China has unexpectedly canceled a scheduled visit to Beijing by the European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, sparking speculation about the escalating disagreements between the two global powers.
The cancellation comes in the wake of ongoing disputes over trade, human rights, and China’s stance on the Ukraine war.
Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, was slated to arrive in China on July 10 for talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and other officials.
The discussions were expected to cover a range of topics, including trade, human rights, and China’s position on the Ukraine conflict.
However, China abruptly canceled the visit, leaving the EU in the dark about the reasons behind this decision.
The EU spokesperson, Nabila Massrali, expressed disappointment over the cancellation and stated that the EU would seek alternative arrangements.
Massrali emphasized that it is now China’s responsibility to communicate the reasons for the cancellation.
China-EU Disagreements Deepen as Diplomatic Visit Canceled
Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbing, offered a vague response, reiterating China’s commitment to maintaining exchanges with Europe and welcoming Borrell’s visit at a future date convenient for both parties.
Following a conference of EU member states last week, where the group backed a plan to diversify crucial material suppliers away from China, this cancellation has been made.
While the EU clarified that it does not seek complete “decoupling” from China, this move reflects growing concerns about overreliance on the world’s second-largest economy.
Additionally, the EU reaffirmed its multifaceted approach to China, considering it a partner, competitor, and systemic rival.
Beijing has long been unhappy with the EU’s categorization of China as a “systemic rival,” which was accepted in 2019. Recent initiatives by European nations to lessen reliance on Chinese supply chains and commerce, aligning with the United States, have strained the relationship further.
On the other hand, the EU is critical of China’s neutral stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While China claims neutrality, it has supported Russia through state visits and joint military exercises.
Furthermore, the EU opposes any alteration to the status quo in China’s relationship with Taiwan.
Despite Beijing’s threats to bring the self-ruled island under its control, the EU remains committed to preserving the current arrangement.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron have previously made similar requests during their visits to Beijing earlier this year.
In a positive turn, China and the EU found common ground during a recent high-level climate dialogue focused on environmental cooperation.
This meeting between China’s climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, and the EU’s top climate official, Frans Timmermans, marked the first in-person bilateral discussion on climate change since the start of the pandemic.
Despite the cancellation of Borrell’s visit, China and the EU are expected to hold two more summits in September, focusing on economic and digital cooperation.