GT Voice: Linking China-EU trade ties to Ukraine crisis unreasonable, risky
Published: Jun 23, 2024 09:57 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

It is not uncommon to observe certain European perspectives mistakenly linking China-Russia relations with China-EU relations, potentially stemming from a misunderstanding about or unfounded worries over China-Russia economic and trade relations. Nevertheless, these concerns should be resolved through improved communication and constructive dialogue, rather than merging the two relationships.

German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Saturday that China's support for Russia in the Ukraine crisis was the main reason for deteriorating economic relations between Berlin and Beijing, Bloomberg reported.

"It is also important for China, which is supporting Russia in this war, to understand that German and European security interests are already directly affected by this conflict," Habeck said at the opening of a China-Germany high-level dialogue on climate change and green transition in Beijing.

While Habeck's remarks do echo some Western criticism of the normal trade ties between China and Russia, the notion that engaging with Russia equates to supporting military actions is fundamentally flawed and distorted. China is neither a creator of, nor a party to, the Ukraine crisis, so it is totally untenable and unreasonable to view China-EU trade issues in the context of the Ukraine crisis.

It is absolute nonsense to suggest that China-Europe economic relations cannot be close if China-Russia relations are strong. Both China-Russia and China-Europe relations are normal cooperative partnerships that develop independently of each other. 

Economic and trade cooperation between China and Russia should not overshadow the potential benefits of cooperation between China and Europe. If some within the EU refuse to acknowledge the benefits and promising prospects of China-EU economic and trade cooperation simply because of China-Russia economic and trade cooperation, it would be a significant loss for Europe in the long run.

The development of China-Russia economic and trade relations is essentially a case of normal cooperation between two sovereign states based on common interests and mutual benefits. China's trade with Russia has always been transparent and in line with WTO rules and market principles. It does not target any third party, and it should not be seen as an obstacle to China-EU economic and trade cooperation.

China's stance on the Ukraine crisis has been consistent - that is, it is committed to promoting peace talks. The position reflects China's dedication to peace and stability and aligns with the common interests of the international community. China strictly abides by its promises and does not provide weapons to the parties to the conflict and strictly controls exports of dual-use items, a stance that has been widely praised by the international community.

Since the full escalation of the Ukraine crisis, China has maintained cooperation with Ukraine and remains Ukraine's largest trading partner. If a nation's economic and trade partnerships are indicative of its stance on global issues, why does the West scrutinize China's economic ties with Russia while overlooking its economic relations with Ukraine?

In addition, amid China-EU trade uncertainties regarding tariffs on electric vehicles, using the China-Russia economic and trade relations as an excuse for protectionism could exacerbate the situation. This approach not only fails to address the issue at hand but also risks adding unnecessary pressure and disruption to the trade relations between the two parties.

The healthy development of China-EU trade relations requires mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. In the face of trade conflicts, both sides must demonstrate sincerity and determination to resolve issues through dialogue and consultation. China has consistently maintained open channels of communication with the EU. If the EU identifies a problem, it should be addressed through dialogue and consultation, rather than resorting to blame or complaints against third parties. 

China-EU economic and trade cooperation holds great potential, with both sides sharing common interests and needs in various areas. It is essential for both parties to seize these cooperation opportunities to advance bilateral economic and trade relations, without allowing geopolitical factors to hinder progress.