Monday

23rd May 2022

China to keep 'normal' Russia trade after EU appeal

  • EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and Council president Charles Michel (Photo: ec.europa.eu)
Listen to article

China will continue "normal" trade with Russia it said one day after the EU urged Chinese leaders not to undermine Western sanctions.

"China is not a related party on the crisis of Ukraine. We don't think our normal trade with any other country should be affected," Wang Lutong, the director-general of European affairs at China's foreign ministry, said in Beijing Saturday (2 April), Reuters reports.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Wang spoke one day after top EU officials had urged Chinese president Xi Jinping not to help Russia circumvent Western sanctions.

The senior Chinese diplomat reiterated Xi's long-standing line that: "We oppose sanctions".

"The effects of these sanctions also risk spilling to the rest of the world, leading to wars of currency, wars of trade and finance and also risk jeopardising the supply chain", Wang said.

But his comments on "normal" trade appeared carefully calibrated to meet the limited EU hope that China would not do anything special to bailout Russia financially.

"China should, if not support, at least not interfere with our sanctions [on Russia]," EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had said after holding video-talks with Xi on Friday.

EU Council president Charles Michel said: "We hope, we hope these arguments have been heard by the Chinese authorities".

China has helped spread Russian propaganda on the Ukraine war, but has so far stopped short of overt financial or military intervention.

"We exchanged very clearly opposing views. This is not a conflict. This is a war. This is not a European affair. This is a global affair," von der Leyen said on Friday.

EU-China trade was worth €2bn a day while Russia-China trade was just €330m a day, she said.

And it would pose a "major reputational challenge" for China among EU investors and consumers if it backed Russia, von der Leyen warned.

But if China was happy to maintain the status quo on Russia for now, Wang's readout of the EU summit showed that Xi was happy to defy Europe on trade as well as values.

Chinese sanctions on MEPs have blocked an EU-China investment treaty, but Wang said it was up to the EU to back down if it wanted friendlier business ties.

"The ball is in the court of Brussels," he told Reuters. "The Europeans have got to remove the sanctions first, and then we can explore the possibility of removing other retaliation measures," Wang said, referring to earlier EU human rights sanctions on Chinese officials.

Xi himself on Friday gave no public assurance of his intentions on Russia.

Instead, he urged the EU to treat China "independently" of Europe's close relations with the US.

"The current situation [Western-Russian confrontation] may destroy the achievements of decades of international economic cooperation," Xi said.

Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang also underlined that Beijing didn't feel obliged to toe the Western line.

"China has been promoting talks for peace in its own way, and will continue to work with the EU and the international community to play a constructive role for early easing of the situation, cessation of hostilities," Li's post-summit statement said.

Podcast

Ultraconservatives in Putin's shadow

Vladimir Putin's Ukraine war has threatened to be a public relations disaster for hard-right gatherings like the Conservative Political Action Conference — now meeting in Budapest and featuring Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who remains highly-cordial with the Kremlin.

Opinion

Will 'Putin's Nato' follow Warsaw Pact into obscurity?

Valdimir Putin's equivalent to Nato — the Collective Security Treaty Organization of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Belarus — is convening in Moscow next week to give cover that Russia is not alone in its war against Ukraine.

News in Brief

  1. Germany would back Russia oil embargo without Hungary
  2. UK to send 'hundreds' of migrants to Rwanda each year
  3. Norwegian knife attacks were domestic dispute
  4. Sweden hits back at Turkey's 'disinformation' in Nato bid
  5. Germany's Schröder gives up one of two Russia jobs
  6. G7 countries pledge €18bn in financial aid for Ukraine
  7. Italian unions strike in protest over military aid for Ukraine
  8. Russia cuts gas supply to Finland

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. Missing guns amid rising far-right hate in EU
  2. MEPs boycott trip after Israeli snub
  3. What Europe still needs to do to save its bees
  4. Remembering Falcone: How Italy almost became a narco-state
  5. Economic worries and Hungary on the spot Next WEEK
  6. MEPs urge sanctioning the likes of ex-chancellor Schröder
  7. MEPs call for a more forceful EU response to Kremlin gas cut
  8. Catalan leader slams Pegasus use: 'Perhaps I'm still spied on'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us