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Von der Leyen ahead of EU-China Summit: ‘Understanding China has never been more important than today’

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Ahead of the EU at the summit with China in early December, on 16 November, European Commission (EC) President Von der Leyen gave a speech entitled « Check against Delivery » at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECHR), the second time since March this year that she has addressed a think tank dedicated exclusively to China. In his speech he stressed the importance of understanding China.

« Understanding China has never been more important. China is not the same country it was ten years ago. Its economy, politics and global footprint have changed. So, above all, to understand China correctly, we need to get the facts right. That is why we are investing more and more in our knowledge of China, not only through our Horizon Europe research programme, but also by recruiting more China experts in European institutions. In addition, we have set up a China scholarship programme in our in-house think tank. Because dialogue can only happen if we understand each other. »

In her speech, she also stressed that the relationship with China is a key factor for the EU’s future economic prosperity and national security. « Two wars are raging just outside the EU’s borders – in Ukraine and Gaza. And with uncertain economic prospects. In these turbulent times, there is a great need for strategic stability in the way we deal with China. To do this, we need to take an honest assessment of China’s development. Let me start with China’s economic behaviour before turning to its diplomatic and military behaviour.”

« China’s economic trajectory is changing profoundly. The country is moving into a period of slower growth. And China’s economic imbalances are of great concern to us today. China’s industrial policy today is not only creating more competitive industrial players. »

She pointed out that the EU does not want to disengage from China, „but that some parts of our relationship need to be de-risked. Our de-risking strategy is built on three pillars. First, the protection of our legitimate economic interests. Second, dialogue to manage our differences. Third, diversification with our partners. »

She expressed her intention to defend Europe’s indigenous interests and stressed the need for Europe to strengthen its competitiveness. She also mentioned that « there are major concerns about the vulnerability of equity and security in the clean technology sector, including for example electric vehicles ». She stated that « the EU and we are ready and willing to address our differences through dialogue ».

Von der Leyen believes that the central theme for the EU at the summit with China in early December will be « to create a level playing field in our trade relations with China ».

« We will go to China in good faith, » she said. « We must leave room for a more ambitious discussion on a mutually beneficial relationship. We will continue to discuss with China how we can make competition fairer and more disciplined ». She suggested that « the rivalry need not be hostile; it can be constructive », arguing that the response should be balanced and strategic.

On global cooperation, President von der Leyen sees cooperation with China as key, covering a range of areas such as climate change and carbon trading schemes. Furthermore, China and the EU have jointly established the historic Global Biodiversity Agreement.

She concluded, « China’s ability to influence the world has grown exponentially over the past decade. China is not just a trading partner or an industrial powerhouse. It is also a technological competitor, a military power, a global player with a distinct and different vision of the global order. So if we want to understand China correctly, we must be able to understand it in all its complexity and intricacy. We must understand China’s ongoing transformations if we are to achieve strategic stability in our relations. »

EU Briefs publie des articles provenant de diverses sources extérieures qui expriment un large éventail de points de vue. Les positions prises dans ces articles ne sont pas nécessairement celles d'EU Briefs.

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