What makes Sino-EU relations so fluctuating in 2020?


The 2020 sees an unpredictable scenario due to the Covid pandemics. This heavily influences the political flows of the EU foreign and security policy. What are the consequences of the Covid pandemics for the Sino-European relations? This article briefly analyses several previous EU-China summits and key messages that were issued by the joint communiqué.

This year’s summit exposed EU’s concerns on the “deteriorating human rights situation, including the treatment of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and of human rights defenders, as well as restrictions on fundamental freedoms”. The EU also underlined its expectation that the Human Rights Dialogue will take place in China later in the year once the COVID-19 restrictions are eased. EU leaders  raised a number of individual cases, including the reports on citizens who have disappeared after reporting/expressing their views on the handling of the Coronavirus outbreak, as well as the continued arbitrary detention of Swedish citizen Gui Minhai and two Canadian citizens – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU underlined the shared responsibility to participate in global efforts to stop the spread of the virus, boost research on treatments and vaccines, and support a green and inclusive global recovery. The EU stressed the need for solidarity in addressing the consequences in developing countries, notably as regard debt relief.  The EU also called on China to fully participate in the independent review of lessons learned from the international health response to COVID-19, mandated by the resolution adopted at the last World Health Assembly. The EU also called on China to facilitate the return of EU residents in China. The Summit was also an opportunity to discuss the importance of the digital sector to economies and societies worldwide. The EU stressed that the development of new digital technologies must go hand in hand with the respect of fundamental rights and data protection. The EU also raised outstanding issues on cybersecurity, disinformation.

In 2019 communiqué the EU and China reaffirmed their intention to contribute jointly to international peace and stability through intensified dialogue and cooperation and in line with international law. They support the peaceful settlement of regional disputes and conflicts through dialogue and consultation. On Iran, the two sides recalled that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a key element of the global non-proliferation architecture and a significant diplomatic achievement endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council in its Resolution 2231.

They reaffirm their commitment to its continued, full and effective implementation, as well as their efforts to preserve economic benefits for Iran. The EU and China recall the importance of the Arak Modernisation Project, and the need to continue their common efforts in this regard. Both sides welcomed the fact that the IAEA has confirmed in 14 consecutive reports the continued adherence by Iran to its nuclear-related commitments.

In 2018 both sides reaffirmed their commitment to multilateralism and the rules-based international order with the UN at its core. The EU and China agreed to reinforce their dialogue and cooperation on foreign and security policy. Leaders said that they support the various efforts to find a peaceful solution to the North Korean nuclear issue through diplomatic means. They expressed their support for the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. They also reaffirmed their commitment to the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA). In addition, the EU and China expressed their joint support for: a two-state solution in the Middle East, a political solution to the Syrian conflict, the stabilisation of Libya, and the peace process in Afghanistan.

2016 was the first summit since the adoption of the new EU strategy on China in July 2016, which set out how both sides could take advantage of their cooperation to promote long-term benefits for EU and Chinese citizens. It also stressed the need for reciprocal benefits and a level playing field between China and the EU. The first item on the formal agenda was EU-China bilateral relations, with a focus on trade and investment, including the negotiations towards a Comprehensive Investment Agreement. Connectivity was also on the agenda, as leaders are expected to prioritise progress on the EU-China connectivity platform. The aim was to coordinate on transport policies and to identify projects of common interest between Europe and China, based on transparency and a level playing field. Regarding Geographical Indications (GI), leaders were expected to instruct their negotiators to accelerate work so as to conclude negotiations by the end of 2017. An agreement at the summit was foreseen on the publication of GI names by both sides soon after the encounter.

Related Articles

Back to Top