China is not a threat, Xi Jinping tells new European Council President Charles Michel

China is not a threat, Xi Jinping tells new European Council President Charles Michel

Pair share phone call as Michel takes office at a time when Europe is becoming more wary of Beijing

China’s President Xi Jinping said his country’s development was not a threat to the EU in a telephone call with the new European Council President Charles Michel on Monday, stressing that Beijing’s policies towards the bloc remained unchanged.

Xi’s message came with the European Union increasingly framing China as a competitor as well as partner, and with a new EU leadership taking office this month.

“China sees its relations with the EU from a long-term, high-level, strategic perspective,” Xi told Michel, according to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry on Monday evening. “China and the EU are mutually beneficial partners, not zero-sum competitors.

“China’s development is an opportunity for the EU, not a challenge.”

Xi also said China would continue to work with the EU on enacting the Paris climate accord, and to push for reform of the World Trade Organisation.

Michel said China and the EU had a “series of important high-level exchanges and cooperation priorities” in the coming year, according to the Chinese foreign ministry statement.

In addition to the annual EU-China summit, next year due to take place in Beijing, the two sides will hold a summit next autumn in Leipzig, Germany, which Xi and leaders from EU countries are expected to attend.

The two sides have also pledged to complete an investment agreement before the end of 2020. Xi said in Monday’s phone call that he hoped for an early completion of the deal.

Michel officially took over from Donald Tusk last week as president of the European Council, which comprises leaders of the EU member states and defines the bloc’s political direction and priorities. Xi held a congratulatory phone call with Michel after his election in July.

“Looking forward to strengthening our cooperation on climate change, trade and investments and a rules-based order,” Michel wrote on Twitter after Monday’s phone call.

The EU has taken measures in the past year to address China’s rising influence in Europe.

The 28-member bloc introduced a tougher foreign investment screening mechanism following a string of Chinese acquisitions of European companies, and labelled China a “systemic competitor”, as well as a partner for cooperation, in a strategy document.

The Leipzig summit was announced in October by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will hold the EU presidency in the second half of 2020.

“The EU does not currently have a joint China policy, which is not good for the EU,” Merkel told the German parliament when announcing the China summit.

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