China invites EU to lift sanctions simultaneously
Is it the first time that Beijing floats this publicly? The Chinese envoy says in Brussels that the two sides could "lift the sanctions simultaneously" or "leave the sanctions simultaneously."
I haven’t been following China-EU relations as closely as I used to when I was based in Brussels (between the Christmas of 2017 and July 2020), and I’m not entirely sure if it’s the first time that China floated this publicly, but this is something that I find highly noteworthy and underreported.
On February 8, 2023, Ambassador Fu Cong, Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, spoke at the “Sixty-Minute Briefing” organized by the European Policy Center (EPC) and, ON THE RECORD, invited the EU to lift sanctions simultaneously so as to find a way for the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) between China and the EU.
The European side has put CAI on hold in the aftermath of simultaneous sanctions, where Beijing announced sanctions on European entities and individuals, including Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), as retaliation against EU sanctions on Chinese officials citing human rights violations in Xinjiang.
(I’m a bit surprised that a news report buried this in the seventh paragraph after highlighting the familiar Chinese position on Taiwan which I think everyone knows and thus needs not highlighting.)
From a transcript of the event posted on the Chinese Mission’s website:
CAI is an important agreement as a result of 7 years of hard negotiation. Both sides have shown great flexibilities. It is a mutually beneficial agreement. That point need to be borne in mind: it’s not as if one side was doing a favor to the other. We know that the world economy is not going through a very good time, and some European business people have some complaints about the access to Chinese market. But actually, this agreement is just to solve all these concerns, especially given the current circumstances. It is so important that when all economies are trying their best to use all leverages to actually raise up the economy. And this useful instrument is laying there in limbo. We don’t want to go back to the history of who was right and who was wrong in imposing sanctions, because that would be a futile debate with no result.
So what we think is that we need to look ahead. One way is to lift the sanctions simultaneously. We don’t need to go back to the origin. We are also practical. We say that, if for whatever reason, lifting the sanctions simultaneously may not fly, then we are also open to other initiatives. We are actually listening to initiatives from the EU side. Our proposal is that we leave the sanctions simultaneously. And if you think that is not good enough, give us your proposals, and we are ready to study them. But the principle should be that they should be based on mutual benefits. You can’t pick and choose from the agreement what is only good for you, while ignoring, disregarding those provisions that actually serve our interests. Because as I said, this is a package of 7 years of negotiation, anything that we can pick from this agreement should stick to the basic principle of mutuality. This should be mutually beneficial. Nowadays, the European people or the governments like to talk about reciprocity, and the principle of reciprocity should also apply here in this case.
In other news, the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) broadcasted both domestically and internationally the dialogue between Dr. Henry Huiyao Wang, its founder and President, Susan Thornton, and Douglas Paal. Thornton and Paal are former senior U.S. diplomats on China and Asia.
Below is a transcript with highlights. Read what cooler heads have to say after the balloon incident.