New European Commission President Leyen to begin her term with a phone call to the Chinese government

Newly appointed European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen commences her term today with a phone call to the Chinese

ursula commission europeenne

Photo: Vincent Kesseler

Newly appointed European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen commences her term today with a phone call to the Chinese government regarding its detention of the Uighur Muslims in northwestern province of Xinjiang.

The EU has decried China for running re-education camps. The issue is sensitive for both Brussels and Beijing given that they are among each other’s top trading partners. Despite mutual economic interests, the EU categorised China as a ‘systemic rival’ and ‘economic competitor’ in a March strategic paper.

Taking note of the change in leadership, China appointed diplomat Wu Hongbo as a special envoy to the EU on November 1. To initiate conversation on the issue of Uighur detention, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Brussels in mid-December.

Conditional upon the progress made in upcoming meetings, the EU may use visa restrictions on some Chinese officials to demonstrate a stern stance. Beijing is likely to provide somewhat increased access to EU officials in January in an attempt to appease Brussels, but the latter is unlikely to be satisfied with this measure. However, China may reaffirm that this is a domestic matter to prevent deeper provocations.

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