China’s President Xi Jinping said on Friday that he hopes the European Union can establish an “independent” opinion on China, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
At a video summit, Xi spoke with the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel.
China had been concerned that European countries are taking harder-line foreign policy cues from the United States and has previously called for the EU to “exclude external interference” from its relations with China.
Xi at the Friday summit also told EU leaders that both sides should communicate more on major issues concerning their bilateral relations and world peace and that China and Europe should provide stability in a volatile world, CCTV reported.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, Xi said “regional security conflicts” in Europe were the “root cause” of the Ukraine crisis. Xi “did not condemn, but also did not defend” Putin’s invasion, according to a person present during the video call, adding that the Chinese president ignored a direct question from Michel as to whether he supported the invasion.
Instead, Xi referred to the importance of understanding Russia’s “security concerns in Europe”, the person said. In a separate video call with the EU duo, Chinese premier Li Keqiang insisted Beijing was working towards a peaceful resolution of the crisis in “its own way”.
In the run-up to Friday’s summit, Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, told his Russian counterpart “the Ukrainian issue” was the result of “the long-term accumulation of security conflicts in Europe” as well as a “cold war mentality and group confrontation”.
Wang hosted Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of a regional security meeting about Afghanistan on Wednesday, their first in-person discussion since the war in Ukraine began in late February. In early February, Xi and Putin said there were “no limits” to their friendship. But analysts say the threat of secondary western sanctions has stopped China from offering significant support to the struggling Russian economy.