Skip to main content

Experts React to Today’s EU-China Leaders Meeting


Earlier today, Chinese president Xi Jinping met virtually with Germany’s Angela Merkel, European Council President Charles Michel, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a virtual summit. As Beijing promotes the summit as a successful milestone for future cooperation, what are the key takeaways for the EU—which has found itself in the middle of Washington and Beijing on numerous occasions?

Experts with GMF’s Asia program in both the U.S. and Europe are weighing in on the meeting and what it could portend for EU-China relations moving forward. Short perspectives from Noah Barkin and Mareike Ohlberg in Berlin, Andrew Small in Washington, and Peter Chase, a senior fellow in GMF’s Brussels office, are below – and all are available speak directly.


Noah Barkin, Senior Visiting Fellow, Asia Program - Berlin

“There was very little coming out of this virtual summit to convince the sceptics that China is prepared to make concessions the EU is calling for. On the investment agreement, the EU side made clear that there was a lot of work still to be done. Merkel, when asked directly, sounded less than hopeful that a deal could be clinched by the end of the year. On climate, the two sides will continue to talk. But it is hard to imagine Beijing moving forward its target date for peak emissions to 2025, as the EU wants, at a time when its top priority is ensuring a strong economic recovery from COVID-19. The most interesting aspect of this encounter was the prominent role that human rights played, particularly Hong Kong and Xinjiang. This reflects the growing importance of values in this relationship, and the pressure European leaders are under to call Beijing out. The era when the EU could keep these issues behind closed doors is over. Europe's line on China is hardening, and nothing that happened today will change that.”

Related Content: Watching China in Europe (September 2020)


Mareike Ohlberg, Senior Fellow, Asia Program - Berlin

“It was good to see the European side address Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong and put pressure on the Chinese government for abducting and imprisoning a European citizen, Gui Minhai. As expected, there was little concrete outcome from the summit. Especially when it comes to the investment agreement, future negotiations will need to proceed from the basic understanding that without building a very broad international coalition, it will be almost impossible to get the Chinese government to agree to structural reforms of its economy and enforce them. (Even with a broad coalition, this will still be difficult.) Instead, Europe should focus and follow up on concrete issues. It also needs to continue pushing back against China’s violations of international norms. Otherwise it risks encouraging Beijing to change the status quo further.”

Related Content: “Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World” (Released in the U.S. on September 8, 2020)


Andrew Small, Senior Transatlantic Fellow, Asia Program - Washington, DC

“The political mood in Europe on China has soured significantly, over issues ranging from Hong Kong and the Chinse government’s handling of the pandemic to longer-running problems with China’s non-market economic practices. This summit was seen by the European side as a critical moment for Beijing to signal whether it intended to make any moves that might address their concerns. Without progress on the investment agreement and climate commitments, in particular, the sense was that Europe’s China policy would inevitably need to move towards greater emphasis on competition and rivalry and less on partnership. It is clear that there were at least some steps forward on the investment talks – at least enough to keep some limited hope alive that a deal by the end of the year is not impossible. That isn’t enough to change the fundamental trajectory for the relationship but since almost every other recent Sino-European interaction had seen relations actively worsen, even slowing down the recent slide is progress of a sort.“

Related Content: U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Hearing on US-China Relations in 2020


Peter Chase, Senior Fellow - Brussels

“This week’s EU-China Leader’s Meeting again underscores that the EU can stand firm with China, even as it refuses to kowtow to Washington’s belligerence toward Beijing. As at the EU-China Summit in June, the Chinese pushed hard for a new joint “strategy” for bilateral relations to succeed the one adopted in 2013. But the EU rejected this and issued a “normal” joint summit statement. This was in part because the Chinese remain unwilling to accept some of the basic principles of non-discrimination and reciprocity in a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, but more importantly because of concerns about China’s actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea.”

Related Content: The EU is Hoist with Its Own Data-Protection Petard


The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.


Popular posts from this blog

Menon meets Karzai, discusses security of Indians

Kabul/New Delhi/Washington, March 5 (IANS) India Friday said that the Feb 26 terror attack in Kabul will not deter it from helping rebuild Afghanistan as National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon met Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul to review the security of around 4,000 Indians working in that country. Menon, who arrived here Friday morning on a two-day visit, discussed with Karzai some proposals to bolster security of Indians engaged in a wide array of reconstruction activities, ranging from building roads, bridges and power stations to social sector projects. The Indian government is contemplating a slew of steps to secure Indians in Afghanistan, including setting up protected venues where the Indians working on various reconstruction projects will be based. Deploying dedicated security personnel at places where Indians work is also being considered. Menon also met his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta and enquired about the progress in the probe into the Kabul atta

Iran is losing the game to regional actors in its strategic depth

Rethink before It’s Too Late Iran is losing the game to regional actors in its strategic depth –Afghanistan. By Houman Dolati It is no more a surprise to see Iran absent in Afghanistan affairs. Nowadays, the Bonn Conference and Iran’s contributions to Afghanistan look more like a fading memory. Iran, which had promised of loans and credit worth five-hundred million dollars for Afghanistan, and tried to serve a key role, more than many other countries, for reconstruction and stabilization of Afghanistan, is now trying to efface that memory, saying it is a wrong path, even for the international community. Iran’s empty seat in the Rome Conference was another step backward for Afghanistan’s influential neighbor. Many other countries were surprised with Iran’s absence. Finding out the vanity of its efforts to justify absence in Rome, Iran tried to start its

Pakistani firm whose chemicals were used to kill US troops seeks subsidy for Indiana plant

By Jennifer Griffin, Justin Fishel Published March 22, 2013   A Pakistani fertilizer maker whose chemicals have been used in 80 percent of the roadside bombs that have killed and maimed American troops in Afghanistan is now seeking U.S. taxpayer subsidies in order to open a factory in Indiana.  The request appears to be on hold pending further review, but the situation has stirred outrage in Congress, where some accuse the Pakistani government of halting efforts to clamp down on the bomb-making.  For the past seven years, the U.S. government has known that the raw material calcium ammonium nitrate, or CAN, is making its way across the border into Afghanistan where the Taliban use it to fuel their most deadly weapons, namely the improvised explosive device. IEDs have long been the number one killer of U.S. and coalition troops.  The material largely comes from Pakistani fertilizer maker the Fatima Group. But the Pakistani government has stymied attempts by the Pentagon to stop the