European Council President Charles Michel will travel to Beijing on December 1 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, a European official told Agence France Presse (AFP).
The same source, which confirmed information advanced by the Financial Times, specified that the meeting would be officially announced during the current day.
This meeting takes place in a context of intense discussions among Europeans about how they should position themselves in relation to China, in addition to the growing tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Charles Michel has to deal, on the one hand, with a country like Germany, which has important economic interests in China, and other Member States like Lithuania, that drew the ire of Beijing by establishing ties with Taiwanconsidered by China as an integral part of its territory.
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On November 12, in Phnom Penh, a few days before the G20 summit, during which Xi Jinping met US President Joe Biden, Charles Michel called on Beijing to convince Russia to respect international law in Ukraine.
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“We encourage the Chinese authorities to use all means at their disposal to convince Russia to respect internationally recognized borders, to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty,” the leader told AFP.
Also this month, in an incident illustrating the tensions between Brussels and Beijing, the broadcast of a speech by Charles Michel, scheduled for the opening of a fair in Shanghai, was canceled because the Chinese authorities wanted to censor itin part, according to several European diplomats.
One of these diplomats specified that the Chinese authorities wanted to censor all references to the war in Ukraine in the speech. A sensitive issue in China, which wants to be officially neutral but remains a strong strategic ally of Russia.
Relations between China and the European Union have deteriorated since the imposition of sanctions by both sides over allegations of human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region.
The European Union considers China a “partner, economic competitor and systemic rival“, according to the wording adopted in 2019.
Business ties remain strong between the two. One example is Germany, whose chancellor Olaf Scholz was the first G7 leader to visit China, in late October, since the start of the pandemic.