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 570 votes in favour, 61 against with 40 abstentions, the European Parliament outlines six pillars on which the EU should build a new strategy to engage 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 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 work together with China to improve the response to infectious diseases that could evolve into epidemics or pandemics, for example through risk-mapping and early warnings systems. They ask China to allow an independent investigation to be carried out into the origins and spread of COVID-19.
Trade frictions, EU relations with Taiwan
Parliament stresses the strategic importance of the EU-China relationship, but makes clear that the ratification process of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) cannot begin until China lifts sanctions against MEPs and EU institutions.
Members also 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 benchmarks measuring progress to be introduced. Discussions should include human rights violations in Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Hong Kong.
In addition, Parliament regrets the Chinese coercion against European companies that have cut supply chain ties with Xinjiang over concerns regarding the forced labour situation in the region. It calls 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 finally 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.
“We must not be naive when dealing with China. Whilst China is an important trading partner, it is also a systemic rival that poses a challenge to our way of life and the liberal world order. Economic gains should not make us blind to the Chinese Communist Party's ambitious political agenda, its increasingly assertive foreign policy and its repressions in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. We must defend our values and interests by acquiring European strategic autonomy in areas such as trade, digital and security and defence”, said rapporteur Hilde Vautmans (Renew Europe, Belgium) said after the vote.