Xi Tells EU to Treat China 'Independently' as West Pressures Beijing to Denounce Ukraine Operation
The US has threatened to sanction China repeatedly since Russia launched a special operation in Ukraine on February 24 and the West moved to sever Moscow from the global economy. However, Beijing says its trade with Russia is strictly legal and in accordance with international trade laws.
At a virtual summit with European Union leaders on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the political bloc should treat China "independently" instead of following Washington's lead.
Xi harkened back to his first visit to EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, eight years ago, when he suggested China and Europe "build a bridge of friendship and cooperation across the Eurasian continent." He said that if anything, that vision has become all the more relevant amid current crises, including the situation in Ukraine and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
"China and the EU should play a constructive role in adding stabilizing factors to a turbulent world," Xi said, according to China Daily. "It has been proven that China and the EU share extensive common interests and a solid foundation for cooperation."
The 27-member bloc constitutes one-quarter of China's foreign trade, and last year, China passed the US to become the EU's biggest trading partner. However, the two economic superpowers have struggled to implement some of the principles outlined by Xi, butting heads in particular over China's deradicalization program in Xinjiang, where Uyghur terrorist groups with bases in Afghanistan have staged attacks aimed at separating the province from China. EU sanctions against China have frustrated implementation of a massive investment deal, for example.
Some EU politicians objected to the summit, which fell on April 1 - a Western holiday in which it's common to play practical jokes or stage hoaxes to fool others.
"We will see at the April Fool's Day Summit whether the EU is already able to apply the Russia lessons learned recently to its China relations," Reinhard B├╝tikofer, a leader of Germany's Green Party and the chair of the EU delegation for relations with China, told Politico ahead of the meeting.
European Council President Charles Michel told reporters after the summit that he and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had "called on China to help end the war in Ukraine. China cannot turn a blind eye to Russia's violation of international law."
"Any attempts to circumvent sanctions or provide aid to Russia would prolong the war," he added.
Since the start of Russia's special "neutralization" operation in Ukraine on February 24, the US in particular has tried to cast China as if it were party to the conflict, saying that a lack of a denunciation of the operation by Beijing was equivalent to giving approval. Washington has also claimed China had advance warning of the operation - a claim Chinese Ambassador to the United States Qin Gang tackled head-on in a Washington Post op-ed last month.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told the EU leaders on Friday that Beijing would push for peace in "its own way."
However, Beijing has so far concentrated on criticizing NATO for provoking the conflict, calling the anti-Russian alliance an "outdated security concept" and denouncing Western sanctions against Russia as "getting more and more outrageous." At the same time, China has supported negotiations between Russia and Ukraine to resolve the situation.
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov traveled to the eastern Chinese city of Tunxi to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, as part of a summit on the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters "there is no limit to China-Russia cooperation in the pursuit of peace, no limit to our efforts to safeguard security, and no limit to our opposition to hegemony. China-Russia relations feature non-alliance, non-confrontation, and non-targeting of any third party."
"As permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia develop bilateral relations following the principle of non-alliance, non-confrontation and non-targeting of any third party. Both sides will continue to practice true multilateralism, stay committed to the vision of a multi-polar world, and work to promote democracy in international relations," the spokesperson added.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|