Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel – European Commission President and European Council President respectively – will hold video conferences with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping starting tomorrow at 8am GMT, Reuters reports.
It’s understood that no joint statement will be released afterwards, however.
A senior official involved in preparing the video summit told Reuters that the EU is “ready to work with China” but that it expects “China to assume its responsibilities”.
Beijing’s ambassador to the EU said last week that the talks would be a chance to make relations “more productive and substantive”, according to AFP.
Countries around the world have called for an investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic which has gripped the world throughout the year.
In May, China said that it was “open” to international cooperation to this end, though Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said such investigations must be “free of political interference”, according to reports.
The World Health Organisation agreed to hold an inquiry into the global pandemic response in the middle of May.
However, EU officials have said that China has tried to pressure countries within the EU that have criticised its handling of the outbreak, and that China has been using social media to spread fake news reports about Europe’s own handing, Reuters claims. Beijing reportedly denies wrongdoing.
It’s understood that the EU is facing calls from the US to take a tougher stance on China.
The US itself has been particularly open in its condemnation of China throughout the pandemic, with President Donald Trump accusing it of covering up the pandemic in some way.
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In a statement on May 29, the president said: “China’s cover-up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world, instigating a global pandemic that has cost more than 100,000 American lives and over a million lives worldwide.”
In the same speech, Trump claimed that China “has total control over the World Health Organisation”, and, changing the subject to other issues, claimed that “for years, the government of China has conducted illicit espionage to steal our industrial secrets”.
In mid-May, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused the US of spreading “conspiracies and lies” about the pandemic.
He accused the US of using “every opportunity to attack and smear China,” and appeared to urge co-operation, noting: “China and the United States stand to gain from co-operation, and lose from confrontation,” the BBC reported.
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Most recently, Trump has made fresh threats to cut US ties with China completely following high-level talks between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior Chinese official Yang Jiechi.
However, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer has stressed that decoupling the US economy and that of China was not a “reasonable policy option at this point”, the Guardian reports.
In any case, it isn’t just the Covid-19 pandemic that is seeing tensions flare between China and other nations – the political situation in Hong Kong is also unfolding.
This is also something that the EU has voiced concerns about, though it is not clear whether or not diplomats will discuss this at the summit today.
Government across the EU – including the UK – have voiced concern about an approved national security law that many fear would threaten Hong Kong’s autonomy from the Chinese mainland.
China has reacted angrily to an EU assembly resolution that passed on Saturday protesting against the security law, Reuters reports.