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China-EU: bilateral summit in Beijing tomorrow, Brussels fears yet another "dialogue of the deaf"

The summit, the first in person since 2019, will be jointly chaired by the Chinese Prime Minister, Li Qiang, and the presidents of the Commission and the European Council

Beijing
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It will be held tomorrow, December 7, at Beijing the 24th summit between the leaders of China e European Union, who will attempt to rebalance economic relations in the context of persistent tensions in bilateral relations and crisis scenarios in Ukraine and the Middle East. The summit, the first in person since 2019, will be jointly chaired by the Chinese Prime Minister, Li Qiang, and by the presidents of the Commission and the European Council, respectively Ursula von der Leyen e Charles Michel, who will be accompanied on the mission by the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Joseph Borrell. One day before the talks, expectations remain at a minimum among European officials, according to whom "not a single exceptional result will crown the summit". In fact, it is a widespread opinion in Brussels that tomorrow's edition risks resulting in yet another "dialogue between the deaf", as last year's summit was defined by Borrell.


It is equally unlikely that the summit will end with a joint declaration, given the European Union's persistent concerns about the trade deficit with China - which amounts to almost 400 billion euros - and Beijing's irritation over the anti-subsidy investigation on imports of its battery electric vehicles, launched by the European Commission on 4 October. Also complicating the dialogue was the recent damage to the Balticconnector, the gas pipeline that connects Finland to Estonia and which the Helsinki police attributed to the transit of the Newnew Polar Bear cargo ship, flying the Hong Kong flag. All against the backdrop of long-standing diplomatic tensions due to the round of sanctions imposed by the Chinese government on academics, politicians, officials and diplomats of the bloc, in response to similar measures launched by the EU for the "serious violations of human rights" perpetrated by the Communist Party against ethnic minorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

As explained by the European External Action Service (EEAS), responsible for the European Union's foreign policy, the summit will serve to take stock of the state of bilateral relations and the main international dossiers, including the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. The Russian invasion of Ukraine will be a priority issue on the agenda of the EU leaders, who intend to ask President Xi Jinping - with whom they will have a conversation tomorrow morning - to intervene on 13 companies accused of circumventing international sanctions against Moscow. Part of the talks could also be dedicated to strictly regional issues, including China's policy towards Taiwan, claimed as an inalienable part of the territory, and North Korea's supply of weapons to Russia. Topics such as climate change, food security, global health and pandemic response will also be addressed, on which European officials believe they can "work together with China to make a difference". The dialogue on the trade imbalance in bilateral relations remains complicated, which EU member states "do not intend to tolerate forever". The president of the European Commission said it in an interview given on the eve of the summit, according to which Brussels "has the tools to protect its market but prefers a negotiated solution".

The European Union, on the other hand, has already demonstrated its determination to defend member states from Chinese trade practices deemed "discriminatory" by suing Beijing in 2022 for banning goods from Lithuania, due of the green light given by Vilnius to the opening of a de facto embassy registered directly in Taiwan. During the upcoming talks in Beijing, references to the risk reduction policy that the 27 EU states intend to undertake towards the Asian country, on which they are heavily dependent for the import of critical minerals in the energy transition, will also be inevitable. In fact, China processes almost 90 percent of rare earths and 60 percent of lithium globally, which are fundamental in the production of electric vehicles and wind turbines. Given these data, the EU aims to increase the internal extraction, recycling and processing of essential raw materials by 2030, reducing imports of the aforementioned products from third countries to around 65 percent.

Although the community leaders have reiterated several times that the "de-risking" policy does not aim at an economic detachment, China has said it is "concerned" by this change of approach, fearing violations of the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO ) and an irreversible “erosion of mutual trust”. “We hope that the European Union can rely on rational voices, avoid politically exploiting issues and exacerbating the concept of national security, and that it can work with China to maintain two-way openness instead of erecting walls and barriers,” he said. said the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry in Beijing last week Wang Wenbin, which did not fail to attribute the difficulties experienced in bilateral relations to third countries. The reference is to the United States, which has also increased restrictions on trade with China on the technology front to slow down the development of its military programs.

Tensions in the relationship between China and the European Union also reached a rare peak during the forum organized on November 23 in Brussels by the think tank Friends of Europe, in which Chinese and European speakers openly clashed over all the controversies that emerged in bilateral relations . “After 20 years of global strategic partnership, in the eyes of us Chinese, we are closer to each other, but perhaps not so for the Europeans, because suddenly you see us as systemic rivals,” said the Committee's executive vice-president China National Pacific Economic Cooperation Committee, But Keqing, inviting Brussels to take a vote of confidence. The response from the head of trade at the European Union delegation in China did not take long to arrive, Eva Valle Lagares, according to which the rebalancing of relations must be "tangible" and trust built on "clear" guarantees of security. The Foreign Minister also spoke about trust and the need for dialogue at the beginning of the week Wang Yi, who reiterated that, although they do not "have the same point of view on international and regional issues, only through communication and coordination will Beijing and Brussels be able to play a constructive role in maintaining world peace" and in responding to global problems.

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