The EU is trying to put China on the side of Ukraine, with trade for billions at stake

At a summit on Friday, EU leaders will press Chinese President Xi Jinping to end his implicit support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and to urge him to join the rest of the world in upholding the rule of law.

The online meeting between the EU and China, their first in two years, comes as Beijing has been intensely courted by both Russia and the West over the war.

While China has not yet come completely down to Moscow’s side, by offering arms and new trade agreements, a clear intervention from Beijing can be crucial to the conflict.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel want Beijing to drop its current policy of blaming the West for the war and tacitly agreeing to the invasion.

EU officials say they want to emphasize the importance of territorial integrity – a concept that China has used when confronted with criticism of its own internal actions, especially regarding. the Uighurs and Tibet.

They will also emphasize “the international community’s commitment to supporting Ukraine, the dramatic humanitarian crisis created by Russia’s aggression, its destabilizing nature to the international order and its inherent global impact,” an aide to Mr Michel said.

The EU will also emphasize the need to maintain rule-based international order and universal values ​​- issues that China has used in the past in trade disputes.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell had a preparatory call with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday, in which diplomats described it as a “very difficult” conversation.

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Chinese officials have continued to repeat the Kremlin’s line on European security and have deployed anti-NATO rhetoric.

Borrell said the EU’s fears of Russia were “very far away” from China. Beijing has already indicated that it is not keen on talking too much about Ukraine and prefers to discuss reopening trade talks.

Xi has been offering cryptic signals about his stance on the invasion since it began. Earlier in March, he said in a call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron that the situation in Ukraine was “worrying” and China was willing to “work actively” with the international community to mediate.

Reinhard Bütikofer, chair of the European Parliament’s China delegation, said the Ukraine war was a landmark moment. “The Chinese president pretended neutrality, while China’s actual policy is dominated by the friendship between Xi Jinping and the Russian president,” he said.

The EU will highlight the economic problems: China exported only about $ 70 billion in goods to Russia in 2021, while exports to the EU and the US amounted to over $ 1 trillion. Even the Power of Siberia pipeline, which pumps Russian gas to China, handles a fraction of the volume delivered to the EU.

The summit will also address the recently escalating trade and geopolitical tensions between the two, particularly across Lithuania. The EU has taken China to the World Trade Organization after imposing trade sanctions on the Baltic country following the opening of Taiwan’s new diplomatic office in Vilnius.

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