EU warns China against helping Putin break sanctions – POLITICO

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EU leaders on Friday warned President Xi Jinping not to undermine their sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin, threatening that European companies could pull out of business with China if Beijing sides too closely Moscow poses.

In a nearly hour-long talk at a summit with Xi – described as “difficult” by an EU diplomat – Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, showed no signs of bridging the massive gap bridged the gap between Beijing and Brussels over the war in Ukraine. In a clear sign that the parties were walking past each other, von der Leyen told a press conference that the two sides simply had “opposing views”.

China is posing as a steady friend of Russia, accusing NATO of inciting the war and is considering sending military support to Putin’s troops in Ukraine, according to EU officials. Just weeks before war broke out, Putin finalized a “no limits” partnership agreement with Xi.

Like US President Joe Biden, von der Leyen and Michel decided to play the commercial card. While China wants to court Russia as an authoritarian partner who can help act as a counterweight to NATO, Beijing is also keen to retain full access to wealthy Western markets.

“We expect that if China does not support the sanctions, it will at least do everything possible not to interfere in any way,” von der Leyen said. “No European citizen would understand support for Russia’s war capability. In addition, this would result in major reputational damage for China here in Europe – reputational risks are also the driving force behind the exodus of international companies from Russia.”

The German President of the European Commission added that European business was “monitoring events very closely and assessing countries’ positioning. It is a matter of trust, reliability and, of course, decisions about long-term investments. I would like to remind you that China and the European Union trade goods and services worth almost 2 billion euros every day, and in comparison, trade between China is and Russia only about 300 million euros a day.”

Von der Leyen and Michel repeatedly dodged questions about whether the Chinese leadership had given them any assurances that Beijing would come to Russia’s aid. They also did not want to say whether there would be sanctions against China in this case.

Michel said the EU duo “told the Chinese authorities that it is important to put pressure on the Kremlin; it is also important to encourage the Kremlin to negotiate and be honest in these talks. We had this opportunity to use all sorts of arguments… . We hope these arguments have been heard by the Chinese authorities.”

In another intervention aimed at promoting more effective diplomacy, EU officials said Michel had invited Xi to hold direct talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, but there were no immediate signs Xi would agree .

Beijing’s assessment of the EU summit took a completely different turn. To counter strong transatlantic unity in confronting Russia, Xi made sure Europe was encouraged to develop its own “autonomous” China policy.

Xi also slipped back into China’s traditional anti-NATO messages in his assessment of the origins of the war.

“The Ukraine crisis has its origins in the long-standing security conflicts in Europe,” he told the two EU leaders, according to Chinese state media. “The basic solution is to address the reasonable security concerns of all parties. Today’s era does not require the Cold War mentality to build the global and regional security framework.”

While von der Leyen stressed that the Ukraine war was an international and not a European crisis, Xi asked to disagree.

“The Ukraine crisis must be properly managed… and cannot bind the whole world to the issue, not to mention the citizens of all countries have to pay a heavy price,” Xi said. “If the situation worsens, it may be years, a decade or decades before it resumes [to normality] later.”


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