Better for EU to manage unreasonable anticipation on China in talks, break from US' coercion: expert
Published: Apr 01, 2022 02:41 PM
Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

Hours before the China-EU leaders' meetings on Friday, Chinese analysts warned that China-EU relations cannot be kidnapped by the Ukraine crisis, and Europe should no longer be abducted by the US in foreign policy, as it will greatly undermine the EU's own interests, making it difficult to ensure economic recovery and people's livelihood, and runs counter to Europe's aim of pursuing strategic independence. 

The analysts' warning came after several sources from Europe claimed before the summit that Brussels is seeking to warn Beijing about supporting Russia in the Ukraine crisis, and some EU officials said any help from China to Russia would "jeopardize" relations with its biggest trade partners - Europe and the US, citing that the trade volume between China and the bloc is much higher than that between China and Russia.

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at Friday's media briefing that every country has the right to make its own foreign policy independently, but should not force others to take sides or adopt the approach of "friend or foe." A Cold War mentality and camp-based confrontations should be resisted, Zhao said. 

As for sanctions, the issue now is not which country will help Russia get around the sanctions, but that the normal trade between Russia and other countries, including China, has suffered unnecessary damage, Zhao said, calling on all parties to calm down and focus on promoting peace talks rather than aggravating conflicts.

Analysts said that Europe's pressure against China coming before the summit was a usual trick it played attempting to manipulate the agenda of the summit and coerce China into standing with the EU and the US on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which China will never accept. 

Both China and EU has announced the news about the 23rd China-EU leaders' meeting on Friday. President Xi Jinping will meet virtually with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Premier Li Keqiang will join the two EU leaders to chair the China-EU leaders' meeting. 

According to the European Council, the main focus of the summit will be on the Ukraine crisis.

But how the summit will proceed cannot be unilaterally decided by the EU, and the EU should better manage its anticipation and have a clear understanding that standing with the West to sanction Russia does not conform to the principle of China's diplomacy, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Friday. 

It will result in a great negative impact on the EU if it take trade measures against China, "especially amid the impact of an energy ban with Russia, damaging trade cooperation with China will make Europe fail to ensure its post-pandemic economic recovery and people's livelihoods," Cui said, noting the EU would be "very unwise" to do that.

Although the EU has taken some economic means against China such as sanctions over issues related to China's Xinjiang, it's just making a gesture instead of making tangible harm to China-EU economic relations, Cui said.

The EU is fully aware that China and the EU are important trade partners with strong economic complementarity. In the first two months this year, the EU overtook the ASEAN to become China's top trading partner, and in 2021, China was the second largest recipient of EU exports of goods and the largest source for EU's imports of goods.

According to Reuters, Brussels is keen for assurances from Beijing that it will neither "supply Russia with arms" nor "help Moscow circumvent Western sanctions" imposed over Ukraine.

But to Chinese analysts, such assurances are issues set from the West's perspective, which does not exist for China. 

China and Russia develop ties based on mutual benefit, and there's nothing wrong for two WTO members to conduct normal trade, Cui said. 

As for so-called arms aid, China has repeatedly said it was disinformation. 

The relations between China and Russia should be decided by the two countries rather than Europe. 

Analysts stressed China understands the EU's concerns over the Russia-Ukraine conflict, but it cannot let the conflict abduct Friday's summit as China and the EU have far more to discuss and cooperate on bilaterally and multilaterally, and the fact both are deciding to hold the summit is an indication that both are ready to strengthen their cooperation.  

Seeking common ground

As the Russia-Ukraine conflict stretches to over a month, Europe has sustained great pressure resulting from sanctions against Russia and its over-reliance on US-led NATO security structure.

"The EU is now kidnapped by the US on security, but that does not conform to the strategic independence EU has pursued," Cui said. 

To avoid being caught in hot water again, the EU must take control of its own destiny. And developing ties with China provides the EU an opportunity to develop in a more balanced and comprehensive way in the long term, he said.  

On the Ukraine crisis, China and the EU, as two major powers, could strengthen cooperation on promoting peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, and between Russia and the US, and provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine as well as explore economic cooperation to achieve a stable world economy, analysts said. 

Wang Huiyao, president of nongovernment think tank the Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times on Friday that there is a lot of room for China and the EU to jointly promote peace on the Ukraine crisis. He said China and the EU could promote a peace talk involving Russia, Ukraine and the US based on the platform of the UN to further push for peace negotiations.

While the Ukraine issue will not dominate Friday's summit, China and the EU as important trade partners with extensive areas of cooperation and great development potential will seek to deepen cooperation on climate change and digital economy and explore new cooperative fields, Wang said. 

Human rights issues are also likely to be discussed, and the European Council said the EU will call for the resumption of the EU-China human rights dialogue.

Wang said that China would state its position on Xinjiang-related issues, including welcoming the visit of European diplomats to Xinjiang, which is conducive for Europe to learn about the true Xinjiang.