China has abruptly cancelled a visit to Beijing by the European Union’s top diplomat, the EU said Wednesday, amid ongoing disagreements between the two powers over trade, human rights and the Ukraine war.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, was due to arrive in China on July 10 for talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and other officials, according to an announcement by the EU ambassador to Beijing on Sunday. The European and Chinese diplomats were set to discuss topics including trade, human rights and China’s stance on the war in Ukraine, according to Ambassador Jorge Toledo.
But China has cancelled Borrell’s visit, the EU announced, without saying why.
In an emailed statement to The Associated Press, EU spokesperson Nabila Massrali said: “Unfortunately, we were informed by the Chinese counterparts that the envisaged dates next week are no longer possible and we must now look for alternatives.”
“It is for China to communicate on the reasons,” she added. “We will adapt and find together a new date.”
China’s foreign ministry said Beijing attaches “high importance to Sino-European relations and has maintained exchanges with Europe at all levels and in various aspects”.
Spokesperson Wang Wenbing said at a news briefing in Beijing that Borrell would be welcomed “as soon as possible at the convenience of both sides”.
The development followed last week’s EU summit, during which the bloc endorsed a proposal to source key materials, such as rare earth metals, from places other than China, but it also said it did not want to “decouple” from the world’s second-largest economy entirely.
On Sunday, Toledo told the Beijing World Peace Forum that China and Europe would likely hold two in-person dialogues in September, one on the economy and trade and another on digital matters before a summit is also held.
“We want to engage with China, but we need progress and we need it this year,” Toledo said.
This is the second time Borrell was supposed to visit Beijing this year. His trip was delayed in April after he tested positive for COVID-19.
A speech prepared for Borrell for his April visit said the EU could trust China only if it also seeks peace in Ukraine.
China has positioned itself as a potential mediator in the war and published a 12-point peace plan, which was met with lukewarm responses from both Russia and Ukraine.
Beijing’s neutrality in the conflict has been questioned as it continues to organise joint military drills with Moscow.