The European Union says that China will take advantage of Russia’s defeat in Ukraine

The EU’s top diplomat warned that China would “benefit geopolitically” from Russia’s defeat in Ukraine and that Brussels needed to respond to Beijing’s global ambitions.

Josep Borrell, the bloc’s top foreign policy representative, urged member states to find a “coherent strategy” for dealing with China that responds to both rising nationalism in Beijing and “tightening competition between the United States and China.”

“The issue of China is much more complex than the issue of Russia,” Borrell wrote in a private letter to EU foreign ministers seen by the Financial Times. Clearly, China’s ambition is to build a new world order with China at its center. . . Russia’s defeat in Ukraine will not derail China’s course. He added that China will succeed in benefiting from it geopolitically.

The letter was presented as a starting point for two days of discussions among EU foreign ministers that begin on Friday to craft a new policy towards Beijing that EU leaders are due to discuss next month.

The Stockholm discussions are expected to focus on adjusting the bloc’s current strategy on China with its three-pronged “partner, competitor, rival” approach to give more weight to the “rival” part, according to people familiar with the talks. An EU diplomat said the shift “comes from a careful analysis of what China is doing”.

In his Thursday message, Borrell also emphasized the bloc’s willingness to “engage seriously” with Beijing over the war in Ukraine, despite its rhetorical support for Moscow. He said the EU “welcomes all genuine positive moves coming from China with the aim of finding a solution.”

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The Chinese leadership put forward peace proposals, but the West was criticized for siding with Moscow and failing to engage with Kiev. Chinese President Xi Jinping finally called his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky 14 months after Russia’s all-out invasion in February last year, but the gesture was largely seen as an attempt to repair strained relations with European capitals.

In the letter, Borrell wrote that the EU should not seek to “block the rising power of emerging countries,” referring to member states’ reluctance to adopt the United States’ more hawkish approach to China.

He also gave an overview of the European Union’s “de-risking” strategy, which he described as less risky than America’s detachment from China. The strategy was first laid out by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen when she called for “new defensive tools” for sectors such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence.

Brussels should take into account China’s influence when dealing with low-income countries, Borrell writes, warning against expecting those countries to take one side or the other.

The majority of developing countries have been reluctant to endorse Western sanctions against Russia, and China has taken the opportunity to portray itself as a non-aggressive power that neither starts wars nor pressures other countries to adopt economic restraints on its competitors.

“The EU should realize that many countries see China’s geopolitical influence as a counterweight to the West and, by extension, to Europe,” Borrell wrote. “They will seek to consolidate their own room to maneuver without picking sides.”

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