China accuses Von der Leyen of ‘misrepresenting’ its policies in advance of visit to Beijing

European Commission president will accompany French president Emmanuel Macron on visit to Chinese capital next week

China has accused European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen of misrepresenting its policies in a speech setting out the EU’s approach to relations with Beijing. Ms Von der Leyen will accompany French president Emmanuel Macron on a visit to the Chinese capital next week.

The commission president said China had turned the page on its era of reform and opening up and was moving into a new era of security and control. And she said the Chinese Communist Party wanted a systemic change of the international order that would put China at its centre.

China’s ambassador to the EU, Fu Cong, said whoever wrote the speech did not understand China or was deliberately distorting its positions.

“That speech contained a lot of misrepresentation and misinterpretation of Chinese policies and Chinese positions,” he told Chinese news channel CGTN.


“My second impression is that this speech actually reflects a deep-seated ambivalence on the part of president Von der Leyen in her approach to China. On the one side she realises that it is important for Europe and it is in the interest of Europe to engage with China, and at the same time she is also fearful of criticism, especially from the hardliners in Europe and maybe even from the United States.”

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez said on Friday that China and the EU must compete in some areas and co-operate in others. Speaking at the end of a visit to China, he said that Europe would maintain “an independent perspective, in full awareness of our objectives, interests and priorities”.

Beijing has long encouraged the EU to adopt an independent policy towards China rather than following the United States in seeking to contain the world’s second-largest economy by cutting off access to the latest technology. Ms Von der Leyen said that Europe rejected the idea of decoupling its economy from China’s but that it needed to “de-risk” its economic relations with China.

“We know there are some areas where trade and investment poses risks to our economic and national security, particularly in the context of China’s explicit fusion of its military and commercial sectors. This is true for certain sensitive technologies, dual-use goods or even investment which comes with forced technology or knowledge transfers,” she said.

She said China’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would be a determining factor in its relationship with the EU and she rejected Beijing’s call for a ceasefire and peace talks unless the terms are determined by Ukraine. Mr Sánchez said he encouraged China’s president Xi Jinping to talk to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy about Kyiv’s proposals for peace based on a Russian withdrawal from the country.

“I believe it’s a plan that lays the foundations for a durable peace in Ukraine and is perfectly aligned with the United Nations charter and its principles, which have been violated by Putin with his invasion,” Mr Sánchez said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times