COVID19 exposed fundamental tensions between systemic rivals – EU and China

Tensions between the European Union and China could potentially cool down after a video summit today.

The video summit will be their first formal talks since the European Union accused Beijing of trying to obfuscate and spread disinformation about the coronavirus which emerged from its province in Wuhan.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles – the EU’s chief executive and chairman – will hold video conferences with Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping.

“We are ready to work with China. But we also expect China to assume its responsibilities as one of the world’s largest economies,” said a senior official helping prepare the summit. “The pandemic has heightened some (EU) concerns.”

A joint statement is not expected after the summit, which is scheduled to start at 0800 GMT.

According to officials from the EU, China tried to apply pressure on EU countries that criticized its handling of the coronavirus, by weaponizing social media and spreading fake news of European neglect of COVID-19 patients.

Differences between the two have also heightened over Hong Kong and an investment pact that is being negotiated.

EU governments have expressed “grave concern” over China’s security law for Hong Kong, which democracy activists, diplomats and businesses say will jeopardize its semi-autonomous status and role as a global financial hub.

China’s parliament reacted in anger to a resolution by the EU assembly which protested against the draconian law.

The EU has also accused China of failing to open up its economy despite a 2019 agreement to do so.

Germany has postponed an EU leaders’ summit with Xi in September, citing the coronavirus, though diplomats said it was in part because of the impasse in investment negotiations.

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