China-EU ties: Premier Li Qiang commits Beijing to fruitful summit on 20th anniversary of partnership


China and the European Union have agreed to work towards a successful bilateral summit later this year, which is expected to be preceded by high-level talks over the coming weeks.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Sunday drew attention to this year’s 20th anniversary of the comprehensive strategic partnership between Beijing and Brussels, telling European Council President Charles Michel he looked forward to co-chairing the next China-EU summit with Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Li was talking to Michel on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, according to a statement in the official Xinhua agency, as Beijing places a greater emphasis on its relations with Europe amid intensifying tensions with Washington.

It has urged the 27-member bloc to insist on strategic autonomy in the face of US efforts to create a united front with allies against China.

In the meeting with Li, China’s No. 2 official, Michel “confirmed the shared interest” in holding the bilateral summit by the end of 2023, according to a readout by the European side.

Still, the Belgian stressed the importance of having high-level sectoral dialogues beforehand, including on trade, foreign policy and digital areas.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang meets European Council President Charles Michel on the sidelines of the G20 summit. Both sides underscored the importance of a coming summit. Photo: Xinhua

“High-level dialogues have an important role to play in delivering meaningful outcomes for the summit,” the EU readout said.

Michel told Li that in particular, the high-level political dialogue was useful and necessary to foster mutual understanding and address the various challenges in the context of bilateral relations, but also more global issues.

The last two China-EU summits in 2022 and 2020, both held virtually, failed to produce a joint statement.

The South China Morning Post has reported that the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell will visit Beijing in mid-October for the annual strategic dialogue with his counterpart to finalise an agenda for the EU-China summit, which is likely to take place in November.

Before that, the bloc’s trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis will visit China from September 19 to 24 for talks with top Chinese officials.

EU ambassador to Beijing Jorge Toledo said in July that the high-level digital dialogue would also land this month.

Li said Beijing was ready to work with the European side to stay committed to their partnership, further strengthen dialogue and exchanges, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation and properly handle sensitive issues.

“Lying at the opposite ends of Eurasia, there is no geopolitical conflict between China and Europe, let alone a fundamental conflict of interests,” he is quoted as saying in the meeting.

He added that Beijing welcomed more European businesses to invest and operate in China.

In conclusions reached in June, EU leaders committed to reducing the group’s dependence on China and “de-risking” from China without decoupling with the world’s second largest economy.

They characterised Beijing as “simultaneously a partner, a competitor and a systemic rival” and expressed concerns about the situation in the Taiwan Strait.

Michel said Brussels would continue ensuring the economic relationship with Beijing was balanced, reciprocal and mutually beneficial and would continue diversifying where necessary and appropriate, according to the European release.

He said the bloc remained committed to the one-China policy while keeping economic ties with Taiwan at the same time.