The European Union and China held their 24th Summit in Beijing on 7 December 2023. President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, met with China’s President, Xi Jinping, followed by an exchange with China’s Premier, Li Qiang. The Summit was an opportunity to engage with China following a period of intensified bilateral contacts and dialogues. High-level visits and dialogues on strategic and foreign policy issues, human rights as well as trade and economy, climate, and environment, digital have paved the way for the Summit, demonstrating the EU’s commitment to engage with China. The EU highlighted the need for concrete progress following these discussions.
“The EU-China relationship is one that matters. But we need to make our trade and economic relations more balanced, reciprocal, and mutually beneficial. We will continue to work for equal opportunities for our companies. Today should be a first step. We also count on China, as a Permanent Member of the UNSC, to protect the UN charter and notably the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries. We will continue to engage with China based on transparency, predictability, and reciprocity.”, said President of the European Council, Charles Michel.
“Our relationship with China is complex and we have a responsibility to make it work. We agreed that it is in our joint interest to have balanced trade relations. And we need to address challenges in a world with increasing geopolitical frictions. We must all work to ensure Russia stops its war of aggression against Ukraine,” said President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
The EU stressed the importance of a well-functioning, rules-based international order, with the United Nations at its core. The leaders discussed Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The EU reiterated that, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has a special responsibility in upholding the UN Charter’s core principles, including territorial integrity and sovereignty. The EU called on China to use its influence on Russia to stop its war of aggression and strongly encouraged China to engage on Ukraine’s Peace Formula. The EU underlined the importance of China continuing to refrain from supplying lethal weapons to Russia. The EU equally urged China to prevent any attempts by Russia to circumvent or undermine the impact of sanctions.
On the Middle East, the EU condemned in the strongest terms the indiscriminate and brutal terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel. The EU reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself in line with international humanitarian law. Both sides agreed on the importance of ensuring the protection of all civilians, improving the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2712. The EU and China confirmed their commitment to the two-state solution.
The EU and China are major economic partners with €2.3 billion in goods trade per day. However, with an EU trade deficit of almost €400 billion, this relationship is critically and structurally imbalanced. The EU does not intend to decouple or to turn inwards. The EU therefore raised concerns about underlying distortions and the negative effects of manufacturing overcapacity in China’s economy. The EU stressed to China the importance of achieving a more balanced economic relationship with a level playing field and reciprocity. The EU equally underlined the need for progress in addressing the core EU interests and longstanding demands (e.g., transparency in the business environment, predictable supply chains, trade distortions including industrial subsidies, and sector-specific trade barriers).
The EU expressed its expectation that China takes concrete action to improve market access and the investment environment for EU investors and exporters. The EU recalled that de-risking but not decoupling aims at strengthening resilience by addressing critical dependencies in specific sectors, in full compliance with the World Trade Organisation rules.
The EU and China share an interest in an effective multilateral rules-based trading system, equipped to address key challenges of our time. The EU stressed the two sides’ joint responsibility to ensure a transparent and competitive environment for the digital economy, including a level playing field for artificial intelligence that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms. The EU underscored the common goal of avoiding fragmentation of standards for information and communication technologies.
Leaders noted recent agreements, including the establishment of working groups on financial regulation, cosmetics, export controls, and wines and spirits. The EU looked forward to the rapid activation of the mechanism to ease cross-border data flows. Leaders also noted the work undertaken since the last Summit on customs and intellectual property rights, food safety and safety of products sold online, as well as on geographical indications. The leaders agreed to relaunch the High-Level People-to-People Dialogue in 2024.
Leaders welcomed continued cooperation on climate change and the environment, as exemplified by recent agreement to work further on emissions trading and circular economy. As major economies, the EU and China must lead global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions including at the ongoing COP28. The EU acknowledged recent progress on expansion of renewable energy and China’s intention to tackle methane emissions. The EU underlined the urgent responsibility for all states to step up climate ambition and called on China, to join the Global pledge to triple renewable energy capacity and double the rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030, as well as the Global Methane Pledge.
The EU reiterated its deep concerns about the human rights situation in China, notably systemic human rights violations in Xinjiang and Tibet, forced labour, the treatment of human rights defenders and persons belonging to minorities, as well as the continued erosion of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, where China should honour its prior commitments. The EU welcomed the resumption of the Human Rights Dialogue in February 2023 and underlined its expectation for the next dialogue to take place in 2024 in China.
The EU reaffirmed its consistent One China policy and expressed concerns about increased tensions in the Taiwan Strait. Heightened instability in the East and South China Seas threatens regional and global prosperity and security. We oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion. Disputes must be resolved through peaceful means in accordance with international law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Leaders further discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula, in Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Iran.