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26th Feb 2024

China warns EU not to meddle in internal affairs

  • China says it favours multilateralism (Photo: European Commission)

Speaking after the eleventh EU-China summit in Prague on Wednesday (20 May), Chinese premier Wen Jiabao warned the European Union not to meddle in China's domestic affairs.

"In conducting strategic cooperation between China and the EU, the most important thing is to stick to the principles of mutual respect and not interfere in each other's internal affairs," Wen said.

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The warning comes just weeks before Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is due to visit several countries in Europe. The EU has long pushed for greater freedom of expression in the autonomous region of Tibet and has shown concern over human rights abuses carried out there in the past.

At the same time, Wen assured the EU that China does not harbour ambitions of becoming the dominant world power but instead supports greater multilateralism in global decision-making.

"China will never seek hegemony," he said, adding that multi-polarity and multilateralism constituted the will of the Chinese people.

The two sides exchanged views on a number of the world's trouble spots including Burma and Sri Lanka.

The EU was represented at the summit by Czech president Vaclav Klaus whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

While many politicians in recent weeks have heralded the G20 as the correct forum for multilateral discussions to take place in, some analysts say a G2 of just China and the United States is where future important decisions are likely to be made.

Last year British historian Niall Ferguson coined the term 'Chimerica', a reference to the unique interdependence between the economies of the two states.

Speaking after the Prague summit however, Chinese premier Wen poured cold water on the idea that China and the United States would monopolise global decision-making in the future.

"I think that idea is baseless and wrong," he said.

Developing relationship

Following tense EU-Sino relations in 2008 including the cancellation of a summit scheduled to take place last December, this year has seen a flurry of dialogue and meetings between the two sides.

Their usefulness has been called into question however, with the European commissioner for external relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, saying in Brussels on Tuesday that there needed to be more concrete results. It now appears that China agrees.

"We must work to raise the efficiency and quality of the [EU-China] summit and also the high level dialogue on trade," Wen said on Wednesday, adding that the relationship had evolved successfully in the face of the economic crisis and must continue to do so.

As a sign that China takes the threat of protectionism seriously, Wen announced that he would shortly be sending a second procurement mission to Europe to increase his country's imports of EU goods.

In return China would like to see the EU relax its exports of high tech products, end an arms embargo and recognise the large Asian country as a "market economy", a status that would restrict EU anti-dumping measures against it.

Cooperation agreements on SMEs and science and technology were signed between the two sides at the summit.

Climate change

A third cooperation agreement was signed on clean energy.

Despite the rapid economic growth experienced in recent years, Wen said China was still a developing rather than a developed nation, referring to the "common but differentiated responsibilities" of the two sides regarding a future agreement on climate change.

Developing countries argue that the world's richer countries have brought about climate change and as a result should contribute financially to poorer nations to help them meet future CO2 emission targets.

So far the world's major economies have held their cards close to their chests in the lead up to a pivotal climate change meeting in Copenhagen in December but on Wednesday commission president Barroso said it was now time for all sides, including China, to move the process forward.

"Now what is needed is a clear engagement of all major economies to make a deal possible in Copenhagen. For that to happen, each of us must put his positions on the table," he said.

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