Von der Leyen does not want to disconnect the EU from China

Europe should not isolate itself from China, but it should protect itself against the political and economic risks posed by China’s increasingly assertive stance. That said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a detailed speech on relations with China on the eve of a visit to Beijing.

The EU should not opt ​​for ‘de-coupling’, as advocated in the US, the EU should opt for ‘de-risking’, according to von der Leyen.

According to her, it is mainly about making a distinction between trade that does not involve any risks and trade in sensitive technology that China can use for military purposes, or for spying on the population, for example. The European Commission is investigating whether trade in a limited number of sensitive technologies should be systematically screened. These include biotechnology, AI, robotics, quantum computers and microelectronics.

She also called on member states to work together as much as possible to thwart China’s divide-and-conquer tactics. Von der Leyen will travel to Beijing next week with French President Emmanuel Macron. Her speech is also intended as a kind of joint script that European government leaders can draw from in their contacts with China. The Spanish Prime Minister is visiting Beijing this week and German and Italian visits are also planned.

Hard line

The EU is being pressured by Washington to follow the hard US line against China. Brussels does not want to offend US ally, but at the same time defends European interests and is therefore looking for a way between the two antagonistic superpowers.

Read also EU China policy is starting to harden

In her speech, von der Leyen, on the one hand, left room for consultation and cooperation with China, but she also painted a rather gloomy picture of China’s attitude on the world stage. China wants to become “essentially the most powerful country in the world” under President Xi Jinping.

She also made it clear that the relationship between China and Russia will greatly affect China-EU relations. She pointed out that despite the illegal invasion of Ukraine, China still maintains good relations with Moscow. On a Chinese “peace plan” for Ukraine, she said any plan that gives Russia control over annexed territories “simply is not a viable plan.”