The EU must respond to Chinese efforts to change the rules-based order
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The EU must respond to Chinese efforts to change the rules-based order

In a new report, MEPs call on the EU to engage pragmatically with China on global challenges while continuing to confront Beijing over its severe human rights abuses.

The report, with recommendations adopted by the Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, notes China’s simultaneous role as a partner and also increasingly a competitor and systemic rival to the EU. The Beijing government is strengthening its role and influence over international institutions, with both the intention and economic, technological and military means to reshape the international rules-based order, MEPs say. They point out that both the EU and China have an interest in pursuing active and stable relations, which should be based on international law, balanced engagement and shared global responsibilities. Yet they also highlight that China is moving into a new era of security and control characterised by increasing internal repression as well as a more and more assertive economic and foreign policy.

Pragmatic engagement on global challenges, more balanced trade needed

Stressing the need for the EU to continue to engage pragmatically with China to tackle global challenges, such as climate change, financial stability risks as well as conflicts and security issues, MEPs urge the European Union to engage more with China to get Beijing to stop its support for Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine and aiding the circumvention of EU sanctions against Moscow. Noting that the ruling Chinese Communist party does not share the same values as European democracies, they also want the European Union to respond more adequately to China’s increasing efforts to change the multilateral rules-based order through tools such as the BRICS group and the Belt and Road Initiative. This can be achieved through better coordination among EU member states, more engagement with partners around the world and through the promotion of the EU’s own Global Gateway strategy, according to the text.

Looking at economic ties, MEPs stress the need to advance the stated goal of de-risking trade flows with China to reinforce the EU’s open strategic autonomy, without turning inwards. They highlight the importance of reciprocal and balanced trade relations, to address the structural shortcoming of the Chinese market and improve fair conditions and market access for European companies.

The EU must confront China over its human rights abuses

Deploring China’s deeply worrisome human rights record, the report also urges the EU to call on the Chinese authorities to take necessary actions to stop their crackdown on dissent and various religious and ethnic minorities and halt their ongoing grave violations. This concerns not least the alarming situation in Xinjiang and Tibet, but also recent and more long-term developments in Hong Kong and Macao.

MEPs also want the EU to do more to limit Chinese control over critical infrastructure in the EU, as well as to better combat cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns originating from China, the surveillance of Chinese diaspora in Europe and espionage.

On Taiwan, and with the EU’s ‘One China policy’ remaining firmly intact, MEPs highlight their opposition to any changes to the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, particularly by force, and call on the EU to work with regional partners to discourage China from escalating tensions in the region.

The recommendations in full will be available here. They were adopted by 42 votes in favour, 5 against with 0 abstentions.

Next steps

The European Parliament as a whole will vote on the recommendations in one of the coming plenary sessions.