The EU should continue talking to China about global challenges like climate change and health crises, while raising its concerns over systemic human rights violations.
In a report adopted on Thursday, by 58 votes in favour, 8 against with 4 abstentions, the Foreign Affairs Committee outlines six pillars on which the EU should build a new strategy to deal with China: cooperation on global challenges, engagement on international norms and human rights, identifying risks and vulnerabilities, building partnerships with like-minded partners, fostering strategic autonomy and defending European interests and values.
Addressing common challenges, including emerging pandemics
The approved text proposes continued EU-China cooperation on a range of global challenges, such as human rights, climate change, nuclear disarmament, fighting global health crises and the reform of multilateral organisations.
MEPs also call for the EU to engage with China to improve initial response capacities to infectious diseases that could evolve into epidemics or pandemics, for example through risk-mapping and early warnings systems. They also ask China to allow an independent investigation into the origins and spread of COVID-19.
Trade frictions, EU relations with Taiwan
MEPs stress the strategic importance of the EU-China relationship, but make clear that the ratification process of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) cannot start until China lifts sanctions against MEPs and EU institutions.
Members reiterate their call for the Commission and the Council to progress on an EU investment agreement with Taiwan.
Dialogue and action against human rights abuses
Condemning systemic human rights violations in China, MEPs call for regular EU-China dialogue on human rights and for the introduction of benchmarks to measure progress. Dialogue should address, among other things, human rights violations in Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Hong Kong.
In addition, MEPs regret the Chinese coercion against European companies that have cut supply chain ties with Xinjiang over concerns for the forced labour situation in the region. They call on the EU to support these companies and ensure that current EU legislation effectively bans firms involved in abuses in Xinjiang from operating in the EU.
5G and fighting Chinese disinformation
MEPs highlight the need to develop global standards with like-minded partners for next-generation technologies, such as 5G and 6G networks. Companies that do not fulfil security standards must be excluded, they say.
The report asks for the European External Action Service to be given a mandate, and the necessary resources, to address Chinese disinformation operations, including the creation of a dedicated Far-East StratCom Task Force.
"China is a partner with whom we will continue to seek dialogue and cooperation, but a Union which positions itself as geopolitical cannot downplay China's assertive foreign policy and influence operations around the world, nor its contempt for human rights and commitment to bilateral and multilateral agreements. It is high time the EU unites behind a comprehensive, more assertive China policy that enables it to defend its values and interests by acquiring European strategic autonomy in areas such as trade, digital, and security and defence," rapporteur Hilde Vautmans (Renew Europe, Belgium) said after the vote.
The report will now be submitted to a vote in the European Parliament as a whole.