
A European official told reporters in Brussels this week that “there will be no outstanding result to crown the summit”, adding that there will be no joint statement.
In another blow to EU-China relations, member state Italy formally informed China “in the past few days” that it was leaving the Belt and Road Initiative championed by Xi, Italian government sources told Reuters on Wednesday.
A number of European commissioners have visited Beijing since China lifted border restrictions due to the pandemic this year, including the bloc’s trade and climate chiefs, but little progress has been made in resolving key irritants in the relationship. More recently, Borrell’s chief of staff and senior EU diplomat Enrique Mora visited in November.
The European Union wants Beijing to use its influence with Russia to stop the war, and the main focus of the trip will be to urge Xi to stop Chinese private companies exporting dual-use European goods to Russia for its war effort. Brussels initially left those Chinese firms out of its latest package of sanctions against Russia unveiled last month, European officials said.
The bloc is also concerned about what it sees as “imbalanced” economic relations, saying its almost 400 billion euro trade deficit with China reflects restrictions on EU businesses.
China has previously rejected an EU investigation into subsidies for Chinese electric vehicles and Europe’s “de-risking” policy to reduce its reliance on Chinese imports, especially critical raw materials.
Last month, Foreign Minister Wang told visiting French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna that the biggest risk was “uncertainty brought about by widespread politicization” and that “the dependency that most needs to be reduced is protectionism.”
During Colonna’s visit, China also offered visa-free entry to citizens of the EU’s five biggest economies in a bid to boost post-pandemic tourism and improve its image in the West after ties soured during the COVID pandemic.
EU officials claim that the two sides could cooperate more to combat climate change and promote biodiversity, reports Reuters.
Source: EU Audiovisual