EU Leaders Confronts China's Xi Over Trade At Paris Summit

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, May 08, 2024 - 06:00 AM

By Dorothy Li of The Epoch Times

The European Union pressed China over its unfair trade practices as communist regime leader Xi Jinping began his official visit aimed at bolstering relationships with European leaders.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech to the press at the French representation of the European Commission in Paris on May 6, 2024

China’s subsidized products—such as electric vehicles and steel—“are flooding the European market,” but Beijing “continues to massively support its manufacturing sector” at a time of weak domestic demand, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters following a trilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and Xi on Monday. “The world cannot absorb China’s surplus production.”

Xi landed in Paris on Sunday afternoon, kicking off his first European visit in five years. Outside observers suggested that Xi’s six-day trip was designed by Beijing to create divisions between Brussels and Washington, as the two sides are currently united in their approach to addressing threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Monday’s trilateral meeting took place at a time of rising tensions between the 27-member bloc and China on multiple fronts, from the war in Ukraine and Beijing’s support of Russia to its burgeoning production in green-energy sectors, such as electric vehicles (EVs) and their batteries.

Last November, Ms. von der Leyen, in a clear demonstration of the EU’s commitment to fair trade, announced that the European Commission—the EU’s executive branch—had formally initiated a probe to determine whether EVs made in China were benefiting from state subsidies. In December 2023, Brussels launched an anti-dumping investigation into biodiesel imported from China after producers in the bloc voiced concerns about the serious harm caused by low-price Chinese imports to the industry.

In the months leading up to Xi’s visit, the EU has been looking into certain sectors in China, such as wind turbine and solar panel production, and most recently, China’s procurement of medical devices.

In Monday’s briefing, Ms. von der Leyen said the EU is ready to act to protect its businesses from Beijing’s unequal market access.

“For trade to be fair, access to each other’s market also needs to be reciprocal,” she told the briefing in Paris. “We stand ready to make full use of our trade defense instruments if this is necessary.”

“Europe cannot accept market-distorting practices that could lead to deindustrialization here at home.”

Ms. von der Leyen described Brusells’s relationship with Beijing as complex, emphasizing that European leaders approach it “clear-eyed, constructively, and responsibly.”

“At the same time, Europe will not waver from making tough decisions needed to protect its economy and its security,” she added.

France's President Emmanuel Macron speaks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as they leave after holding a trilateral meeting, which included the Chinese regime leader Xi Jinping, as part of Xi's two-day state visit, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on May 6, 2024

Speaking later alongside Xi after the two met several times during the day, reviewed troops together, and repeatedly shook hands for the cameras, Mr. Macron told reporters: “The EU today has the world’s most open market ... but we want to be able to protect it.”

The EU’s more robust stance on trade with China dovetails with Washington’s approach. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned China that Washington will not accept new industries being “decimated” by Chinese imports.

According to a summary of the meeting released by China’s foreign ministry, Xi told Ms. von der Leyen and Mr. Macron that dialogues are necessary to “address economic and trade frictions.”

However, the CCP boss pushed back criticism of its industrial overcapacity, saying the issue “does not exist either from the perspective of comparative advantage or in light of global demand.”

Spreading Propaganda

Xi’s visit to Europe came as the regime grapples with a slowing economy burdened by a prolonged property crisis, weak business confidence, and mounting local government debts.

Amidst the CCP’s sluggish economy and escalating political infighting, Xi is eager to reassure the Chinese public. Outside observers say Xi’s Europe trip, which also included stops in Hungary and Serbia, provides a perfect opportunity to spread propaganda at home.

“Hungary is the most CCP-friendly nation in the European Union, while Serbia is the most friendly non-EU country in Europe,” Cheng Chin-mo, an expert on European security and international relationships at Taiwan’s Tamkang University, told The Epoch Times ahead of Xi’s trip.

“It’s easy for Xi to receive a high-level reception in the two countries, which will be used for domestic propaganda operations and showcase what they call a ’major achievement' of Xi’s foreign visit,” Mr. Cheng added.

As the EU’s relationship with China continues to strain over the regime’s human rights record, unfair trade policies, and other issues, Hungary has maintained a close political and economic relationship with the CCP. Budapest is a member state of Beijing’s 16+1 platform, an initiative the CCP used to bolster ties with central and eastern European countries in wide-ranging areas, including infrastructure, economy, and technology.

After Xi launched his signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, Hungary was among the first EU members to join the multi-billion infrastructure project. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was the only EU leader to attend a forum in Beijing last November celebrating the 10th anniversary of the BRI.

In a sign of the CCP’s deepened influence in Budapest, Chinese police officers are allowed to perform joint patrols in several locations across Hungary as part of the security deals that the Orban government signed with the CCP, raising security concerns in Brussels.

As for Serbia, a European Union candidate, China has invested billions of dollars in the Balkan country, mostly in the form of soft loans for infrastructure and energy projects, as part of its BRI initiative to open foreign trade links. Xi has described Serbia as an “ironclad friend” of the regime.

Even the date of his Europe tour is carefully selected. Mr. Cheng noted that Xi is likely to stop off in Serbia around the 25th anniversary of the deadly U.S. bombing of a Chinese embassy in Belgrade. The incident, which took place on May 7, 1999, and resulted in the death of three Chinese journalists, was portrayed by China’s state media as a deliberate strike by the U.S. military at the time and sparked significant outrage in China. Thousands of demonstrators also mobbed the U.S. embassy and consulates in Beijing and other Chinese cities.

The United States described the attack as a “mistake“ and blamed out-of-date maps, while then-President Bill Clinton issued a formal apology. But China’s state media often uses the event to take a veiled swipe at Washington to fuel anti-American sentiments.

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