EU to be ‘firm’ with China, but will avoid confrontation

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European Union leaders said on Friday they would stand up for their principles and independence in relations with China, but warned against being drawn into confrontation and a breakdown in ties.
During their Brussels summit, the 27-nation bloc held three hours of strategic talks on its approach to China as President Xi Jinping tightens his grip over an ever more assertive Beijing.
Torn between the desire to access China’s vast market and condemnation of its rights abuses and aggressive regional policies, the EU has struggled to fashion a cohesive stance towards Beijing.
“We will always be firm in standing up to defend our principles, democracy, fundamental freedom,” Michel said.
“We believe that we must be committed to bringing more reciprocity and rebalancing in particular in the economic relations between China and the EU.”
Michel said that the EU remained open to cooperation with China on major international issues such as climate change and health.
He insisted that the bloc had its “own model to develop” at a time of intensifying rivalry between China and the United States.
The EU’s executive head, Ursula von der Leyen, said Beijing was “continuing its mission to establish its dominance in East Asia and its influence globally”.
She also warned about the close ties between China and Russia as Moscow has rocked the international order by launching its war on Ukraine. The European Union is witnessing an acceleration of tensions with China, Ursula von der Leyen said.
“The discussion showed that we’re witnessing quite an acceleration of trends and tensions. It was very clear from the Congress that President Xi is continuing to reinforce the very assertive and self-reliant course China has taken,” she told reporters during a press conference, referring to the Chinese Communist Party conference, which opened last week.
“The Chinese system is fundamentally different from ours and we are aware of the nature of the rivalry.”, von der Leyen said.
The European Union is witnessing an acceleration of tensions with China, Ursula von der Leyen added.
“The discussion showed that we’re witnessing quite an acceleration of trends and tensions. It was very clear from the Congress that President Xi is continuing to reinforce the very assertive and self-reliant course China has taken,” she told reporters during a press conference, referring to the Chinese Communist Party conference, which opened last week.
Chastened by the chaos caused by its reliance on Russia for energy, the EU is keen to ensure it doesn’t fall into the same trap by becoming dependent on China for critical raw materials and technologies.
“Obviously, we have to be very vigilant when it comes to dependencies. And we’ve learned our lesson,” von der Leyen said.
The EU is seeking to present a united front over China but that has been clouded by the differing economic interests of its members.
Olaf Scholz, the leader of the bloc’s economic powerhouse Germany, announced on Friday after the summit that he would take a government delegation to China next month.
It will be the first visit by an EU leader to the country since Nov 2019.