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China and EU: Mutual respect leads to common prosperity

By DONG YIFAN | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-09 08:43


The 24th China-EU Summit, marking the first in-person meeting between Chinese and European leaders in four years, was held on Thursday in Beijing. The significance of this face-to-face interaction cannot be overstated, considering its influential role in guiding China-EU relations.

However, the European Union, in its approach to the development of China-EU relations, has introduced external factors such as the Ukraine crisis. This unilateral stance creates hindrance to the development of China-EU relations, adding an unnecessary layer of complexity.

In fact, the EU considers Russia to be a crucial factor when assessing China-EU relations and shaping its perception of China. In a recent speech, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen specifically addressed China-EU relations within the context of China's relations with Russia. While signaling a commitment to deepening engagement and advancing high-level interactions with China, she stated that the way China positions itself on Russia will define the EU's relationship with China for years to come. She also suggested that the EU should keep engaging with Beijing, so that its support to Russia remains as limited as possible.

This statement further solidifies the EU's misguided perception of linking China-EU relations with China-Russia relations. Such an approach is having a detrimental impact on China-EU relations and, consequently, the legitimate interests of China's national entities and businesses.

China's role and stance in the Ukraine crisis are clear: China is not a direct party to the crisis but, like many others, bears the impacts from the spillover effects of this geopolitical conflict on global political and economic fronts. China seeks dialogue and engagement with all parties involved, including Europe, Russia and Ukraine, to steer the situation toward a ceasefire, toward ending hostilities, and achieving a political resolution. Throughout the crisis, China has maintained an objective and impartial position, as detailed in the document "China's Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis". This document outlines China's commitment to principles such as respecting sovereignty, rejecting Cold War ideologies, addressing humanitarian crises, and opposing unilateral sanctions. It can be affirmed that China has consistently contributed positive energy to the resolution of the Ukraine crisis.

However, the EU, in alignment with the United States and other Western nations, has been continuously intensifying unilateral sanctions against Russia. They go so far as to use extraterritorial jurisdiction and diplomatic pressure to coerce non-Western countries into taking sides. This involves severing normal economic and trade ties with Russia. In a significant move, the EU appointed David O'Sullivan, former secretary-general of the European Commission, as special sanction envoy in December 2022, assigning him the specific task of pressuring other countries.

China, as Russia's largest economic and trade partner and the world's foremost manufacturing and export hub, has become a focal point of the EU's efforts to tighten the encirclement of Russia. The EU not only accuses China and Russia of engaging in practical cooperation in energy, investment and trade, but also disseminates false information such as claiming that China provides weapons or dualuse products to Russia. Furthermore, Chinese companies have been included in the EU's sanctions list under the pretext of being so-called third parties or intermediaries, which demands, without any basis, that China compel its own companies to comply with Europe's unjust laws.

Chinese companies affected by the EU's wielding of the sanctions stick extend far beyond those explicitly listed. On the one hand, the EU has included a variety of electrical and electronic products, potentially having military uses, in its sanctions list, going as far as to categorize items such as refrigerators, printers, and electronic calculators as relevant. This has subjected Chinese companies to a "chill effect", prompting them to withdraw from certain export markets. On the other hand, the EU's "oil price ceiling" decree enacted last December has significantly disrupted the maritime oil trade between China and Russia, emerging as a major factor contributing to the escalation of domestic energy costs in China.

However, China's stance on the Ukraine crisis is unequivocal. It consistently adheres to its commitment to not provide weapons to any party. Chinese Ambassador to the EU Fu Cong emphasized that China has not supplied any military equipment to Russia, and exporting dual-use items is approached with extreme caution.

China maintains normal economic and trade cooperation with Russia, free from any third-party interference or coercion. Similarly, China's development of relations with the EU should adhere to the principles of non-alignment, non-confrontation and non-targeting of any third party. This approach is essential to steadily advance cooperation between the two sides across various domains.

If the EU emulates certain hegemonic nations by unilaterally exercising extraterritorial jurisdiction over its trade partners and meddling in the normal trade affairs of other countries, it will not only have a significant adverse impact on China-EU relations, but also jeopardize the EU's ability to uphold its international image as a "champion of multilateralism" and an "advocate for multipolarity".

The author is an assistant researcher at the Institute of European Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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