EU and Chinese leaders met for the first summit in two years on Friday with Brussels keen to seek assurances from Beijing that it would neither supply Russia with weapons nor help Moscow circumvent Western sanctions imposed on Ukrainian aggression.
In unusually open language, EU officials close to the summit’s preparations said any aid given to Russia would damage China’s international reputation and affect relations with its biggest trading partners – Europe and the United States.
The Presidents of the European Commission and the Council of Europe, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, will hold virtual talks with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and later President Xi Jinping.
An EU official said China’s stance on Russia would be a “multi -million dollar question” on Friday. Another noted that more than a quarter of China’s global trade was with the bloc and the United States last year, compared to just 2.4% with Russia.
“Are we prolonging this war or are we working together to end this war? That is an important question for the summit,” the official said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated China’s call for peace talks this week, adding legitimate concerns of all parties should be addressed.
Wang Yiwei, a European expert at Beijing Renmin University, said both China and the EU wanted the war to end.
“I imagine China wants to use this summit to discuss with the EU how to create acceptable conditions for Putin for him to step down from his current position,” he said.
China itself has concerns that European countries are taking tougher foreign policy cues than the United States and has urged the EU to “exclude foreign intervention” from its relations with China.
The relationship is already strained.
The EU abruptly switched in 2019 from soft diplomatic language to calling China a systemic rival, but saw it as a potential partner in the fight against climate change or the epidemic.
Brussels and Beijing finalized an investment agreement by the end of 2020, designed to resolve some of the EU’s concerns about reciprocal market access.
However, it is now on hold after Brussels’ sanctions against Chinese officials over allegations of human rights violations in Xinjiang province prompted Beijing to blacklist EU individuals and entities.
China has since suspended imports from Lithuania after the Baltic country allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in its capital, angering Beijing, which considers the democratically ruled island its own territory.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)