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Charles Michel leaves for Beijing in the midst of turbulence

The President of the European Council Charles Michel leaves Tuesday evening for Beijing where he will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, faced with demonstrations of historic proportions against health restrictions and for more freedoms. “Charles Michel was invited by President Xi. When we are invited by the Chinese president, do we say no?“, Underlined a European official in response to criticism of a trip deemed”inappropriate».

China’s policy ofzero covid“, with its draconian confinements, has in recent days been the target of large demonstrations in several cities of China, the most widespread protest movement since the mobilizations in favor of democracy harshly repressed in 1989, bringing the main Chinese security body to ask on Tuesday therepression” of the “forces hostiles».

The President of the European Council (the institution representing the member states of the EU) will arrive in the Chinese capital on Wednesday, before meeting Thursday with Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Li Keqiang and the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress ( ANP), Wu Bangguo.

His visit, which comes after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’ trip to Beijing in early November, follows the “strategic debate on China» that the heads of state and government of the EU had during a summit in October, specified the European official. Charles-Michel”was mandated by the Twenty-Seven and he responded to a personal invitation from President Xiduring the last G20 summit, he said. He goes “to defend the interests of the EU” during his interviews, “it will address issues of human rights and fundamental freedoms» et «intends to have a frank dialoguewith Xi Jinping, he assured.

Systemic rival and trading partner of the European Union

«The timing of this visit is very well chosen due to the economic and energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine“, Observed this official, according to whom Mr. Michel “will urge President Xi to use his influence to end Russia’s aggression» et «explain to him the sanctions decided by the EU“. He should also mention the Covid-19 pandemic.

The trip comes amid intense discussions among Europeans on how to position themselves against China, amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, and at a time when the EU is seeking to reduce its abysmal trade deficit with this Asian giant. The EU regards China as “a partner, an economic competitor and a systemic rivalaccording to the wording adopted in 2019.

Their relations deteriorated after the adoption by the Twenty-Seven, in 2021, of sanctions following accusations of human rights violations in the Chinese region of Xinjiang. Charles Michel has to deal on the one hand with a country like Germany, which has important economic interests in China, and other Member States like Lithuania, which had drawn the wrath of Beijing by hosting a representation of Taiwan under its own name.

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