The first EU-China summit in nearly two years took place on Friday by video link and lasted only two hours.
The European Union warned China not to support Russia’s war in Ukraine or interfere with international sanctions against Moscow, during a virtual summit that failed to ease sharp differences between the sides over the conflict.
Speaking after the meeting, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen offered an assessment that EU officials described as a frank and open discussion on Russia’s war in Ukraine: “Clear and open means that We exchanged opposing views very clearly. This is not a conflict, this is a war. This is not a European matter, this is a global matter.”
The European Union has called on China to pressure Russia to end the war – or at least open humanitarian corridors in Ukraine – saying that as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Beijing has had a special responsibility.
“That’s why we also made it clear that China should at least not interfere with our sanctions, if not support,” von der Leyen said. “We discussed that and also the fact that no European citizen would understand any endorsement of Russia’s ability to wage war. Furthermore, it would damage a great reputation for China in Europe.”
EU officials have also warned that easing sanctions on Russia could have economic consequences. Von der Leyen noted that the EU and China trade about $2.2 billion in goods and services every day – compared to just over $364 million between Russia and China. Meanwhile, European and other Western companies are suspending operations or exiting Russia over the war.
“The business sector is watching events very closely and evaluating how countries are positioning themselves,” von der Leyen said. “It’s a question of trust, of credibility and, of course, of decisions on long-term investments.”
China has tried to cast itself as a neutral player in the Ukraine war, while trying to strengthen strategic ties with Moscow and keep its economic ties with Europe on track. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported on President Xi Jinping saying he hoped the EU could “independently” form its view of China.
Analysts described Friday’s summit as “cold” and said China was concerned about closer ties between Europe and the US in recent months.
Relations between the EU and China have become increasingly strained in recent years over issues including Taiwan and China’s human rights record. Both were addressed at the summit, along with areas where greater cooperation is possible, including climate change and COVID-19 vaccines.
EU officials called on China to freeze imports from member state Lithuania over its warm ties with Taiwan.