China’s top diplomat has said the European Union must “clarify” its position on its strategic partnership with Beijing.
Wang said China and the EU should strengthen communication, enhance mutual trust, and deepen cooperation, and the bloc should not “waver”, let alone encourage backpedalling in words and deeds.
His remarks were made to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell on the sidelines of ASEAN meetings in Jakarta on Friday.
They come on the 20th anniversary the EU-China’s comprehensive strategic partnership, which was launched in 2003 and promised to elevate ties beyond trade and investment.
However, the 27-nation EU has called China an “economic competitor” and a “systemic rival” since 2019, and Beijing’s intimate relations with Moscow after the invasion of Ukraine 18 months ago has spurred further concern.
EC urging states to ‘de-risk’
European leaders have been urging reduced dependence on China much more assertively in recent times.
Last month, EU leaders committed to lessening the bloc’s dependence on China and debated how to strike a balance between “de-risking” and cooperating in areas such as climate change.
In March, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said a hardening of China’s position required Europe to “de-risk” both economically and diplomatically.
The Commission is also urging EU members to agree to stronger controls on exports and outflows of technologies for military use by “countries of concern”.
Wang, during his meeting with Borrell, called on the two sides to guard against the politicisation of economic issues and the use of “de-risking” as another term for “decoupling”, according to a report by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency on Saturday.
There is no fundamental conflict of interest between China and the EU, Xinhua cited Wang as saying.
On Ukraine, Wang also said China supports a balanced, effective and sustainable European security architecture, and will continue to promote talks for peace and play a constructive role in seeking a political settlement of the crisis.
Borrell said China was an important partner of the EU and the bloc was willing to maintain a strong engagement and develop a constructive, stable and long-term relationship.
Global production and supply chains were intertwined, so it was not possible for Europe and China to “decouple”. The EU did not support confrontation of camps and parallel systems and had no intention of hindering China’s development, he was quoted as saying.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Jim Pollard
NOTE: Additional inputs and minor edits on July 15, 2023.