BRUSSELS — European Union Council president Charles Michel will travel to China next week for talks with President Xi Jinping to address the economic imbalance between the two trading giants and the Asian nation’s relations with Russia and neigboring Taiwan.
The one-day visit on Dec. 1 will seek to find a balance between the EU’s wish for more exports to China and the need to be firm with Beijing in the defense of democracy and fundamental freedoms, officials said Thursday. Over the past years as China increased its global clout, the EU has increasingly come to see the nation as a strategic rival.
It will also be an opportunity to show a united face of the 27-nation bloc, after German Chancellor OIaf Scholz made a solo visit to China early this month.
During that visit, Scholz urged China to exert its influence on Russia and raised human rights concerns. Michel will try to build on that trip as the EU seeks to stand its ground against an increasingly assertive and authoritarian China.
The visit is also occurring amid high tensions over Taiwan and follows a U.N. report that said China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in its Xinjiang region may amount to crimes against humanity.
On the other hand, Michel will seek to improve the EU’s economic standing in the economic juggernaut.
Currently, the EU has an annual trade deficit in goods and services amounting to about 230 billion euros.
The EU specifically seeks to reduce its dependence on China for tech equipment and the raw minerals used to make items such as microchips, batteries and solar panels.
The visit was limited to just one day because of the stringent COVID-19 restrictions still in place in China.