Xi Jinping held a video summit with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on July 5. Chinese official media focused on the EU-China investment agreement and claimed that Macron and Merkel are in favor of ratifying the deal, but such support wasn’t mentioned in the statements issued by France and Germany. However, the real highlight of this event is that Xi did not deliver a belligerent speech and seemed more subdued. Perhaps he realized that Sino-European relations have deteriorated.
The highly touted Chinese Communist Party (CCP) centennial celebration on July 1 was not attended by any heavyweight foreign guests. It was quite an embarrassment to the CCP’s high officials on the tower of Tiananmen Square.
In order to show the world that China is still active in the diplomatic arena, Xi had to hold this video meeting with the European leaders. But the summit was merely a formality with no concrete results.
State-run media Xinhua reported that Macron supports the ratification of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) and Merkel hopes the agreement will be ratified as soon as possible.
However, media outlets outside of China reported that Macron and Merkel raised the issue of China’s human rights and the forced labor in Xinjiang.
There was no report of Xi’s response to criticisms over China’s human rights issue. But at the EU-China video summit last year, Xinhua quoted Xi as saying, “Chinese people will not accept an instructor on human rights.”
It’s significant that Xi maintained his smile during the video summit, which was rare in the past few days.
For the most part, Macron and Merkel looked very serious during the meeting—which may reflect the concerns they have with EU-China relations.
Frankly, who would be able to relax after listening to Xi’s fiery speech just days ago during the CCP’s centennial celebration? He warned that “the Chinese people will never allow any foreign forces to bully, oppress, or enslave [them]” and that “anyone who dares try to do that will have their heads bashed bloody against a Great Wall of steel, forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.” Based on this statement, there’s no hope for the CCP’s top leadership to change.
With regards to Sino-European relations, Xinhua stated at the beginning of its report: “Xi Jinping said the world more than ever needs mutual respect and close collaboration, rather than suspicion, antagonism or zero-sum game, calling on China and Europe to expand consensus and cooperation for the two sides to play an important role in properly responding to global challenges.”
One would think that the the perceptions of the top CCP leaders should have changed after the G-7 and U.S.-EU summits, as Europe is cooperating more closely with the United States. The European Union has also publicly adopted a similar attitude of the U.S. government toward the CCP, which is a strategy of competing, confronting, and cooperating with China.
On May 20, the European Parliament overwhelmingly approved to freeze the process of ratifying the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), until Beijing lifts the retaliatory sanctions it imposed in March against members and entities of the European Parliament. Beijing’s counter-sanctions against EU representatives and the EU human rights committee came after they sanctioned several Chinese communist officials over human rights abuses against Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region.
The terms of the EU-China investment agreement elaborately laid out by the CCP is meant to divide the United States and Europe. However, the CCP’s blind retaliation against the EU’s human rights sanctions only resulted in the freezing of the investment and the rapid deterioration of relations between China and the EU.
In order to isolate and defeat the United States, the CCP has to work on improving China-EU relations and to prevent Europe and the United States from further strengthening their anti-communist alliance. This is why Xi was forced to tone down his aggressive rhetoric against the “instructor on human rights.”
Xi also said, “China is willing to convene the 23rd China-EU leaders’ meeting with the European side at an early date,” according to the Xinhua report. This shows that the channels for further communication between the two sides have not been smooth.
The report mentioned Xi’s proposal, “In the context of the COVID-19 prevention and control, the two sides should keep optimizing ‘fast tracks’ for personnel exchanges.” However, Chinese vaccines are not approved for use in the EU.
It was quite surprising that Xi even said, “Global issues should be addressed via consultations of all parties in a reasonably calm manner.” The term “calm” is rarely seen in Chinese media reports and the total opposite of “heads bashed bloody.”
Xi claimed, “What China craves most is to develop itself rather than replace others.” This statement attempts to justify China’s fight for hegemony against the United States in front of European countries. Remember what Xi had said at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January? He emphasized that big countries “should not bully the weak” and warned against building “small circles”—to put it plainly, Xi’s message to the global community was: don’t form an alliance to counter China in order to avoid confrontation. Beijing should have realized that the alliance against the CCP is not small and they have to tone down their aggressive diplomacy.
It’s noteworthy that the French Presidential Palace and the German Chancellor’s Office did not mention the EU-China investment deal in their statements about the summit.
I believe Xi Jinping was hoping for two main outcomes from this video summit: one is to unfreeze the China-EU investment agreement as soon as possible, and the other is for the EU to approve the use of Chinese-made vaccines and to facilitate personnel exchanges. But none of those were achieved. Xi could do nothing but reiterate his empty rhetoric and patiently listen to the accusations made by the German and French leaders on China’s human rights issues.
Yang Wei has been closely following China affairs for many years. He has been contributing political commentary on China for the Chinese language Epoch Times since 2019.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.