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China Develops Relations With Leading EU States, Despite Brussels' Resistance

CC0 / / Chinese dragon
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China's Central Foreign Affairs Office Director Wang Yi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken are visiting Europe at virtually the same time. Their itineraries do not overlap except for their participation in the Munich Security Conference. Meanwhile, on the eve of the event, it is not yet known whether they will meet in person.
After France and before his visit to Moscow, Wang Yi will hold talks in Italy and Hungary. Anthony Blinken will visit Greece and Turkey, and will also attend the G7 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Germany.
The visits of high-ranking Chinese and American officials to Europe reflect the importance of the European track in diplomacy for these countries. At the same time, the goals of their missions are diametrically opposed. The US is increasing demands on European allies and partners to push China out of the market and to support the technological and other trade restrictions they impose to contain China.
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Beijing, on the other hand, is urging its partners not to sever but to strengthen bilateral ties. This is one of the main goals of Wang Yi's European mission, Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, told Sputnik:
“China's Central Foreign Affairs Office Director Wang Yi’s visit to Europe is of great significance. This is the first time China has sent a high-ranking diplomat to Europe since the 20th CPC National Congress. In the current political and economic situation in the world, visits to France, Italy and Hungary and participation in the Munich Security Conference will help bring China's voice to the international community. This is especially important to further clarify China's position on some hot international issues and strengthen ties between China and European countries. Overall, Wang Yi's mission reflects China's important and constructive role and promotes China-EU relations as well as world peace and stability.”
The US has effectively deprived the EU of freedom of maneuver regarding the Chinese track. China is reacting rationally to the US-imposed restrictions on Brussels' ability to determine its own policy with regard to ties with Beijing, Vladislav Belov, Director of the Center for German Studies at the Russian Academy of Science's Institute of Europe, noted in an interview with Sputnik:
“The underlying message of Wang Yi's visit to Europe is: if we can't work with Brussels, let's try with individual EU members. China understands that relations with the EU face political obstacles from Brussels, so Wang Yi will try to understand China's chances and opportunities in the new environment at the level of developing bilateral relations. France and Italy, along with Germany, are the most difficult actors in this regard. It was France and Germany that initiated the restriction of China's strategic investment in Europe. Therefore, Wang Yi will examine the situation to see how China can gradually return to the model of interaction that existed a few years ago. There is a competition in which, from Beijing's point of view, the US and the EU are using inappropriate means and accusing China of protectionism. At the same time, it is clear that Europe is objectively dependent on China. China is not yet using this dependence for its political purposes, nor is it pressing its painful points by threatening to cut off supplies of strategic goods. In particular, China is actively involved in the EU's energy transition, especially in the production of batteries for electric cars. Without Chinese companies, the European production of electric cars is unlikely to exist. Meanwhile, EU leaders are deliberately trying to reduce or eliminate their dependence on China.”
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In Paris, China signaled to all other European partners that it is necessary to protect free trade and strengthen international scientific and technological cooperation at a time when some countries are actively seeking disengagement. This is what Wang Yi called for in his conversation with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

"It is clear what China is saying. China is saying that partners should not limit each other's competitiveness. China's rise is based on interdependence and mutual benefit. It is clear that China is a major player embedded in the system of the international division of labor. That is why China is calling for a return to the old model, where there is healthy and free competition. The US and the EU, for their own benefit, are deliberately destroying the normal business environment, planting discrimination and protectionism using the pretext of a Chinese threat," expert Vladislav Belov believes.

He argues that China's position is pragmatic.
The development of trade between China and France is a condition for improving relations between China and the EU, Wang Zhimin, director of the Beijing-based Research Institute of Globalization and China's Modernization, told Sputnik.
“France is one of the greatest powers in Europe. Since World War II, France has emphasized its autonomy and independence. In recent years, President Macron has also expressed many ideas on international issues that differ from the positions of other European countries. There are no conflicts of interest or irreconcilable contradictions between China and European countries, let alone geopolitical competition,” the Chinese expert said.
According to Wang Zhimin, China always hopes to cooperate with Europe, and the potential for future cooperation between the two sides is indeed very large. In this case, trade is a favorable breakthrough. Trade is free from too many ideological issues, and the economies of China and Europe are very complementary. Strengthening cooperation can have the effect of mutual benefit and be win-win.
“Moreover, there were precedents for breakthrough cooperation between China and France despite ideological obstacles. For example, France was the first major Western country to establish diplomatic relations with China in 1964. In 2015, China and France launched a new model of international cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative and issued a joint Sino-French statement on cooperation in third-party markets. In addition, promoting Sino-French trade is a starting point for improving China-EU relations, including further promoting the unfreezing of the China-EU investment treaty,” the expert said.
During his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Wang Yi reiterated that France is a priority cooperation partner for China. Macron, for his part, believes it is important to strengthen the strategic dialogue between France and China. Wang Yi also noted that the two sides oppose bloc confrontation and support multipolarity.
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