Bangkok Post

EC lines up call with Xi on Xinjiang


BRUSSELS: European Council chief Charles Michel was due to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday afternoon, the latest indication that Beijing and Brussels are seeking a way forward following a spat over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

The conversati­on was one of several announced by senior Chinese and European officials in recent weeks, as Beijing prepares for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s exit.

The call with Mr Michel appeared to be part of an effort by Beijing to bolster alternativ­e lines of communicat­ion as it seeks to resolve a dispute over titfor-tat Xinjiang sanctions without Ms Merkel, one of its most preferred negotiatin­g partners.

The disagreeme­nt has stalled the European Parliament’s approval of a landmark China investment pact spearheade­d by Ms Merkel and signed in December. Brussels is also looking for Beijing to ease Covid-related travel restrictio­ns for its corporate executives and greater cooperatio­n on vaccines and environmen­tal issues such as climate change.

Mr Xi spoke with Ms Merkel on Wednesday, in what was billed as a “farewell” exchange.

The China-Europe exchanges come against the backdrop of a thaw between Washington and Beijing and moves by US President Joe Biden that have strained ties with Brussels.

“If the Europeans see the Americans improving relations, they’ll ask ‘why do we want to be the rivals of China?’” said Wang Huiyao, founder of a policy research group in Beijing.

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