President of European Council to visit China, 'a significant step' in returning ties to normal
Published: Nov 28, 2022 11:13 PM
This file photo taken on November 9, 2022 shows President of the European Council Charles Michel speaks during a mini plenary session at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels. Photo: VCG

This file photo taken on November 9, 2022 shows President of the European Council Charles Michel speaks during a mini plenary session at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels. Photo: VCG

President of the European Council Charles Michel will visit China on December 1 at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Monday. 

The visit, which will be the first official meeting between leaders of China and the EU since the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, is expected to be a significant step for China-Europe relations to return to pragmatic cooperation as well as a positive sign for the peaceful development of relations, experts said. 

At a press briefing on Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian noted that Xi will hold talks with Michel during his visit. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Li Zhanshu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, will also meet with the EU leader.

The two sides will have an in-depth exchange of views on China-EU relations as well as on international and regional issues of common concern, according to Zhao. 

"China attaches great importance to the development of relations with Europe and is willing to strengthen strategic communication with the European side through this visit, to forge consensus and jointly promote the sustained, healthy and stable development of China-Europe ties, and inject more stability into the complex and turbulent international situation," the spokesperson noted.

Michel's visit will be a courageous move for both sides in moving into a new chapter when China-Europe relations have come to a crossroads with many problems occurring this year, which have seriously interrupted the normal development of ties, Sun Keqin, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Monday.

Sun explained that Europe in recent years has been inclined to getting closer to the US, and has, in the process, regarded China as a competitor and systemic rival, as it has been feeling a sense of crisis over China's and other non-Western countries' development. 

As reported by Euro News under the headline "Charles Michel heading for Beijing as EU aims to redefine its relationship with China," it said that Michel thought "it would be good to engage with China since we are at a critical juncture."

It said the two will discuss geopolitical developments, economic and trade ties and other global challenges including climate change, health, as well as rising food and energy prices.

Observers said that this meeting will mainly focus on pragmatic cooperation between the two sides, including on energy and climate as well as the Ukraine crisis. 

"Europe has been unsatisfied with China for not siding with them on the issue but rather taking a rational stance. But now they have come to realize that China's role should be promoting peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, and that is the stance that we have always taken," the expert noted. 

Upon news of the visit, Western media commented that the meeting comes at a time when the EU "grapples with how to treat China amid pressure for a tougher approach from the US."

The EU is hoping that Michel will pave the way for regular dialogues with China. It follows a trip to China by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier this month and calls by French President Emmanuel Macron for engagement with Beijing, Bloomberg reported.

Meanwhile, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has been making efforts to coordinate with other key chip-making nations to resist pressure from the US to impose sweeping chip curbs on China.

"Changes in its attitudes toward the US have been taking place since the Ukraine crisis, which has led to the energy crisis and political unrest in Europe. It turned to the US for help but the US only rolled out a series of measures to protect itself or strengthen its own competitiveness, ignoring the needs of Europe," Sun said.

"They understand that what the US wants is hegemony, but Europe wants survival. And they cannot do that without China," the expert added.

Now, as many politicians in Europe review their attitudes toward China, they have realized that China had never posed a threat to them. Meanwhile, trade between China and Europe has always been based on equality and mutual benefit.