China’s Xi set to talk with European Council president

European Council President Charles Michel is expected to focus on human rights and trade issues during a phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Friday, amid tense relations between Brussels and Beijing, according to an EU official.

Relations between the EU and China have deteriorated over the past year due to Beijing’s treatment of the Muslim Uighur minority in the Xinjiang region and the showdown with Lithuania over Taiwan. Some EU countries, including Lithuania, are therefore calling for tougher treatment of China.

On Sunday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell praised Treat Beijing “from a position of unity and strength”.

An EU diplomat said Michel would urge Xi to reconsider the sanctions Beijing imposed on EU politicians after the bloc itself imposed sanctions on Chinese officials related to forced labor in Xinjiang. China’s retaliation has effectively frozen work on the conclusion of the Brussels Investment Agreement with Beijing, which was agreed late last year. Another diplomat said the call showed the need for the EU to formulate its own China policy “from the perspective of strategic autonomy”. Michel’s spokesman declined to comment.

Reinhard Bütikofer, a leading member of parliament for China and one of those on Beijing’s sanctions list, called the planned appeal a “positive” development. “I read it as a signal that #Beijing is beginning to understand an important lesson: you cannot make real progress just by speaking to the leaders of the individual Member States,” said Bütikofer tweeted.

The call comes in the middle Reports that Xi will not personally attend an upcoming G20 summit in Rome later this month, which could make it harder to reach an agreement on climate commitments.

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