Ukraine: an EU-China summit to dissuade Beijing from helping Moscow – 04/01/2022 at 14:29

Chinese Premier Le Keqiang in a video conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on April 1, 2022 in Brussels (POOL / Olivier Matthys)

Chinese Premier Le Keqiang in a video conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on April 1, 2022 in Brussels (POOL / Olivier Matthys)

The EU was trying on Friday to persuade China to stop helping Moscow counter Western sanctions, during a virtual summit in which Beijing aims to revive its economic relationship with a Europe weakened by the war in Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel spoke on behalf of member states for nearly two hours on Monday morning (Brussels time) with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. .

A discussion is also scheduled for 2:00 p.m. (12:00 GMT) with President Xi Jinping.

“On Ukraine, Li Keqiang said that China opposes both hot and cold wars, bloc divisions and refuses to take sides,” tweeted Wang Lutong, head of Europe agency to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. .

Chinese and European officials “agreed to work together to maintain world peace, stability and prosperity” and “conduct a dialogue on energy and food security,” Wang added.

For the EU, the main objective of the summit is to urge China not to support Russia too actively.

“In concrete terms, it is essential to know if China is using its influence to establish a ceasefire, humanitarian corridors” or “if it is helping Moscow to circumvent” the sanctions, increasing its purchases of hydrocarbons or through financial aid, he explained. a European official on Thursday.

Beijing refuses to condemn the invasion of Ukraine and in early March praised a “rock-solid” friendship with Moscow, defending Russia’s “reasonable” concerns for its security.

– “Strategic calculation” –

“The Europeans will seek to influence the strategic calculation of the Chinese leaders, highlighting the economic cost that they would suffer in the event of concrete support for Russia,” estimates Grzegorz Stec, of the German Merics Institute.

The President of the European Council Charles Michel (l), the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell (r) and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in a video conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, on April 1, 2022. in Brussels (SWIMMING POOL / Olivier Matthys)

The President of the European Council Charles Michel (l), the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell (r) and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in a video conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, on April 1, 2022. in Brussels (SWIMMING POOL / Olivier Matthys)

“China’s convoluted reactions are a way of being on the Russian side without paying the price. Without further pressure, he will provide more aid to Putin”, fears German Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer.

But the EU is a prisoner of its strong interdependence with Beijing: it absorbs 15% of the Asian giant’s exports, which supplies it with crucial manufactures and components. China represents 10% of the exports of the Twenty-seven, a key market for European industrialists, especially the Germans.

The EU and China signed an ambitious investment agreement at the end of 2020, at the behest of Berlin.

But its ratification is today frozen by EU sanctions to punish the use of forced labor in the Chinese region of Xinjiang and Beijing’s counter-sanctions against European parliamentarians and investigators.

Added to this is the conflict over China’s blockade of imports from Lithuania after the opening of a Taiwanese representation in this country.

From now on, “the danger is that China + oversells + its neutrality to obtain concessions, such as the resumption of negotiations on the investment agreement”, warns Valérie Niquet, of the Foundation for Strategic Research.

– ‘Illusive’ –

On Wednesday, the head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov, visiting Beijing, had obtained a reaffirmation of the friendship “without limits” of the two countries against the United States, in the name of a new “multipolar world order”: a vision which highlights concern about the emergence of an “authoritarian” bloc against the West.

Evolution of imports and exports of Russia with its main partners (AFP / Getty Images)

Evolution of imports and exports of Russia with its main partners (AFP / Getty Images)

“The idea of ​​separating China from Russia is illusory: when the war in Ukraine ends, the attention of the United States will turn mainly, and not in a friendly spirit, towards China, which therefore has an interest in maintaining its cooperation.” with her neighbor, Judge Sylvie Bermann, former French ambassador to Moscow and Beijing.

And remember that China is not isolated, many countries (India, Pakistan, South Africa, Brazil…) also refuse to criticize Moscow.

For Beijing, the Europeans have allowed themselves to be drawn into a conflict instigated by Washington and which has exposed the vulnerabilities of the West.

Ultra-dependent on Russian gas, “Europe may have shot itself in the foot by joining US sanctions,” warned the nationalist Global Times on Thursday.

The newspaper rejected any link between EU-China relations and the crisis between the Europeans and Moscow stemming from the war in Ukraine, two issues on the other hand “inextricably linked” according to the European official.

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