China’s Xi warns top EU officials not to engage in ‘confrontation’
BEIJING – Chinese President Xi Jinping warned top EU officials on Thursday that China and Europe should not view each other as rivals or “engage in confrontation” due to their different political systems, in the first in-person China-EU summit for four years.
During a meeting to discuss issues ranging from trade imbalances to Ukraine, Xi also said China is willing to make the European Union a key economic and trade partner and to cooperate on science and technology, including artificial intelligence.
He urged the EU in the talks held at Beijing’s Diaoyutai State Guesthouse to “eliminate all kinds of interference” in the bilateral relationship, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
Xi said both side needed to develop “a right perception” of each other, and encourage mutual understanding and trust.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also met Chinese Premier Li Qiang during their one-day visit.
Li told the EU leaders that China opposes the “broad politicisation and securitisation” of economic and trade issues in violation of the basic norms of market economies, according to China’s state television.
“We hope that the EU will be prudent when introducing restrictive economic and trade policies and when using trade remedy measures to keep its trade and investment markets open,” he said.
Thursday’s meetings were the EU officials’ last chance to get face time with top Chinese officials before the European Parliament election kicks off next year, which will bring changes in the 27-nation bloc’s leadership.
In another blow to EU-China relations, member state Italy officially informed China “in recent days” that it is leaving the Belt and Road Initiative championed by Xi, Italian government sources told Reuters on Wednesday.
A number of EU commissioners have visited Beijing since China lifted pandemic border restrictions this year, including the bloc’s trade and climate chiefs. However, little progress has been made to resolve core irritants in the relationship.
Most recently, Borrell’s chief of staff and senior EU diplomat Enrique Mora visited in November.
The EU wants Beijing to use its influence on Russia to stop the war in Ukraine, and a major focus of the trip was to urge Xi to stop Chinese private companies exporting European-made, dual-use items to Russia for its military campaign. Brussels initially left these Chinese firms off its latest Russia sanctions package unveiled last month, European officials said.
The bloc is also concerned about what it considers “imbalanced” economic relations, saying its near 400-billion-euro ($431.7 billion) trade deficit with China reflects restrictions on EU businesses operating there.
China has previously pushed back against an EU anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese electric vehicles and the EU’s “de-risking” policy to reduce its reliance on Chinese imports, particularly of critical raw materials.
“The Chinese side believes that the investigation… seriously disrupts and distorts the global automotive industry chain… and will have a negative impact on China-EU economic and trade relations,” He Yadong, a Chinese commerce ministry spokesperson, told a news conference on Thursday.
Last month, foreign minister Wang told visiting French counterpart Catherine Colonna that the biggest risk is “the uncertainty brought by broad politicisation”, and that “the dependency most in need of reduction is protectionism”.
During Colonna’s visit, China also offered visa-free entry to citizens of the EU’s five largest economies in a bid to boost post-pandemic tourism and improve China’s image in the West, after relations deteriorated during the COVID pandemic.
EU officials say the two sides could cooperate more on action to combat climate change and to promote biodiversity.