Saturday

3rd Dec 2016

Ashton boat trip seen as new chapter in China relations

  • Terracotta army. European diplomat: 'They rolled out the red carpet for us' (Photo: WSK_2005)

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton believes Beijing is ready to step up co-operation after a meeting with her Chinese counterpart.

Her assessment comes after Dai Bingguo, a top-level Chinese foreign policy official, earlier this week invited her on a 20-minute-long boat trip on a lake in the Chinese capital.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Dai rarely meets with foreign delegates directly, preferring instead to make brief appearances in the margins of summits, a European diplomat told EUobserver.

The Chinese also let Ashton choose the date for the next China-EU summit, to be held in autumn - a "gift" in terms of Chinese protocol.

For her part, Ashton in a statement on Tuesday (10 July) said she hoped Dai would stay at the heart of Chinese politics: "As I know that there are changes coming in China in terms of leadership, I want to ... [say] what a personal pleasure it has been to work with state councillor Dai Bingguo and to wish him very well for the future."

"They rolled out the red carpet for us. It was charm diplomacy ... Now we are getting into the meat and drink of what our foreign policy co-operation should be about," the European diplomat noted.

He said Ashton and Dai discussed the EU debt crisis, Iran's nuclear programme, cyber-security and EU training of Chinese naval officers to help protect Chinese shipping in the Somalia piracy zone.

He added that China did not ask Ashton to lift the EU arms embargo or to grant it market economy status, a decision which would help China export cheap products - two traditional sore points in relations.

Meanwhile, Ashton's official joint communique with China did not mention human rights.

It said instead the "strategic partnership" should be based on "mutual respect" and that the EU supports China's "territorial integrity."

The diplomatic language is a way of saying the EU should refrain from public criticism of the Chinese police state and from support for the Dalai Lama, the leader in exile of Tibet, which wants greater autonomy.

Kenneth Roth, the head of the US-based NGO Human Rights Watch, tweeted on Tuesday that the communique betrays Ashton's stated foreign policy values.

But the European diplomat said concessions in public statements make China more open to criticism behind closed doors.

"They would prefer us not to talk about human rights at all," the contact said.

"We're saying that if China moves to a science and innovation-based economy, allowing people freedom of expression and democracy, it's not just 'nice,' it's crucial for the future of their country. We're trying to promote human rights in Chinese terms."

Commission won't call Castro a dictator

The EU executive says that a statement decribing the former Cuban leader as a "hero for many" is balanced and suggests that the use of the word dictator by a commissioner doesn't reflect its position.

News in Brief

  1. Talks on wholesale roaming rules to start
  2. Lead MEP Dieselgate committee: Italy and Slovakia will cooperate
  3. Transparency NGO sues EU commission on Turkey deal
  4. Pro-EU liberal wins UK by-election
  5. Finnish support for Nato drops, Russia-scepticism grows
  6. Cyprus talks to resume in January
  7. Documents from German NSA inquiry released
  8. Transport commissioner 'not aware' of legal action on emissions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. CESIElects Leaders and Sets Safety & Health at Work and Gender Equality Among the Guidelines For Next Term
  2. European Gaming & Betting AssociationContinues to Grow its Membership and Welcomes its Newest Member Association
  3. ACCASupports the Women of Europe Awards, Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  4. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  5. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  6. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First
  7. MIRAIA New Vision on Clean Tech: Balancing Energy Efficiency, Climate Change and Costs
  8. World VisionChildren Cannot Wait! 7 Priority Actions to Protect all Refugee and Migrant Children
  9. ANCI LazioRegio-Mob Project Delivers Analysis of Trasport and Mobility in Rome
  10. SDG Watch EuropeCivil Society Disappointed by the Commission's Plans for Sustainable Development Goals
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhD Positions Open – The Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU (PLATO)
  12. Access NowTell the EU Council: Protect our Rights to Privacy and Security