The EU, used to bullying countries around, found its match in giant China.
European Union officials went to Beijing to meet Chinese leadership, in a bid to solve the differences in their bilateral relations.
The main sticking points were trade equality, the question of subsidies, and the deep divide over the war in Ukraine.
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with the two European ‘presidents’, Ursula von der Leyen from the EU Commission and Charles Michel from the EU Council.
The European Union, at this point, wants China to reduce the annual trade imbalance of more than $200 billion between the two sides.
China, on the other hand, is unhappy with an EU investigation into subsidies for electric vehicles.
Another demand by Beijing is the end of EU restrictions on technology exports.
Von der Leyen said the two sides need to manage their differences responsibly.
Associated Press reported:
“’China is the EU’s most important trading partner’, she said in opening remarks posted on the commission’s website. ‘But there are clear imbalances and differences that we must address’.”
Chairman Xi stated that China and the EU must handle differences through dialogue.
“’We should not view each other as rivals just because our systems are different, reduce cooperation because competition exists, or engage in confrontation because there are disagreements’, he said, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.”
The meeting happens right after EU member Italy withdrew from the “Belt and Road” initiative, a network of Chinese-financed roads, ports and power plants.
Italy’s trade deficit with China ended up growing from 20 to 48 billion Euros ($51.8 billion.)
The EU wants to improve market access for products from its 27 member countries to address the massive trade imbalance.
“’We agreed that we have now a list of different elements where we want to deep dive together in the high-level dialogue. This is important, first of all on our side to show the evidence but secondly then also to seek concrete results on the ground’, she said.”
The EU is also calling on China to ensure that its ‘dual-purpose’ exports are not aiding Russia’s war effort.
“’Russia’s war of aggression is a blatant violation of international law and the U.N. Charter, and it is a serious threat to European security’, von der Leyen said. ‘And this is why we recalled the need for China to use all its influence on Russia to stop this war of aggression and to engage in Ukraine’s peace formula’.”
China is calling for an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine, and talks between Western leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“’Sometimes European politicians say to us that China needs to speak to Russia, you need to speak to President Putin about withdrawing their soldiers’, [Chinese FM Wang] said. ‘This is a very independent, sovereign nation. President Putin is making his decision based on his own national interest and security’.”