Last month, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen was in Beijing to meet with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and address ongoing trade issues. She held a press conference afterwards, saying that EU-China relations had become “increasingly imbalanced.”

“Over the last decade,” she said, “the European Union’s trade deficit has more than tripled. It reached almost €400 billion last year. And we discussed that, because this trajectory is not sustainable and the underlying structural issues need to be addressed.”

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (right). Photo: The Left/Flickr.

Von der Leyen also expressed concerns about reports of “unfair practices” limiting European businesses’ access to the Chinese market. She called for these obstacles to be removed in order to achieve a more balanced relationship.

She said that relations between Europe and China are amongst the most intricate, complex, and crucial in the entire world. But regrettably, it is plausible to say that such a relationship has now lost its equilibrium, albeit not in the way that Leyen contends. Europe continues to level unfounded and baseless accusations, expecting China to simply disregard them. There is no reciprocation of integrity or respect in such a relationship.

On March 30, Leyen delivered a more comprehensive two-part assessment of Europe-China relations to the Mercator Institute for China Studies and the European Policy Centre. She made baseless claims about China’s intentions, painting a bleak picture that can only be described as fear-mongering.

European Union Commission Flag Headquarters Brussels
European Union Flags in Brussels. Photo: Wiktor Dabkowski, via Flickr.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s clear goal is a systemic change of the international order with China at its centre,” Leyen remarked, adding that China promotes “an alternative vision of the world order. One, where individual rights are subordinated to national security. Where security and economy take prominence over political and civil rights.” She continued: “

We have seen it with the Belt and Road Initiative, new international banks or other China-led institutions set up to rival the current international system. We have seen it with China’s set of global initiatives and by how it positions itself as a power and peace broker, for instance through the recent Saudi Arabia and Iran agreement. And we have seen the show of friendship in Moscow which says a thousand words about this new vision for an international order.”

YouTube video

If the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global initiative to enhance and optimise connectivity and cooperation among the nations of Eurasia, is evidence that China is attempting to disrupt the existing global order, Leyen has certainly misinterpreted it. The initiatives, which include infrastructure, energy, healthcare, and education, have benefited millions of people in impoverished Asian, African, and Middle Eastern regions.

The ability of China to bring together Iran and Saudi Arabia – two countries with a long history of conflict – to sign a peace treaty demonstrates unequivocally that China possesses the power to alter the current world order as opposed to the bleak future suggested and predicted by Leyen. China is altering the world for the better. The effort in restoring two nations back to a state of enduring peace is a noble endeavour and a laudable attempt that should not be feared, despised or demonised. The European Union and the United States appear to be immensely envious of China’s contribution to regional peace and stability.

Photo: Lara Jameson via

Having addressed the negative aspects of Leyen’s speech, let’s turn our attention to the more pragmatic aspects: she acknowledges that rather than completely ending their relationship and partnership, Europe and China must strive to make it work.

“Our relations are not black or white,” Leyen remarked, “and our response cannot be either. This is why we need to focus on de-risk, not de-couple. And this is part of the reason why I will soon be visiting Beijing together with President Macron. Managing this relationship and having an open and frank exchange with our Chinese counterparts is a key part of what I would call the de-risking through diplomacy of our relations with China,” she asserted.

The assertions above are plausible and observable, but they are insufficient. If Europe and China want this alliance to be successful in the long run, they must engage in a constructive conversation based on mutual respect. It should not be a one-sided dialogue in which China is expected to accept unjustified accusations from Europe without the opportunity to refute them.

While Europe seeks to “de-risk” the relationship, China must do the same by urging Europe to quit meddling and interfering in its internal affairs and to eliminate the sanctions and tariffs placed on Chinese goods. Europe cannot expect China to respect its “concerns” if it refuses to address China’s conflicts. Both parties must be willing to make concessions for the partnership to succeed.

Shipping container trade
A cargo ship shipping containers in Hong Kong. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP,

It is imperative for China to adopt a more assertive attitude and set boundaries if Europe continues to neglect its legitimate interests in order to ensure that this relationship is founded on mutual understanding, rather than mistrust and fear. Only then will China and Europe be capable of collaborating together for world peace, advancement, and prosperity.

China must also unequivocally demonstrate that Europe’s hypocrisy and use of double standards must cease. No one is permitted to criticise increased security measures in Europe as an infringement and violation of individual freedoms. They contend that freedom and security are not mutually exclusive yet, when China behaves in a similar manner, they are chastised and censured for abusing human rights. Europe has to recognise that interfering with other nations’ security measures is unacceptable and must be stopped.

Finally, China should repudiate any condemnation from Europe and any interference in its internal affairs. It should demand justice, respect, and transparency from the EU before commencing and engaging in any discussion and dialogue. Then, and only then, will Europe be able to treat China respectfully and forge a constructive alliance. With reciprocal respect, trust, and cooperation, we can look forward to a prosperous future between two powerful nations on a global scale. Cooperating to improve the quality of life for everyone in the globe.

HKFP is an impartial platform & does not necessarily share the views of opinion writers or advertisers. HKFP presents a diversity of views & regularly invites figures across the political spectrum to write for us. Press freedom is guaranteed under the Basic Law, security law, Bill of Rights and Chinese constitution. Opinion pieces aim to point out errors or defects in the government, law or policies, or aim to suggest ideas or alterations via legal means without an intention of hatred, discontent or hostility against the authorities or other communities.

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adrian ho

Adrian Ho

Adrian Ho graduated from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. He is a lawmaker, the Founder of Save HK Facebook Group and also a member of the Central Committee of the New People's Party. He also has 10 years of experience in wind power development in Xinjiang.