European Council president Charles Michel discussed “the response of societies” to coronavirus measures in a meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping amid widespread protests over Beijing’s zero-Covid policies.
“More broadly there was an exchange on Covid and the relative experiences in Europe and China including on the respective measures taken and the response of societies,” a spokesman for Michel said after the three-hour meeting in Beijing on Thursday.
Xi met Michel in the Great Hall of the People, making the European Council chief the latest in a string of world leaders to hold talks in person with the Chinese president as he emerges from several years of Covid-related isolation.
Xi is trying to improve relations with the EU amid Beijing’s growing rivalry with Washington. He told Michel that Brussels and Beijing had no “real strategic differences or conflicts” and that he hoped they would join together to “oppose decoupling”, according to Chinese state media.
The Chinese leader’s third term atop the Communist party has been shaken by protests of a scale not seen in decades against his signature zero-Covid policy. The backlash has forced his administration to slowly ease its rigid strategy of eliminating the disease through lockdowns that battered the economy.
China’s close ties with Russia and its stance on Ukraine have drawn criticism from Europe and the US, as have Xi’s crackdowns in Xinjiang and in Hong Kong, and military aggression towards Taiwan.
Xi said he hoped to deepen co-operation with the EU and noted that both sides were working to push ahead with a long-delayed investment treaty, which was put on hold by the EU after Beijing imposed sanctions on European parliamentarians.
Describing the talks as “an open and sincere dialogue”, the EU readout said the two leaders discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Taiwan, bilateral sanctions imposed by Beijing and Brussels on each other, and global challenges such as climate change.
“President Michel underlined that the EU counts on China, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to call on Russia to respect the core principles of the UN Charter and contribute to ending Russia’s brutal destruction and occupation,” the EU spokesman said.
“Both leaders stressed that nuclear threats are irresponsible and highly dangerous.
“Turning to the issue of human rights and fundamental freedoms, President Michel emphasised their universality,” the spokesman said, adding that Michel also “reiterated the EU’s commitment to its One China policy and recalled the EU’s longstanding position on the Taiwan Strait”.