GT Voice: EU needs caution in attempting to pressure China over Ukraine
Published: Mar 21, 2022 10:43 PM


As China and the EU prepare for a scheduled summit early next month, which is expected to focus on bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas, there have been some hostile and irrational voices that appear to be aimed at using the Russia-Ukraine conflict to undermine or even derail the meeting.  

Bloomberg reported on Monday that the EU was coordinating with the US and was set to line up with Biden to "warn China against helping Putin," threatening "serious consequences." 

Even more absurd was a suggestion from Lithuanian Vice Foreign Minister Mantas Adomenas last week that the EU should cancel or at least postpone the summit because it was "not the time for normalization" of China-EU ties, according to Reuters.  

Such suggestions from Lithuanian officials, who have become increasingly unhinged in their anti-China stances and have little global influence, do not deserve much attention. As it is reeling from its mistake on the Taiwan question, Lithuania is clearly just trying to seize any opportunity to take the China-EU relationship hostage.

However, there are similar voices growing within the EU in the wake of the escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The EU, despite serious damages to its own interests, still chose to follow the US to impose unprecedented sanctions and exert pressure on Russia, while some are also criticizing China's stance on the Ukraine situation.

First and foremost, China's position over the Ukraine situation is impartial and objective, which, in fact, is consistent with the position of the vast majority of countries around the world. China does not want to see war in Europe and will do everything it can to promote a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Those forces who are trying to use the China-EU summit to force China into taking sides in the Russia-Ukraine situation should understand one thing very clearly: Such ill-advised attempt won't work on China, not even with threats of "serious consequences." The US has been pulling the same trick on China to no avail. 

The China-EU economic and trade relationship is a mutually beneficial one. No one side is taking advantage of the other. The planned summit is an important platform for both sides to discuss issues of mutual concern and enhance win-win cooperation. Therefore, the EU should not think that it has some kind of leverage over China that it can use to force China into changing its own diplomatic stances on the Ukraine situation, or anything for that matter.

In fact, at a time when the European economy is facing the severe test brought by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the upcoming summit is even more important for the EU to discuss ways to further increase economic and trade cooperation with one of its most important trading partners.  

The Ukraine situation and the Western sanctions against Russia have undermined Europe's economic interests. Energy crisis, food shortage, refugee flows and other problems have become more and more difficult for Europe.

IMF officials warned last week that unprecedented sanctions imposed against Moscow over the Ukraine crisis will weaken financial intermediation and trade, which will surely lead to a recession in Europe. As the conflict continues, Eastern European economies, including Lithuania, will be hit hard by skyrocketing energy costs, supply-chain disruptions and refugee influx. Against such a backdrop, a wise move for the EU should be enhancing cooperation with China, not undermining it.

As a major economic powerhouse in the world, the Chinese economy has maintained steady growth over the past two years, and the country has unswerving resolve in pushing forward with its opening-up agenda. Moreover, China-EU economic and trade cooperation has remained highly resilient despite rising hurdles. China is the biggest trading partner of the EU.

If anything, the EU needs cooperation with China more than ever when it comes to stabilizing supply chains and curbing inflation. So the most pressing issue for the EU is how to advance talks to ease tensions and strengthen cooperation. The mutual interests at stake are so high that no force within the EU or beyond should be allowed to derail China-EU ties with meaningless threats and rhetoric.