China’s position on the war in Ukraine will determine its relationship with Europe

Ursula von der Leyen

The president of the European Commission, the German Ursula von der Leyen, warned this Thursday (03.30.2023) that China’s position on the war in Ukraine will be a “determining factor” in the future of its relationship with the European Union (EU). ). Likewise, she highlighted the importance for Brussels of “guaranteeing diplomatic stability” and maintaining “an open line of communication” with Beijing.

“We must be frank. The way China continues to interact with Vladimir Putin’s war will be a determining factor for the future of EU-China relations,” she said, in a speech at the European Policy Centre. Von der Leyen has on her agenda a trip to China next week with French President Emmanuel Macron

“Nothing is inevitable in geopolitics. China is a fascinating and complex mix of history, progress and challenges. And it will define this century. But our story of how we engage with China is not yet fully written and need not be defensive,” said Von der Leyen, who assured that the relationship with the most populous country in the world “is too important to put it at risk.”

Unfeasible disconnection

For this reason, he stressed the importance of avoiding dangers and opted to “clearly establish the terms of a healthy commitment” with Beijing, which must focus “on eliminating risks”, recalling that China is the second economic power on the planet, with which the European Union has an important commercial exchange. China accounts for 9 percent of the EU’s exports of goods and more than 20 percent of imports, he explained. For the same reason, a disconnection “is not viable nor is it in the interest of Europe”.

Despite this, he said that it must be taken into account that “the clear objective” of the Chinese government is to achieve a “systemic change in the international order, with China at the center”, one where “individual rights are subordinated to national sovereignty. Where security and the economy take precedence over political and civil rights.”

Acknowledging that EU-China relations “have become more distant and more difficult in recent years”, he lamented the way Beijing has dealt with the invasion of Ukraine. “Far from being frustrated by the heinous and illegal invasion of Ukraine, President Xi (Jinping) maintains his boundless friendship with Putin’s Russia,” he said.