Brussels, – EU Foreign Ministers are due to meet their Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Monday to prepare for an EU-China summit in April, as the bloc reassesses its relationship with Beijing in the light of the country’s growing might.
Recently, the European Commission unveiled a strategy paper, encouraging member states to rethink China’s multiple roles as a partner, an economic competitor and a “systemic rival,” while raising concerns including unfair economic practices and 5G infrastructure threats.
China responded by urging the European Union to focus on the “opportunities” presented by its development.
EU diplomats have acknowledged that Beijing may have been offended by some of the “bold’’ language used.
A senior EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the bloc’s “constructive’’ approach sets it apart from those going outside the multilateral system and imposing punitive tariffs.
However, the official did not mention the U.S. by name.
The EU is striving for unity among its capitals, with officials concerned that Beijing is seeking to divide the bloc by pursuing bilateral initiatives.
It noted its Belt and Road investment plan and the so-called “16 plus one’’ format involving 11 eastern member states and five Balkan countries.
Other issues straining relations include human rights concerns, notably in relation to allegations of mass detentions of ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang province.
Monday’s talks with Wang, which include a joint lunch, are aimed at setting common goals for the EU-China summit in Brussels on April 9.
Wang is also due to take questions at a news conference with EU Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini, a practice that has not always been observed by visiting Chinese officials.