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May 19, 2024 3:06 pm

Europe Must Reassess Relations with China, Says European Commission President

The European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, has called on Europe to reassess its diplomatic and economic relations with China before a visit to Beijing next week with the French President, Emmanuel Macron.

Speaking in a wide-ranging speech in Brussels, von der Leyen said that Europe needed to have “a clear-eyed picture on what the risks are” when it came to its relationship with China. She noted that EU-China relations had become “more distant and more difficult” in recent years as China moved into “a new era of security and control” and ramped up “policies of disinformation and economic and trade coercion”.

The European Commission President warned that Europe could no longer afford to ignore China’s actions, especially as the country continued to expand its influence in the world. She pointed to China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its increasing military presence in the South China Sea as areas of concern for Europe.

“China is a systemic rival and a strategic competitor,” von der Leyen said. “We need to build our own strategic autonomy to deal with this challenge and to protect our interests.”

Von der Leyen’s remarks come ahead of her visit to China next week, where she will meet with Chinese officials to discuss a range of issues, including trade, climate change, and human rights. The visit comes at a time when tensions between the EU and China have been rising, with the EU imposing sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

The European Union is China’s largest trading partner, and China is the EU’s second-largest trading partner. However, von der Leyen’s comments suggest that the relationship between the two sides may be at a turning point, with Europe seeking to assert its own interests and values in the face of growing Chinese influence.

As Europe looks to reassess its relationship with China, it remains to be seen what steps the EU will take to protect its interests and maintain its strategic autonomy. With China continuing to assert its influence on the world stage, the EU will need to carefully navigate its relationship with one of the world’s most powerful countries.

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