Home INTERNATIONAL EU descends on Beijing to probe China’s intentions on war in Ukraine

EU descends on Beijing to probe China’s intentions on war in Ukraine

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China, seeking to boost its role as an international mediator, is inviting the European Union to include it in its peace plan for Russia’s war in Ukraine. And the European Union, despite considering that the proposal is biased towards the Kremlin’s position, does not want to dismiss Beijing and believes that it is convenient to explore the possibility that Xi Jinping uses his influence with Vladimir Putin . With this background scenario, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, will land in China in early April along with French President Emmanuel Macron to probe Beijing’s intentions after Xi’s symbolic visit to Putin. Earlier next week, Spanish President Pedro Sanchez will visit China. High Representative for Foreign Policy and Defense Josep Borrell will go a little later.

The idea is to represent a “united European voice” in Beijing, Macron explained this Friday in Brussels. However, the carousel of visits – which would send the message that Ukraine, the country under attack, should be listened to – is dripping.

Relations with China have long been a divisive element within the union. Following Russia’s war in Ukraine and the closeness between Moscow and Beijing, China (which has not condemned the invasion) has become a point of tension. There is no consensus position, so Brussels chooses to have a firsthand look at the situation at a crucial moment, with an EU-China summit scheduled for the middle of this year.

There is also a reality on the table: With the Kremlin at war, Europe has deepened its dependence on the United States on defense issues, which is facing a new Cold War with China. And second: that the Asian giant has eaten up a huge niche in the European market and has become the main supplier of critical technology and materials, something the union is now trying to redirect through regulation.

red line of arms shipments

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It is important for the EU that China does not cross the red line by sending arms to Moscow. The US has warned that it may be one step away from doing so. The European Tour of Beijing also wants to stop the move from happening. Positions at the community club are not fixed, but so far, von der Leyen has represented a somewhat tough wing and is closer to Washington’s position. The Netherlands, France and Luxembourg are more in favor of opening up, albeit with caution. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who traveled to China late last year, and who has tried to push in recent weeks for the European Parliament to reopen the stalled China-EU investment pact in 2021 Yes, maintain the same existing.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, at the EU summit this Friday in Brussels.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, at the EU summit this Friday in Brussels.Olivier Mathis (AFP)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who also ended the year with a trip to China, has been a traditional member of that soft group but does not seek confrontation with US President Joe Biden. Like the pragmatic Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, who points out that after analyzing the Chinese proposal, the next natural step is to wait for the planned call between Xi and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Ukraine has been fairly secretive about the plan – the only proposal submitted by a third party – to Beijing, its first trading partner since 2019. Other leaders such as Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva are also planning to visit China: Brazil’s president will do so this Sunday, after postponing the trip after being diagnosed with mild pneumonia.

Countries such as Latvia, Lithuania or Sweden insist that the relationship between Xi and Putin should not be overlooked, that China is not a neutral interlocutor and that its own interests dominate the geopolitical tableau around the Kremlin’s offensive. Are. Not only strategic, but also economic. China, whose economy is 10 times the size of Russia’s, is Moscow’s number one trading partner and is benefiting from oil and resources at increasingly lucrative prices. The two countries plan to increase their commercial cooperation by 30% to more than $200,000 million (about 186,000 million euros) and greater energy cooperation over a decade. Meanwhile, the yuan has already surpassed the dollar as the most traded currency on the Moscow Stock Exchange.

Furthermore, with Western sanctions, Moscow has become even more dependent on things like importing electronics. All of this happens when the ideological affinity between the two autocrats against the West is great and they plan a world order that better suits their agenda. “China is not assuming the role of a middleman (sino) openly supporting Russia. This is a difficulty for all of us”, said Krijnis Karins, the prime minister of Latvia, at the summit of leaders of twenty-seven in Brussels these days.

Along with these crippling actions, comes the Chinese proposal for Ukraine: a 12-point plan that isn’t really a peace plan because it makes no distinction between aggressor and victim, Borrell told a group of journalists including EL Insisted in talks with the PAÍS in Brussels. “Putin talked about a peaceful solution and the Chinese plan and at the same time kept on bombing. I think China should use its influence to convince Russia that this is not the way. And let’s hope that it happens, we should encourage it to do so, “says the head of European diplomacy.” borders, “he points out – but on the other hand, it is not joining military support.”(China) It can be more of a facilitator than a mediator”, concludes the head of European diplomacy.

The Chinese plan calls for a ceasefire, an end to sanctions on Russia and respect for territorial integrity. European diplomatic sources say the latter is the only “salvageable” point on Moscow’s side not listed in the proposal. Putin, following his meetings with Xi, has said that the proposal could serve as the basis for launching a diplomatic route. But while “territorial integrity” implies recognition of Ukraine and the West’s internationally recognized borders and that Moscow withdraws from Crimea and the rest of the occupied Ukrainian territories, the Kremlin views that segment through its own prism. , which organizes the plebiscite. Connecting those territories: Consultations carried out in occupied territories, with troops on the ground and not recognized internationally.

The EU seems to be returning to the same situation with China that it experienced with Russia before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, when the US warned that the situation was deteriorating and everything could explode . Therefore, the union initially opted to talk with the source, Russia. There is equality, but it does not mean that the result is the same.

At the same time, China is aggressively welcoming the EU with a diplomatic charm. For the time being, he has already softened his rhetoric and is using his role as a mediator to push for the restoration of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, for example. On Thursday, Emmanuel Bonne, Macron’s diplomatic adviser, spoke with senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi. “China hopes that France and other European countries will play a role in seeking a political solution,” Wang said. ,

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