Ambassador Fu Cong: China-EU ties shouldn't be dominated by Ukraine crisis

Chinese Ambassador to the European Union (EU) Fu Cong has stressed that the China-EU relationship is multifaceted and the two sides should not allow the Ukraine crisis to dominate their broad-ranging relationship.

Fu was interviewed by Bruno Macaes, the New Statesman's foreign affairs correspondent, on the Ukraine crisis and China-EU ties.

Different interests on Ukraine crisis

Fu said China is doing what it can to facilitate a peaceful settlement of the Ukraine crisis, but added that it is not realistic to expect China to take exactly the same position as European countries.

"I do not find it sensible to actually link China's position on the Ukrainian crisis with the bilateral relationship between China and the EU because I don't think that is fair to China and sensible for the EU," said Fu.

He noted that China's interests are different from Europe's, adding that China maintains good relations with both Ukraine and Russia.

Fu rejected claims that "China's 12-point proposal confirmed its firm pro-Russian stance," and stressed that "China is very clear that China stands to support the territorial integrity of all countries."

"I think that is sufficient, and everybody takes that message, including Russia. So have no doubt that China is condoning any side on this issue," he told the British magazine. 

China is trying to facilitate peace, Fu reiterated. "Our position is very clear. We need to put an immediate stop to the fighting in order to end the senseless killing."

That is not the position that some European countries take, Fu pointed, adding "they called for peace, but then they said when the conditions were ripe."

When asked why Beijing doesn't condemn Russia in relation to the conflict, Fu said China has own diplomatic style. "And I think at this stage, actually, a simple condemnation does not solve the problem. It may reduce your space for diplomacy. If all countries take the side of one country, then who is going to come out as a mediator for peace? Right? But it doesn't mean that we are condoning any action specifically in this conflict."

'Dependency is not dangerous'

In terms of the EU's so-called de-risking policy in relation to China, Fu said the European leaders need to explain to the public exactly what "de-risking" entails. "But for us, let me make it clear that if 'de-risking' means ridding China of the global industrial and supply chains, especially in key areas, and when it involves key technology, we are firmly opposed to that."

He said in his view the basis for the "de-risking" policy is so-called dependency, adding that "dependency" shouldn't be exaggerated.

Fu called on the EU to put the issue into proper perspective and noted that according to the bloc's own report, there is less than 1 percent of imports from China in which Europe could be regarded as having a heavy dependency on China.

"It is mutual dependency between China and Europe," Fu also said. He called this a natural result of globalization. "China is dependent on Europe for many other things. For instance, the most prominent example is the semiconductor and especially the chip-making equipment. So we should not exaggerate the dependency."

If the EU has concerns about dependency on China for certain things, the best way is to really talk to each other, Fu added.

"Dependency is not dangerous. What is dangerous is to weaponize the dependency. If the EU has the political will to alleviate their concerns, China is ready to talk to them and come to some sort of agreement. We should not weaponize the dependencies that one side may have on the other," said the Chinese ambassador.

On EU sanctions against Chinese enterprises

The EU is discussing an 11th package of sanctions on Russia with sources suggesting eight Chinese companies are on the list. 

In the interview, Fu said the EU needed to provide China with solid evidence to show that these companies are engaged with activities that may circumvent or that have circumvented EU sanctions on Russia.

"I understand this 11th round of sanctions is aimed mainly at preventing circumvention. If the EU side has evidence that Chinese companies are engaged in such activities, please show us the evidence," he said.

"They said that they had noticed a sharp increase in the import of certain items. But I said that there may be legitimate reasons, right? And that's why I said if you have concerns and if you have evidence, show that to me. Maybe we have a legitimate explanation for that, and we can investigate for you. But unfortunately, the EU side has not picked up or responded to our gesture to resolve this in a cooperative manner."

China has not provided any military equipment to Russia, and China has exercised extreme caution when it comes to dual-use items, Fu noted.

He said China's basic positions on the issue remain that it is against unilateral sanctions without the basis of international law or the authorization of UN Security Council resolutions and in particular, is firmly against the extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Fu also said China seeks to resolve the sanction issue in a cooperative manner, but warned that if the EU insists on imposing sanctions against Chinese enterprises without giving any evidence, China will respond strongly.

China-EU: Common interests far outweigh differences

Referring to China-EU relations, Fu admitted that the two sides have differences in terms of ideology and specific issues related to human rights. "But our view is that our common interests far outweigh our differences."

"So we should not allow our differences to define our relationship. I hope that could be an approach taken by all European countries," he added.

The ambassador also questioned the "democracy versus autocracy" narrative. "I think this narrative is both misleading and, I would say, even dangerous. Because if you divide the world into so-called democracies and autocracies, first, it's not correct."

"It's dangerous in the sense that if you divide the world into two different ideologies, into two different blocs, you would be, in effect, taking the world back to the old Cold War days," Fu noted.

The ambassador also voiced support for Europe's autonomy and integration. Over the years, China may be the only big power that has come out in clear support for the integration of Europe, he told the reporter.

"There is no reason Europe should become 'vassals' to any other country. Of course, they will not become 'vassals' to China. We don't have that ambition," said Fu.

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