Chinese leader Xi Jinping hosted European Council President Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in Beijing for the 24th Chinese-European Summit, the first meeting in five years, as the EU tries to work out a pragmatic relation with Beijing.
The meeting, held at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, was initially scheduled to last two days, but internal disagreements within the EU, particularly related to Ukraine, led to the European side truncating the programme.
The main events are slated for December 7, after which President Michel will return to Europe. It remains uncertain whether President von der Leyen will extend her stay in Beijing.
During the summit, Chinese leader Xi Jinping stressed the joint responsibility of China and the EU in bolstering global governance and upholding global stability.
The chilly mood at the summit highlighted that relations between the EU and China remain strained. While Beijing has thrown in its lot with Moscow, with which Xi says it has a special relationship, Xi is also trying to avoid open confrontation with the West. For its part, while the EU wants to limit China’s influence in its markets and sees it as a geopolitical rival, nevertheless the EU remains heavily dependent on Chinese trade, which it wants to maintain.
Xi said: "China and the EU bear responsibility for the reinforcement of stability in the world. We must provide greater impetus to development, lead global governance and lend support to it."
Xi noted that the world is undergoing “significant changes” and highlighted the roles of China and the EU as key markets that facilitate globalisation and contribute to multipolarity.
"The Chinese-European relations have a profound impact on global peace, stability and prosperity," Xi Jinping said.
In addition to Michel and von der Leyen, the EU delegation included EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, all of whom were received by Xi and China’s Premier Li Qiang.
Highlighting the tension that remains in the Sino-EU relationship, no joint declarations were signed, nor was a joint press conference held afterwards.
Meanwhile, China has gone a long way to replacing the trade between Russia and the EU, which has fallen to a third of its former volumes since the annexation of the Crimea in 2014 and that decline has accelerated since the invasion of Ukraine about 22 months ago. This year mutual trade between the two is expected to be some €170bn, most of it Russian raw material and energy exports to the EU that continue via Ukraine.
The trade between Russia and China, on the other hand, is flourishing, as China has become Russia’s biggest trade partner by far. The trade turnover this year has increased 26.7% year on year, and has now topped the stated goal of $200bn to reach a record of $218.17bn as of November, according to data from the General Administration of China Customs (GAC).
China's exports to Russia rose by 50.2% in 11 months, amounting to approximately $100.33bn, while imports from Russia increased by 11.8% to $117.84bn.