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 warned Beijing on Friday that any support for Moscow to circumvent Western sanctions will damage its economic relations with Europe, its biggest trading partner, and asked it to pressure Russia to end the conflict in Ukraine.
“We have made it clear that China should not interfere in the sanctions (against Moscow) but rather support them,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said after a videoconference interview with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
While Beijing refuses to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, defending its “rock-solid” friendship with Moscow, the EU wants to dissuade China from actively supporting Russia, increasing its purchases of hydrocarbons or through financial aid.
A tel soutien “seriously ternirait la réputation de la China en Europe”, où les entreprises “regardent comment les pays se positionnent”, I observed Mme von der Leyen, estimating that the attitude of Peking influenced sur des “decisions d’investissements à Long-term”.
“We hope that China will take into consideration the importance of its international image and its economic relationship with the EU,” added Charles Michel, president of the European Council, who participated in the virtual summit.
Europeans and Chinese are interdependent: the EU 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.
“A prolongation of the conflict, with disturbances in the world economy, is not in anyone’s interest, certainly not China,” hammered out Ursula von der Leyen, judging that Beijing “must assume its responsibilities to bring Russia to negotiate peace.”
The Europeans “seek to influence the strategic calculation of the Chinese leaders, highlighting the economic cost that they would suffer”, observes Grzegorz Stec, of the German Merics institute.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who also spoke to European leaders on Friday, reiterated that Beijing “is opposed to both hot and cold wars, blocks divisions and refuses to take sides,” according to Wang Lutong, senior Chinese diplomat.
Xi Jinping called on the EU to “form its own perception of China and autonomously pursue its own policy toward” Beijing, according to a report in Chinese state media.
For the communist regime, the Europeans allowed themselves to be drawn into a conflict instigated by Washington and which revealed the vulnerabilities of the West.
Ultra-dependent on Russian gas, “Europe may have shot itself in the foot by joining US sanctions,” the nationalist Global Times newspaper warned on Thursday.
China and the EU, “as great powers, great markets and great civilizations (…) must bring stabilizing factors to a turbulent world,” Xi Jinping added, according to the Chinese account, which only mentions “the crisis in Ukraine” in passing. . .
“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, Templa Sylvie Bermann, former French ambassador to Moscow and Beijing.
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)
And remember that many countries (India, Pakistan, South Africa, Brazil, etc.) also refuse to criticize Moscow.
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.
In this context, “the danger is that China + oversells + its neutrality (on Ukraine) to obtain concessions, such as the resumption of negotiations on the investment agreement” signed by Brussels and Beijing at the end of 2020 at the initiative of Berlin, warns . Valérie Niquet of the Foundation for Strategic Research.
The ratification of this agreement is today frozen by the 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.