European Council President to visit China next week for summit meeting with Xi

European Council President Charles Michel will travel to Beijing for a meeting with Xi Jinping next week, which is likely to reveal divisions in Europe over how to engage with China.

Michel, who represents the leaders of the 27 EU member states, will visit Beijing on Dec. 1 to meet with Xi and other senior Chinese officials. This is the first meeting between an EU president and Xi in China since 2018.

The trip, first reported by the Financial Times, comes at a very difficult time for relations between China and Western powers. Relations have been complicated by Beijing’s inability to condemn Russia’s war against Ukraine, its stance on Taiwan, and repression in Hong Kong.

The meeting between Xi and Michel follows a strategic discussion by EU leaders last month on how to adjust the bloc’s relationship with China in light of Xi’s increasingly hardline policies and deepening rivalry between Washington and Beijing.

Proponents that one person briefed on the meeting said it would include a “full-scale red carpet” said it was part of an effort to keep lines of communication open with China despite rising tensions with Western capitals.

“Against a tense geopolitical and economic environment, the visit is a timely opportunity for engagement by both the EU and China. The EU and Chinese leaders will discuss global challenges as well as issues of mutual interest,” Michel’s office said in a statement.

Visit to be State visit of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier this month, it caused concern among other EU member states as the bloc ponders how to toughen its approach to Beijing.

It also follows a three-hour meeting between Xi and Joe Biden on the eve of the G20 summit in Bali this month, where President of the U.S.A said he was committed to managing relations with Beijing responsibly.

Pressed by the US to stick to its tougher stance, Brussels is reviewing its engagement with China to reduce strong economic dependence hello Beijing Washington and the hawkish states of the EU see this as a serious vulnerability for European economies.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused the EU to reassess its relationship with China, as the capitals realized that their concept of economic interdependence with Moscow gave them absolutely no leverage over Vladimir Putin’s regime.

The EU should reconsider its attitude towards China and consider it as a total competitor with limited areas of potential interaction. Brussels urged member countries last month.

“China has become an even stronger global competitor for the EU, the US and other like-minded partners,” the commission’s foreign policy department told the capitals. “Therefore, it is important to assess how best to respond to current and forecast challenges.”

Michel, who had a video call with Xi in April, said at the Bali summit that the EU needed to “balance” its relationship with China, but that it was “important to listen to each other in order to better understand each other.”

Human rights, climate change, economic relations and global health issues are likely to be part of the talks, Michel suggested in October after discussions by EU leaders.