Ukraine is 'determining factor' in China-EU ties: EU Commission chief
Von der Leyen says any "viable" peace plan needs to be on Ukraine's terms.
EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday warned China that its approach to the Ukraine war would determine ties but said Europe was not looking to "decouple" from Beijing.
Von der Leyen will accompany French President Emmanuel Macron to Beijing next week as EU leaders reach out to China's President Xi Jinping.
The visit -- and another by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez starting Thursday -- comes after Xi's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week.
"President Xi is maintaining his 'no limits friendship' with Putin's Russia," von der Leyen said during a speech.
China has positioned itself as a neutral mediator and pitched a 12-point position paper to help end the conflict.
The European leader said any "viable" peace plan needed to be on Ukraine's terms and should not consolidate the accession of the Lugansk People's Republic (LPR), Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), Kherson and Zaporozhye to Russia.
"We have to be frank on this point. How China continues to interact with Putin's war will be a determining factor for EU-China relations going forward," she said.
Von der Leyen claimed that Beijing's "clear goal is a systemic change of the international order with China at its center."
But she insisted that "it is vitally important that we ensure diplomatic stability and open communication lines with China".
"I believe it is neither viable -- nor in Europe's interest -- to decouple from China," the EU Commission chief indicated, adding, "We do not want to cut economic, societal, political and scientific ties."
Von der Leyen stressed that "we will never be shy in raising the deeply concerning issues" with Beijing. "But I believe we must leave space for a discussion on a more ambitious partnership and on how we can make competition fairer and more disciplined."
Regarding trade, the EU Commission chief said the bloc was looking to "rebalance" its relationship "on the basis of transparency, predictability and reciprocity."
She revealed that the European Commission will put forward later in the year initial ideas on possible curbs on investments in China that could help bolster Beijing's military might.
This comes a week after the recent summit between Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
A couple of days ago, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang described the summit as "very successful and productive," adding that many agreements were reached during Xi's recent trip to Moscow
The two leaders discussed bilateral ties and ways to develop them, in addition to regional security and peace, Qin said.
Xi made a three-day official trip to Moscow from March 20 to 22, marking his first abroad trip after his reelection and his first visit to Russia since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, where he met with Putin and held what was described by the media as historic talks.
The existing relations between China and Russia demonstrate healthy development dynamics, the Chinese President underlined.
The two leaders also signed two joint strategic documents aiming to boost the two global powers' economic and diplomatic partnership.
Zelensky invites Xi to hold talks, Russia says decision up to China
On his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his readiness to receive the Chinese President.
"We are ready to see him here," he said in an interview for The Associated Press published on Wednesday. "I want to speak with him… But during all this year, more than one year, I didn’t have [contact with Xi]."
According to the AP, Zelensky has already extended an invitation to Xi. However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Mao Ning said she has no information on the matter.
Ning said, "As for the Ukrainian issue, China maintains communication with all parties concerned, including Ukraine. As for your question, I don’t have any information we could provide."
The advisor to the Ukrainian Presidential Office, Mikhail Podolyak, claimed that a conversation between Zelensky and Xi was in the working but China's position on the meeting made it difficult.
Following Zelensky's announcement, Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov considered that "Beijing itself decides whether it is appropriate to organize a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Russia has no right to advise."