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Von der Leyen: The European Union must rebalance relations with China

Von der Leyen: The European Union must rebalance relations with China

The EU Commission President is of the opinion that China is taking a tougher stance when it comes to implementing orders than other countries. It appeals to China to work for a “just peace” in Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has spoken in favor of realigning relations with China. “Our relations are unbalanced and increasingly affected by distortions caused by China’s state capitalist system,” von der Leyen said in Brussels on Thursday. “As such, we need to rebalance these relationships based on transparency, predictability and reciprocity.”

She sees a tougher stance on the part of China when it comes to enforcing the wishes of other countries. The human rights record in particular indicates a general intransigence. “These escalating measures indicate that China is becoming more repressive at home and more assertive abroad,” she said. The European Union must therefore become more independent and, above all, reduce economic risks in relation to the most populous countries in the world.

Von der Leyen: “Redefining” Future Relations with China

The investment agreement concluded due to China’s development should be “re-evaluated”. “It may happen that due to policy change in China, we need to develop new defense tools for some vital sectors,” she added. Future relations with China and other countries must be redefined in sensitive high-tech areas such as microelectronics, quantum computing, robotics, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. “If dual use cannot be ruled out or human rights can be affected, we must take a clear position when it comes to whether investments or exports are in the interest of our security,” von der Leyen emphasized.

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She spoke before the Brussels branch of the Merics China Institute, which has been sanctioned by the government in Beijing. In particular, von der Leyen said, the human rights record points to a general intransigence. It expressed its solidarity with all those affected by the Chinese sanctions. “These escalating measures indicate that China is becoming more repressive at home and more assertive abroad.”

Heavy dependence on China for raw materials

She pointed to the very high dependence on China, for example in the field of raw materials. Beijing has already shown Japan its willingness to use economic dependencies politically. At the same time, she stressed that, realistically, it is still in Europe’s interest to separate from China. “We need to focus on mitigating risks rather than decoupling.” It is necessary to ensure diplomatic stability and open communication links. She described combating climate change and nature conservation as areas where cooperation is possible.

The President of the European Commission heads to Beijing next week with French President Emmanuel Macron. And on Thursday, she delivered a keynote speech on EU-China relations. It addressed challenges, such as human rights violations in China, Beijing’s military presence in the immediate vicinity, proximity to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and China’s economic might.

China should work for a “just peace”.

Von der Leyen called on China to work for a “just peace” in Ukraine. She said the way Beijing handles this conflict will be crucial to relations with the European Union. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China has the responsibility to play a constructive role in promoting peace. Russian forces will have to withdraw and Ukraine’s territorial integrity must be preserved. “Any peace plan that would effectively advance Russian annexation is not a viable option,” she added, referring to the Chinese proposals.

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China and Russia work closely together, though the government in Beijing has so far avoided publicly supporting a Russian attack on Ukraine. Von der Leyen described China as the dominant power in relations with Russia.

Von der Leyen praised China’s ability to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in 50 years. The country now has a major political role in world politics. The ambition is clear to become the leading global power.