Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday warned top EU officials not to engage in confrontation with China, as he held a virtual summit with the bloc amid rising tensions over human rights and trade issues.
Xi said that China and the EU should push their relations to “a new level with new prospects”, and that if the two sides choose dialogue and cooperation, there will be no bloc confrontation.
He also urged the EU to respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to refrain from interfering in China’s internal affairs, especially on issues related to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet.
The summit, which was also attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, came amid growing friction between the two sides over a range of issues, including the EU’s criticism of China’s human rights record, the EU’s imposition of sanctions on Chinese officials over alleged abuses in Xinjiang, China’s counter-sanctions on EU entities and individuals, and the stalled ratification of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), a landmark deal that was signed in December 2020 but has faced opposition from the European Parliament.
The EU leaders expressed their concerns over the situation in Hong Kong, where China has imposed a sweeping national security law that has curbed the city’s autonomy and freedoms, and over the cross-strait tensions between China and Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory and has threatened to use force to reunify.
They also called on China to uphold its commitments under the CAI, which aims to create a level playing field for European investors in China and to address issues such as forced labor, state subsidies and market access.
The EU leaders stressed that the ratification of the CAI depends on the progress of the negotiations on the remaining technical issues, as well as on the resolution of the sanctions dispute and the improvement of the human rights situation in China.
Both sides agreed to continue their dialogue and cooperation on global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity, pandemic response and multilateralism, and to work together to uphold the rules-based international order.
They also reaffirmed their support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and urged the US to return to the agreement and lift its sanctions on Iran.
The summit was the second one between China and the EU this year, following a meeting in March that was overshadowed by the sanctions row. The two sides have not held a face-to-face summit since 2019, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.