Between ‘reset’ and ‘de-risk’, EU leaders pay rare visit to China

  • European Union executive head Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron are to land in China on 5 Apr seeking to “reset” ties with an important economic partner while broaching thorny issues like Ukraine and trade risks.
  • Von der Leyen has said the EU must cut risks in ties with Beijing, including limiting Chinese access to sensitive technology and reducing reliance for key inputs such as critical minerals, as well as batteries, solar panels and other clean tech products.
  • Macron invited von der Leyen on the trip as a way to project European unity, after French officials criticised German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for going solo to China late in 2022.
  • He has pushed the EU to be more robust in trade relations with China and is broadly supportive of von der Leyen’s stance, but the French leader has publicly refrained from using strong anti-China rhetoric, Beijing being prone to bilateral retaliatory measures.
  • Beyond trade, both have said they want to persuade China to use its influence over Russia to bring peace in Ukraine, or at least prevent Beijing from directly supporting its ally.
  • Macron has said he is also keen to stress to Xi, who he will meet alongside von der Leyen on 6 Apr, that Europe will not accept China providing arms to Russia.

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