Hong Kong, trade, cyberattacks … The EU and China explain a difficult relationship

Europeans and Chinese on Monday discussed at a video conference summit several issues that they disagree with. Objective: to prepare a meeting between the Chinese President and the leaders of the 27.

On Monday, June 22, the European Union and China had a “sincere statement” about their differences over Hong Kong and their trade relations during a video conference summit.

The aim of the virtual meeting was to prepare for an extra meeting between the Chinese president and the leaders of the 27, while both sides hope to sign an investment protection agreement this year.

Presidents of the European institutions have expressed to President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang his “grave concern” for the former British colony. Beijing on Tuesday explained these comments. “The national security legislation in Hong Kong is an internal matter in China. We oppose any foreign involvement in this matter,” answered the European Affairs Minister to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Wang Lutong.

Europeans also expressed dissatisfaction with the disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks from China. Finally, they expressed disappointment at the lack of progress in the trade negotiations.

No joint explanation

The conversation with the Prime Minister and then with President Xi lasted for six hours. The summit ended without a joint statement and everyone communicated on their own. The Chinese “did not offer to hold a joint press conference,” said a European official.

“It is important to have a dialogue with China to defend our values, but we have disagreements on important issues,” European Council President Charles Michel explained during a press conference.

“China is a trading partner, an economic competitor and a systemic rival,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “All of this shows that our relationship is not easy,” she said.

Europe’s expectations were disappointed

Europeans and Chinese have negotiated an investment protection agreement for a year that gives European companies access to the Chinese market while protecting EU companies from the appetite of large, subsidized Chinese groups.

Europe’s expectations have been disappointed. “We need more ambitions from China to conclude such an agreement by the end of the year,” said Ursula von der Leyen. “We expect that the Chinese authorities will make commitments on state-owned enterprises and transparency on technology support and coercion,” she said. “Otherwise, we are determined to play another card, that of defending our interests,” a senior European official warned on Monday.

The Chinese, for their part, are concerned about the new European legislation on foreign investment and the EU’s distance to them. “China is opening up resolutely and has committed to creating a market-oriented, law-based international business environment for international companies,” said Prime Minister Li Keqiang in a report on the CCTV summit. . “We hope that the EU will also maintain the opening of its trade and investment markets and relax its export restrictions to China,” he added.

“Choosing” between Washington and Beijing

Beijing is engaged in a trade and political conflict with the United States and is seeking support. Washington warned Europeans ahead of the summit: “The Chinese Communist Party wants to force you to choose” between the US and China, said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

However, the Europeans refuse to allow themselves to be caught up in the tension between the two powers. “Europe will not be the battlefield for the United States and China,” European Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton said on Sunday.

But China is an important partner for the EU. According to trade in goods, trade in goods amounted to EUR 1.5 billion per day in 2019.

With AFP