With two wars and tense trade relations, European Union and Chinese officials open talks hoping for ‘mutually beneficial’ ties.
China and the European Union should not see each other as rivals and must address their differences, leaders from both sides said in the first in-person EU-China summit in over four years.
During the meeting in Beijing on Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned top EU officials that China and Europe should not engage in confrontation due to their different political systems.
He also urged the EU to “eliminate all kinds of interference” in the bilateral relationship, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Xi that China was the EU’s biggest trading partner, but “there are clear imbalances and differences that we must address”.
“At times our interests coincide,” she said in her opening remarks at the summit, pointing to EU-China cooperation on artificial intelligence and climate change.
“And when they do not, we need to address and responsibly manage the concerns that we have.”
European Council President Charles Michel and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell were also in attendance.
Michel said the bloc was seeking a “stable and mutually beneficial” relationship based on “principles of transparency, predictability and reciprocity”.
The two sides are expected to find common ground on global issues of climate change and biodiversity, but addressing differences on issues of trade and power politics may prove more vexing.
Two notable issues on the agenda for the EU are the “imbalances” in trade relations that the bloc says are reflected in its about 400-billion-euro ($431.7bn) trade deficit with China.
China has previously pushed back against an EU anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese electric vehicles and the EU’s “de-risking” policy to reduce its reliance on Chinese imports, particularly of critical raw materials.
Chinese officials insist the biggest economic risks are posed by protectionist policies and “politicisation”.
China’s relationship with Russia is another touchy agenda point, where the EU would have China pressure Moscow to end its invasion of Ukraine, but with Xi hailing his “deep friendship” with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
At the meeting, Xi told von der Leyen and Michel that China and the bloc “must jointly respond to global challenges and work together to promote world stability and prosperity”.
Despite statements of camaraderie and high hopes for cooperation, analysts say the two sides are unlikely to find agreement on many of the agenda points.
“Both sides are unlikely to get what they want from the other side,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a senior fellow at Yale’s Paul Tsai China Center.