Beijing’s “friendship” with Moscow is a “risk” for the bloc, according to Ursula von Der Leyen
In a bid to be “bolder” on China, the EU plans to reassess and “de-risk” their ties, while considering Beijing’s position on the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine a crucial part of their future relations, President of the European Commission Ursula von Der Leyen said on Thursday.
“How China continues to interact with Putin’s war will be a determining factor for EU-China relations going forward,” she said.
It marked the first time the EU chief has given a full speech on the bloc’s relations with Beijing. She stated that the EU needed to be “bolder” in its dealings with China, which has become “more repressive at home and more assertive abroad.”
The European Union needs to “stress-test” and “de-risk” its relations with Beijing, both politically and economically, starting with getting a “clear-eyed picture on what the risks are,” von Der Leyen said. She did, however, advise against “decoupling” from China altogether, saying it was “neither viable – nor in Europe’s interest.”
She further noted that the ties between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, the Chinese and Russian leaders, were particularly concerning. The two presidents met in Moscow last week, and were filmed saying warm goodbyes as their two-day encounter ended, with China’s leader declaring they were driving geopolitical change around the world.
“Most telling,” von der Leyen said, “were President Xi’s parting words to Putin on the steps outside the Kremlin when he said: ‘Right now, there are changes, the likes of which we haven’t seen for 100 years. And we are the ones driving these changes together’.”
The Chinese Communist Party’s “clear goal is a systemic change of the international order with China at its center,” von der Leyen said. “We have seen the show of friendship in Moscow which says a thousand words about this new vision for the international order.”
In a first, von der Leyen hinted that the EU might abandon the pursuit of a major trade deal with China, which was agreed upon in 2020 but stalled by the European Parliament after some of its members were subjected to sanctions by Beijing.
Next week, the EU chief is traveling to China with French President Emmanuel Macron.