Xi holds trilateral meeting with Macron, von der Leyen – common interests, differences, importance of dialogue
Chinese President Xi Jinping holds a trilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, April 6, 2023. (Photo: Xinhua News)

Chinese President Xi Jinping held a trilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Beijing on Thursday. Xi pointed out that China and the European Union (EU) share extensive common interests. Cooperation and common ground between the two sides outweigh competition and differences. Von der Leyen stressed the increasingly unbalanced trade relationship and unfair practices that impede european companies access to the Chinese market.

In a complex and volatile world, China and the EU should respect each other, promote political trust, strengthen dialogue and cooperation, uphold world peace and stability, promote common development and prosperity, and address global challenges together, Xi said.

Noting that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership, China is prepared to work with the EU to set the right direction and tone for China-EU ties, fully resume exchanges at all levels and revitalize mutually-beneficial cooperation in various fields, thus injecting fresh impetus into China-EU relations and global peace, stability and prosperity.

Stressing the importance of enhancing the stability of China-EU ties, Xi said the China-EU relationship does not target any third party, nor should it be dependent on or dictated by any third party.

China has all along viewed the relationship from a strategic and long-term perspective and ensured stability and continuity in its EU policy, he said, adding that China hopes the EU will develop a more independent and objective perception of China and adopt a pragmatic and positive China policy.

Xi said the two sides should respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, work through dialogue and consultation to build consensus and overcome differences. It is important to respect each other’s development paths.

He said Chinese modernization and European integration are strategic choices China and the EU have made with the two sides’ respective futures in mind. China and the EU should be each other’s trustworthy and reliable cooperation partners on their paths to development.

China and the EU should keep their markets open to each other, provide a fair and nondiscriminatory environment for businesses from the other side, and avoid turning economic and trade matters into political or national security issues. The two sides should build stable and trustworthy supply chains, and synergize the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Gateway strategy in support of sustained and stable economic growth in China and the EU.

Xi also said, China is prepared to work with the EU to enhance coordination and cooperation in multilateral affairs, and uphold the international system centered on the United Nations (UN), the international order underpinned by international law, and the basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.

For her part, von der Leyen noted that the EU respects China’s history and culture. Frank and constructive dialogue with China and continuous development of EU-China relations are crucial for peace and stability in Europe.

The EU and China are each other’s important trading partners and the two economies are highly intertwined, von der Leyen said, adding that decoupling from China is neither in the EU’s interests nor the EU’s strategic choice.

She said the EU sets its China policy independently. It would like to restart the High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue and advance steady and balanced growth of economic and trade ties with China for mutual benefit.

Macron noted that in a world full of uncertainties, the EU and China need to enhance dialogue and exchange with mutual respect, openness and humility. The two sides should work with each other to stay away from the trap of economic decoupling and severing supply chains, carry out mutually-beneficial cooperation on an equal footing, tackle pressing global challenges such as climate change, and keep deepening the EU-China comprehensive strategic partnership.

The three leaders exchanged views on the Ukraine crisis. Von der Leyen and Macron shared the European perspective. They agreed that China did not create the Ukraine crisis, and said that they appreciate China’s efforts to promote a political settlement and look forward to China playing a more important role. They also said that they are prepared to work with China to find a way to facilitate talks for peace.

Xi said the pressing priority is to bring about a ceasefire and oppose actions that further inflame or complicate the situation. The Ukraine crisis is not an issue between China and the EU. China will continue to play a positive role in facilitating peace talks.

China supports EU efforts to propose approaches and plans for a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis, and to build a balanced, effective and sustainable European security framework, which serves the fundamental and long-term interests of the EU, Xi said.

In a separate meeting with von der Leyen after the trilateral meeting, Xi said China has always regarded the EU as a strategic force in the international landscape, and the development of China-EU relations has always been a priority in China’s diplomacy.

Xi said China is willing to continue the good tradition with the European side, maintain close communication, enhance strategic mutual trust, focus on mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation, jointly overcome interference and challenges, and achieve a high-level operation of China-EU relations.

He said the sound development of China-EU relations cannot be separated from independence, mutual respect and mutually beneficial cooperation. China firmly adheres to the independent foreign policy of peace and respects the rights of people of all countries to choose their own development path.

China and the EU should face up to differences, control differences and respect each other, Xi said, adding that it is hoped that the European Commission will focus on the fundamental and long-term interests of the EU, proceed from the overall situation of China-EU relations, and play an active role in the healthy and stable development of China-EU ties.

On the Taiwan question, Xi emphasized that it is the core of China’s core interests. The Chinese government and the people will never allow anyone to make a fuss about the one-China principle. Anyone who expects China to compromise on the Taiwan question could only be wishful thinking and self-defeating, Xi added.

Von der Leyen reiterated that the EU has no intention to change its long-standing one-China policy, recognizes the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government representing the whole of China and hopes that the Taiwan Strait will maintain peace and stability.

Statement by Von der Leyen: EU-China relations, trade imbalances, de-risking and geopolitical environment

Xi meets with Ursula von der Leyen at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, April 6, 2023. (Photo: Xinhua News)

In the statement by Von der Leyen following the trilateral meeting with Xi and Macron, she said EU-China relations are extensive and complex. “This relationship has a significant impact on our prosperity and our security. For China, because the European Union is the first export destination, while China is in the European Union the third export destination. If I give you one concrete figure, this means trade of more than EUR 2.3 billion per day in 2022.”

Von der Leyen emphasized, “the trade relationship is increasingly imbalanced. Over the last ten years, the European Union’s trade deficit has more than tripled. It reached almost EUR 400 billion last year. And we discussed that, because this trajectory is not sustainable and the underlying structural issues need to be addressed. I conveyed that European Union businesses in China are concerned by unfair practices in some sectors – unfair practices that impede their access to the Chinese market.”

We address the risk of dependencies through the diversification of our trade and investment relations. The risk of leakage of sensitive technologies that could be used for military purposes needs to be addressed through export controls or investment screening. She also said, whatever the instrument EU choos is, we wish to resolve the current issues through dialogue.

Von der Leyen expects that China to play its role and promote a just peace, one that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, one of the cornerstones of the UN Charter. She welcomed some of the principles that have been put forward by China, notably the case on the issue of nuclear safety and risk reduction, and China’s statement on the unacceptability of nuclear threats or the use of nuclear weapons. Von der Leyen also warns China not to provide any military equipment, directly or indirectly, to Russia.