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We can’t lose China, say EU leaders – POLITICO

BRUSSELS — European leaders are suddenly scrambling to get to China.

Amid growing fears that Chinese leader Xi Jinping could shore up his support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced on Thursday that he would travel to Beijing for talks next week. next. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, will follow on a longer trip scheduled for April 4.

A succession of European Union leaders used a summit in Brussels to sound the alarm over China’s ostentatious support for Vladimir Putin this week, warning that they could not sit idly by while Beijing and Moscow cemented an alliance that risked plunging the world deeper into crisis.

Their concerns followed Xi’s high-profile trip to the Russian capital, which bolstered the position of his longtime friend Putin.

In a private session in Brussels, Macron urged his colleagues to redouble their efforts to prevent China from deepening its support for the Russian invasion. “The French president stressed the need to make maximum efforts to ensure that China does not support Russia and its ability to continue the war,” an EU official said.

The stakes of changing geopolitical dynamics could hardly be higher for Europe or the rest of the world. A stronger partnership between China and Russia would risk turning the war in Ukraine into a conflict between NATO governments and Beijing, as well as Moscow.

Then there is the looming threat of a military clash between Beijing and Washington over Taiwan, which Western analysts say is increasingly at risk of being overrun by Chinese forces.

Even without a military escalation, tensions are rising between Beijing and the West over security and trade. In recent weeks, a series of European governments have imposed restrictions on Chinese social media company TikTok, fearing that Beijing’s dominance over technology poses a security risk to the West.

At the same time, EU governments are drawing up plans to limit their dependence on China for critical raw materials such as lithium for electric car batteries.

Speaking to the media at the Brussels summit, Latvian leader Krišjānis Kariņš described the Xi-Putin meeting in Moscow as “a revelation for Europe”.

The meeting, he said, showed that “China is not playing the role of a broker [but is] moving openly to the side of Russia and this is a difficulty for all of us. Kariņš added that Beijing has the driver’s seat in its relationship with Russia, but it is still unclear where they want to take this relationship.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson have also expressed concern about the possibility of China providing concrete support to Russia, according to two diplomats involved in the Brussels summit.

Spaniard Sánchez, meanwhile, confirmed he would meet Xi in China next week. Spanish officials said he would discuss China’s position paper on Ukraine. Spain will take over the rotating EU Council Presidency from Sweden later this year.

While EU leaders raised concerns about closer ties between Moscow and Beijing, there was no consensus in Brussels on whether the bloc as a whole should take a new approach. vis-à-vis China.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has called for continued engagement with Beijing to try to bring the Chinese closer together.

We might need China one day

“China is not perfect, but we might need it one day,” an EU official said. “Several Member States share this assessment.”

Others, however, apparently favor a tougher line on China given the latest situation.

Macron’s diplomatic adviser Emmanuel Bonne spoke with senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on Thursday. “China expects France and other European countries to play a role in finding a political resolution,” Wang said.

During his trip to Moscow this week, Xi made no public pledges of military support for Russia. However, US officials have warned against Beijing’s willingness to provide deadly aid to Moscow. POLITICO reported that 1,000 assault rifles and other equipment that could be used for military purposes were sent to Russia by Chinese companies.

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