It took place as China and the EU have resumed more in-person high-level dialogue over recent months to pave the way for a leaders’ summit before the end of the year. But the two powers remain embroiled in a growing list of rifts.
He warned that the European bloc’s “enormous” trade deficit could lead to an accelerated “de-risking” from China, and that Beijing’s “ambivalent position” on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had hurt its image in Europe.
In a speech at Peking University during his trip, Borrell, who is also a vice-president of the European Commission, characterised EU-China relations as “conflictual interdependence”.
Wu said “this argument is contradictory and illogical”.
“There are indeed differences between China and Europe and sometimes they can be quite sharp. But in my view, it’s not to the point of conflict. How could the two sides still rely on each other if they do have conflicts,” he said.
Wu, who is also a former Chinese assistant foreign minister, said his country had its own clear view and sense of right and wrong on the cause of the war in Ukraine, and he urged the EU to avoid “double standards”.
“Regarding the Russia-Ukraine conflict, China doesn’t need Europeans to tell us what to do – we know what we should do,” he said.
He accused the EU of “selectively turning a deaf ear and a blind eye” to major international incidents, including the United States’ aggression against other countries.
He also pushed back against Borrell’s move to attribute the bilateral trade imbalance to structural reasons in China, urging Brussels to look more closely at itself.
“China wants to buy so many European products, especially hi-tech ones, but does Europe sell them?” he said. “Chinese companies have a strong desire to invest and acquire in Europe, yet Europe has set up many barriers.”
“If taking ‘de-risking’ as a national policy in dealing with a country and clearly [it targets] one nation … it becomes a political issue,” he said. “That can seriously constrain and hinder cooperation between the two sides.”
The EU has concluded that China is “simultaneously a partner, a competitor and a systemic rival”. Borrell told Beijing the rivalry was because of “a lack of compatibility” between their values and views on human rights.
However, Wu said that explanation did not make sense.
“China and the EU have always had differences on human rights issues, not just in recent years,” he said, noting that Beijing and Brussels had maintained communications in that field.
“Why is it that [the EU] has not viewed China as a rival in the past because of human rights issues, but it does now?”
Wu accused some European member countries of repeatedly trampling the red line of the one-China policy by elevating their official interactions with Taipei, which was “intolerable” to Beijing, even though Borrell had reiterated that the bloc did not recognise Taiwan as an independent state.
“It is clearly calling white black, and confusing right and wrong, that the EU and some member countries see China’s warnings and responses as coercion and intimidation. I hope the EU learns to put themselves in others’ shoes when handling relations with China.”
Wu’s remarks followed a speech by Toledo who said the EU hoped China understood that being rivals in values and systems did not mean the two were enemies and reaffirmed that the bloc did not want to stand in the way of China’s rise.
“The future of EU-China relations in 2024 is marked by a complex interplay of economic interdependence where we will press ahead seeking a more balanced relation,” Toledo said, adding that the EU sought to cooperate on global challenges “and certainly on security issues”.
Wu expressed confidence in the outlook of the bilateral relationship, citing “no fundamental conflicts of interest” between China and the EU.
“For the past 20 years, China has consistently viewed the EU as a comprehensive strategic partner and we also see Europe as a significant power in a multipolar world,” he said.