April 1, 2023: European Commission President von der Leyen made a scathing speech on EU-China relations to the Mercator Institute for China Studies and the European Policy Centre on March 30, 2023, just days before she is scheduled to visit Beijing with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Here are excerpts from the speech:
We have seen a very deliberate hardening of China’s overall strategic posture for some time. And it has now been matched by a ratcheting up of increasingly assertive actions. There was a stark reminder of that last week in Moscow during President Xi’s state visit.
How China continues to interact with Putin’s war will be a determining factor for EU-China relations going forward.
The grave human rights violations occurring in Xinjiang are also a cause for great concern, as laid out in the recent report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. How China meets international obligations regarding human rights will be another test for how – and how much – we can cooperate with China.
Just as China has been ramping up its military posture, it has also ramped up its policies of disinformation and economic and trade coercion. This is a deliberate policy targeting other countries to ensure they comply and conform.
China has now turned the page on the era of ‘reform and opening’ and is moving into a new era of security and control. The imperative for security and control now trumps the logic of free markets and open trade. The Chinese Communist Party’s clear goal is a systemic change of the international order with China at its centre. We have seen it with China’s positions in multilateral bodies which show its determination to promote an alternative vision of the world order. One, where individual rights are subordinated to national security. Where security and economy take prominence over political and civil rights. We have seen it with the Belt and Road Initiative, new international banks or other China-led institutions set up to rival the current international system. We have seen it with China’s set of global initiatives and by how it positions itself as a power and peace broker, for instance through the recent Saudi Arabia and Iran agreement. And we have seen the show of friendship in Moscow which says a thousand words about this new vision for an international order.
I believe it is neither viable – nor in Europe’s interest – to decouple from China. Our relations are not black or white – and our response cannot be either. This is why we need to focus on de-risk – not de-couple.
Our relationship is unbalanced and increasingly affected by distortions created by China’s state capitalist system. So we need to rebalance this relationship on the basis of transparency, predictability and reciprocity.
A strong European China policy relies on strong coordination between Member States and EU institutions and a willingness to avoid the divide and conquer tactics that we know we may face.
Full Transcript of the Speech