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China tells EU to 'clarify' position on strategic partnership, avoid wavering

China's top diplomat Wang Yi speaks during the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference with China at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Jakarta on July 13, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

China's top diplomat has demanded the European Union (EU) "clarify" its position on its strategic partnership with Beijing amid recent EU calls for reduced dependence on China.

China and the EU should strengthen communication, enhance mutual trust and deepen cooperation, and the bloc should not "waver," let alone encourage back-pedaling in words and deeds, Wang Yi said in a meeting on Saturday with EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell on the sidelines of the ASEAN regional meetings in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, according to Chinese foreign ministry's readout of the talks.

Insisting that there is no fundamental conflict of interest between China and the EU, Wang further called on both parties to avert politicization of economic issues and the use of "de-risking" as another term for "decoupling."

An EU-China comprehensive strategic partnership was launched in 2003, pledging to upgrade ties beyond trade and investment. Since 2019, however, the 27-nation bloc has referred to China as an "economic competitor" and a "systemic rival" -- reflecting a distrust that was further impaired by closer relations between Beijing and Moscow in recent years that also marked the persisting Ukraine conflict.

On the war in Ukraine, Wang further stated that Beijing supports a balanced, effective and sustainable European security architecture, and will continue to promote talks for peace and play a constructive role in seeking a political settlement of the conflict.

Borrell, for his part, used Twitter to described his exchange with Wang "on responsibly managing EU-China relations" as "constructive" and "in-depth."

He also boasted in his tweet that he had "expressed EU expectations as to China's role to help ending" the raging conflict and "to provide humanitarian assistance" for Kiev.

Back in March, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen claimed that a hardening of China's position with regards to maintaining good ties with Russia required Europe to "de-risk" both economically and diplomatically.

The Commission is also calling on EU members to agree to stronger controls on exports and outflows of technologies for military use by "countries of concern" amid the bloc's struggling economy and severe shortage of energy resources.

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