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BEIJING: The European Union must further “clarify” its position on its strategic partnership with Beijing, China’s top diplomat Wang Yi told European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, as EU leaders called for reduced dependence on China.

The launch of a EU-China comprehensive strategic partnership in 2003 had promised to elevate ties beyond trade and investment. But since 2019, the 27-nation European Union has called China an “economic competitor” and a “systemic rival”, with Beijing’s intimate relations with Moscow following the invasion of Ukraine further inviting more caution.

China and the EU should strengthen communication, enhance mutual trust, and deepen cooperation, and the bloc should not “waver”, let alone encourage backpedaling in words and deeds, Wang told Borrell on Friday on the sidelines of ASEAN meetings in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

Last month, EU leaders committed to lessening the bloc’s dependence on China and debated how to strike a balance between “de-risking” and cooperating in areas such as climate change. In March, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said a hardening of China’s position required Europe to “de-risk” both economically and diplomatically.

The Commission is also urging EU members to agree to stronger controls on exports and outflows of technologies for military use by “countries of concern”.

Wang, during his meeting with Borrell, called on the two sides to guard against the politicisation of economic issues and the use of “derisking” as another term for “decoupling”, according to a report by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency on Saturday.

There is no fundamental conflict of interest between China and the EU, Xinhua cited Wang as saying.

South Korea asks China to play ‘constructive role’ against North’s threats

On Ukraine, Wang also said China supports a balanced, effective and sustainable European security architecture, and will continue to promote talks for peace and play a constructive role in seeking a political settlement of the crisis.

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