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China is going its own way as the EU seeks support for Ukraine

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BRUSSELS/BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang told European Union leaders on Friday that Beijing would push for peace “in its own way” in Ukraine after Brussels pressed for assurances that China would not supply arms or help Russia get around. Western sanctions.

Li spoke with European Commission and European Council Presidents Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell for nearly two hours via video link at the first EU-China summit in two years.

State-run CCTV reported that Li told EU leaders that China has always sought peace, strengthened negotiations, and is ready to continue playing a constructive role with the international community.

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European Union officials close to summit preparations said any assistance to Russia would damage China’s international reputation and endanger relations with its biggest trading partners – Europe and the United States.

An EU official said on Friday that China’s position on Russia is “a million-dollar issue”. Another noted that more than a quarter of China’s global trade was with the bloc and the United States last year, compared to just 2.4% with Russia.

“Do we prolong this war or work together to end this war? That is the main question of the summit,” the official said.

China itself has concerns that European countries are taking more hawkish signals in foreign policy than the United States, and has called on the EU to “exclude outside interference” from its relations with China.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping, who took part in a separate virtual meeting with EU leaders on Friday, said he hopes the EU can form its view of China “independently,” state broadcaster CCTV reported.

China and the European Union want to end the war, said Wang Yue, an expert on Europe at Beijing’s Renmin University.

“I imagine that China wants to use this summit to discuss with the European Union how to create acceptable conditions for Putin to step down from his current position,” he said.

Relations were already tense before the Ukraine war.

The European Union abruptly switched in 2019 from soft diplomatic language to describing China as a systemic competitor, but sees it as a potential partner in the fight against climate change or the epidemic.

Brussels and Beijing concluded an investment agreement at the end of 2020, aimed at resolving some of the European Union’s concerns about mutual market access. However, it has now been suspended after Brussels’ sanctions against Chinese officials over allegations of human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region have prompted Beijing to blacklist EU individuals and entities.

Since then, China has also halted imports from Lithuania after the European Union’s Baltic state allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in its capital, angering Beijing, which considers the democratically governed island its territory. Read more

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Additional reporting by Robin Emmott. Writing by Philip Blinkinsop; Editing by Sandra Mahler and William MacLean

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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