War in Ukraine: EU warns China that its ties with Putin may lead to a flight of international investment | International
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Somber atmosphere, language without diplomatic Vaseline and direct and blunt warnings. The EU summit with China, held by videoconference this Friday, was probably one of the most tense of the 23 bilateral meetings that the two trade giants have held since 1998. Community leaders have demanded that Chinese President Xi Jinping abandon its calculated equidistance in favor of Russia in the war in the Ukraine and get fully involved in imposing peace. With little hesitation, the EU has warned Beijing that with its indifference its international reputation is at stake, words that evoke the shadow of the status of a pariah state that the West tries to impose on Russia with its sanctions. Leaders have reminded Xi that the damage to his image has already caused a business and investment stampede in Russia, a danger that would also haunt China if it supports Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war.
“This summit has not been just another one”, recognized the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, at the end of the meeting with Xi. Michel stressed that “China cannot close its eyes to Russian violations of international law” and urged Beijing to “help stop the war in Ukraine.”
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, added, for her part, that the meeting took place “in a very sober atmosphere, with Russia’s war against Ukraine as a backdrop”. Both have defined the dialogue with Xi and with the Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, as “frank and open”, terms that allude to the forcefulness with which Brussels and Beijing have defended their respective positions.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, in a statement, has also described the conversation as “sincere” and “in depth”. Far from committing to the pressure on Russia that Michel and Von der Leyen have called for, Beijing limits itself to indicating that Xi “is always on the side of peace” and “encourages peace talks in his own way.”
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Since the beginning of the conflict, China has adopted a position of “leaning neutrality” towards Russia, its strategic partner, and has refused to condemn the Russian attack, which it avoids qualifying as an “invasion” or “war”. He opposes international sanctions and blames NATO and the United States for failing to take Russia’s “legitimate security concerns” into account.
Xi has reiterated this position at the summit, arguing that “the root of the crisis in Ukraine is in the regional security tensions that have been created in Europe over the years”, and has urged to abandon the “mentality of the Cold War” in regional and global security architectures.
The EU demands that China assume its responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and use its ascendancy over Moscow to stop the war as soon as possible. “We have also made it very clear that China must at a minimum not interfere with our sanctions. [a Rusia] if you don’t support them,” Von der Leyen warned.
Brussels does not expressly threaten Beijing with imposing sanctions if it intervenes in favor of Putin, with financial or military support. But European leaders have warned Xi that multinationals are watching and evaluating each country’s position in the conflict with a view to deciding long-term investments.
“China is risking its reputation,” Von der Leyen warned. And community leaders have reminded the Russian president that the reputational damage has already caused a stampede of European companies in Russia, a flight that could be repeated in the Asian giant if European public opinion perceives that Beijing supports or finances the invasion of Ukraine, the death of civilians and the destruction of vital infrastructures in that country.
The European side has not hesitated to remind Xi of the importance of the community market for Chinese exports. Trade between the two blocks amounts to 2,000 million euros a day, while that between China and Russia is 330 million, according to data from the European Commission.
Brussels has also tempted Beijing with the quality of European vaccines against covid-19, developed with a new technology (RNA) to which Chinese researchers do not seem to have access at the moment. “We are always willing to share knowledge and support in this matter”, Von der Leyen offered after recalling that at the moment the EU has 70% of the population vaccinated and 52% with booster doses, while in China the pandemic it still locks down 30% of the economy and 25% of the population.
China, on the other hand, has blamed Europe and the international community in general for “adding fuel to the fire and intensifying tensions” with its economic punishment of Moscow. And he considers unacceptable what he has described as an alteration “on a whim” of the global economic system and an “instrumentalization of the global economy as a weapon”.
Xi has warned that the drastic measures adopted by the West to hit Russia could lead to “serious crises” in sectors such as supply chains, trade, global finance, energy or food. And that if relations deteriorate further “it could take years, if not decades, to get things right again.”
“Sanctions also have a price for us in Europe, but it is the price for defending freedom and democracy,” said Michel. And he has warned China: “We will be vigilant against any attempts to circumvent sanctions or to help Russia prolong the war.”
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