EU, China Clash Over Ukraine Conflict

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By Laurence Norman in Berlin and Lingling Wei in New York
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European Union and Chinese leaders clashed over the conflict in Ukraine in a video-call summit, where Europe pressed Beijing to work actively to end the war and not to support Russia economically or militarily.

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European officials had set up Friday’s summit–the first since 2020–as a key moment in the bloc’s relationship with China, warning that Beijing’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the possibility of active support from China to Russia could create lasting damage to bilateral ties.

After a two-hour conversation with China’s Premier Li Keqiang and a video call of less than one hour with President Xi Jinping, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Beijing had offered no assurances to Brussels about its stance in the war.

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“Frank and open means that we exchanged very clearly opposing views,” she said in a press conference in Brussels. “China has an influence on Russia. And therefore we expect China to take its responsibility to end this war” and push Russia toward a peaceful solution, she said.

Ms. von der Leyen warned that China would suffer “major reputational damage” among the European public and business community if it stayed on the fence or sided with Moscow over Ukraine, saying that “equidistance is not enough.”

China’s official Xinhua News Agency issued a summary of the virtual meeting between Mr. Xi and the EU leaders even though they were still on call, as Beijing increases its effort to shape the narrative at a time of mounting questions about its stance on Russia during the invasion of Ukraine.

During the meeting, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua, Mr. Xi underscored the need for China and the EU to increase communication on their relations and on major issues including the Ukraine crisis, saying both sides should “play a constructive role in adding stabilizing factors to a turbulent world.”

The Chinese leader also urged the EU to “form its own perception of China, adopt an independent China policy, and work with China for the steady and sustained growth of China-EU relations.”

Those remarks reflected growing concerns among Chinese leadership that Europe is following the US in adopting an increasingly hardened policy toward China. With its relations with Washington shakier than in decades, Beijing is trying to salvage its ties with Brussels in a bid to keep the bloc as a buffer against heightened competition with the US

Write to Laurence Norman at [email protected] and Lingling Wei at [email protected]


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