EU leaders in China for summit with high stakes but low expectations

The bloc says it hopes Thursday’s conferences between the EU chiefs Charles Michel and Ursula Von Der Leyen and Beijing’s high brass will provide an opportunity to debate areas of widespread curiosity like local weather change and well being (Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD)

European leaders will meet their Chinese language counterparts in Beijing on Thursday for talks dominated by divisions between the bloc and its largest financial companion over every little thing from commerce to the warfare towards Ukraine.

China and the EU have ramped up diplomatic engagement this yr in an try to steer post-pandemic restoration and restore broken ties, with plenty of its commissioners visiting Beijing to restart high-level dialogue.

The bloc says it hopes Thursday’s conferences between EU chiefs Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen and Beijing’s high brass — their first in particular person in additional than 4 years — will provide an opportunity to debate areas of widespread curiosity comparable to local weather change and well being.

However they may also handle extra sensitive matters, from human rights and Beijing’s continued ties with Russia regardless of its warfare in Ukraine to the yawning commerce hole between the 2 powers.

Von der Leyen warned this week that the bloc would “not tolerate” that imbalance indefinitely.

“We’ve got instruments to guard our market,” she instructed AFP.

Beijing hit again on Wednesday, saying that the bloc’s efforts to curb exports of delicate tech to China whereas balancing commerce did not “make sense”.

European officers have stated repeatedly this yr they goal to “derisk” their financial ties to China after the warfare in Ukraine uncovered the continent’s power dependence on Russia.

– ‘Zero belief’ –

Beijing’s aim this week might be to “hinder or delay derisking at a minimal price”, Grzegorz Stec, an analyst at China-focused assume tank MERICS, instructed a media briefing Wednesday.

Beijing will try to “venture the picture of a accountable international actor and to reassure European actors in regards to the course of the Chinese language economic system”, Stec stated.

However on the eve of the summit, information broke that Italy had withdrawn from China’s huge Belt and Highway infrastructure initiative.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has lengthy been against Italy’s participation in an initiative considered by many as an try by Beijing to purchase political affect — and whose financial advantages to Rome have been restricted.

Additionally on the agenda on the summit would be the combating between Israel and Hamas — in addition to Russia’s warfare in Ukraine.

China, which has not condemned Moscow’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, welcomed Russian chief Vladimir Putin to Beijing in October, with President Xi Jinping hailing their “deep friendship”.

Such camaraderie is unlikely in Thursday’s talks with EU leaders, who one analyst stated had “zero belief” in Beijing.

“Either side are unlikely to get what they need from the opposite facet,” Nicholas Bequelin, a Senior Fellow at Yale’s Paul Tsai China Middle, instructed AFP.

– Few offramps –

Beijing has stated the assembly will “play an essential position in constructing on the previous and ushering sooner or later”.

“China and Europe are companions, not rivals, and their widespread pursuits far outweigh their variations,” overseas ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin stated this week.

Von der Leyen and Michel’s schedule within the Chinese language capital Thursday might be tight.

The EU chiefs will meet Xi round 11 am (0300 GMT), adopted by a working lunch.

They are going to then maintain talks with Premier Li Qiang earlier than attending an official dinner and a information convention within the night.

The Europeans have stated they’ll use the talks to induce Beijing to make use of its ties with Moscow to push it to finish its warfare towards Ukraine, a problem which Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis warned this yr was “affecting the nation’s picture”.

Whereas Beijing has stopped wanting offering navy support to Moscow, it has deepened financial ties as Western powers search to isolate Russia.

Battle within the Center East and tensions over self-ruled Taiwan may also characteristic prominently within the talks, the bloc has stated.

And as world leaders meet in Dubai to hash out the way forward for the planet, Brussels will urge China — the world’s largest producer of polluting greenhouse gases — to do extra to carry emissions down.

One other sensitive subject is the automotive sector, the place Brussels accuses Beijing’s subsidies for home companies of undercutting overseas rivals.

Von der Leyen introduced an official probe into the subsidies in September, a transfer Beijing swiftly condemned.

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