The EU-China Summit
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The EU-China Summit

The policy of the European Union regarding China should be based on the following principles:

  • cooperate where possible,
  • compete when needed,
  • confront where necessary.

Engagement requires interest from both parties and adherence to existing rules. China needs to deliver on its own commitments.

Centuries-old maps cannot take precedence over international law to define borders and territorial affiliation if we want to safeguard peace and respectful cooperation between neighbours in Europe and Asia. We have to communicate to China in clear language that military support for Putin will have consequences for Sino-EU relations and trade, but we must nevertheless continue our dialogue to stop the ongoing Russian war against Ukraine.

The European-Chinese dialogue must also look at solving other pressing global issues, such as the looming economic crisis, climate change, and addressing the threat of a broader conflict in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

Cooperation with China needs to be based on the open regulatory framework of the EU and in full compliance with WTO rules. Economic diplomacy is important to address the structural shortcomings of the Chinese market and improve fair conditions and market access for European companies. If such an open, rules-based approach in economic relations is unachievable, the EU should make use of its trade defence instruments, including proportionate actions against Chinese companies. Such actions should mirror the restrictions European companies face in China. This can possibly lead to temporary setbacks or disappointments, such as a potential retaliation by Beijing against our business interests. Yet, in the long-run, it will strengthen the international system based on transparent rules.

I expect non-discrimination and openness from Beijing as well as its readiness to accept responsibility and accountability, which comes with its enhanced role on the global stage. The EU cannot compromise on its values and principles in its dialogue with Beijing. The European Institutions need to use all their leverage to persuade the Chinese leadership to turn this inspiring country into a responsible member of the international community.

The EU Member States ought to implement effective control mechanisms in response to Uyghur forced labour and urges them to impose an import ban on cotton and cotton products originating from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The Chinese officials responsible for the persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang as well as for other violations of human rights across mainland China and in Hong Kong should be subject to EU targeted sanctions.

On 30 December 2020, the EU and China concluded in principle the negotiations for a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI). The Agreement is meant to provide investors on both sides with predictable, long-term access to respective markets. China also committed itself to work towards the ratification of the International Labour Organisation Conventions, including on forced labour. But the signature, the adoption and ratification of the Agreement have been put on hold after the Chinese sanctioned elected officials and Institutions of the European Union in response to EU sanctions imposed for the repression of the Uyghurs.