China is seeking a new international order with Beijing as the dominant player, and the European Union must be more assertive in defending its security and economic interests, including possible EU-wide controls on outbound investment, the bloc’s top official said Thursday.
In a speech Thursday ahead of her trip to China alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, set to take place next week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU must continue engaging with Beijing but needs a strategy for “de-risking” its relationship and dependencies on China.
She also tied the future of Europe’s links with China to Beijing’s actions over the war in Ukraine and effectively called a halt to remaining hopes of enacting a 2020 EU-China investment agreement.
Citing China’s backing for Russia in the Ukraine war, its Belt and Road global infrastructure initiative and its assertiveness in multilateral bodies, Ms. von der Leyen said the Chinese Communist Party’s “clear goal is a systemic change of the international order with China at its center.”
“One, where individual rights are subordinated to national sovereignty. Where security and economy take prominence over political and civil rights,” she said in a speech hosted by two European think tanks, one of which, the Mercator Institute for China Studies, has been sanctioned by Beijing.
Ms. von der Leyen’s comments come at a pivotal moment in Europe’s relations with China, which have been frayed by years of economic spats and, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.