A united Europe in a fairer and more balanced relationship with China

Submitted by Political Commission 3: External Affairs & Global Governance.
Adopted by the online Federal Committee (FC Home) on 25 October 2020.
Amended and re-adopted by the Federal Commitee in Malta on 19 March 2023. 

While increasing its role in the international community, the People’s Republic of China [1] has been solidifying its repressive rule back home. In our current global environment, the European Union (EU) is not in a position to ignore the economic powerhouse that China has become, but it should not hesitate to speak up. JEF Europe wants to give shape to an EU-China relationship that protects global values such as freedom and human rights, serves the EU’s best interest, and tackles global challenges.

JEF Europe,

  • Welcoming China’s explicit support for multilateralism, the Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals, and the fight against climate change and its renewed commitment to the Paris Agreement, but alarmed by the lack of action and occasionally contradictory actions to this expressed support;
  • Taking into account the joint 2022 statement of Russia and China “On the International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development”, and that the Chinese and Russian interpretation of a multipolar world tends to be a rejection of a rule-based world order and the principles of international law, accountability and human rights;
  • Deploring China’s lack of condemnation of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine which rises doubt regarding China’s commitments to the principles of the UN Charter, and further deeply concerned by recent reports that China- based companies have been selling equipment to Russia that could easily be used for military purposes, thus presenting a circumvention of European sanctions against Russia;
  • Noting with concern initiatives introduced by China, such as the 14+1 Initiative [2], that create divisions within the EU and that go against the idea of a united and federal Europe;
  • Also noting with concern that each EU Member State prioritises its own bilateral relationship with China, and that the lack of a common EU position leads to divisiveness between EU Member States which China actively uses to weaken the EU in its favour;
  • Condemning the embargo and other trade retributions imposed by China on Lithuania following its closer ties with Taiwan and the lack of common reaction to this situation beyond the Baltics;
  • Noting with equal concern the targeted acquisition of critical infrastructure (such as ports) in the EU by Chinese state-owned companies and the future risks such a strategy might entail for Europe’s independence and security of supply;
  • Strongly condemning the ethnic cleansing of Uighurs and their detention in so-called re-education camps;
  • Condemning China’s mismanagement of public risk communication about COVID-19, highlighting especially China’s lack of communication with the World Health Organisation and withholding of information about the severity and extent of the disease;
  • Also condemning the interference of the Chinese government in Hong Kong, the subsequent oppression of the democratic movement in Hong Kong, and the introduction of the Hong Kong national security law undermining previously acquired freedoms under the Basic Law agreement [3];
  • Noting with deep concern the rising tensions in the South China Sea, especially recent military manoeuvres and simulations of an invasion of Taiwan as well as towards Taiwan in public speech and emphasising in this sense the importance of respecting international law and global governance;
  • Noting with concern the development of relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Taliban government in Afghanistan;
  • Concerned about clashes with the Republic of India in the Galwan Valley and surrounding areas;
  • Concerned about breaches of international labour standards defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), such as slave labour or poor working conditions, that are commonplace in China;
  • Acknowledging both China’s economic importance to the EU as its second largest trading partner and the importance of the EU to China as its largest trading partner;
  • Acknowledging that China is a major contributor to the global supply of rare earths, which is of increasing importance due to EU‘s efforts becoming the first climate-neutral continent and that this could lead eventually to an unilateral dependance on China;
  • Taking note of China’s Belt and Road Initiative including the investments made in the EU and welcoming the EU Global Gateway response despite its limitations;
  • Noting with concern that China has become the leading nation in 37 out of 44 crucial technologies in the fields of defence, space, robotics, energy, the environment, biotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), advanced materials and key quantum technology, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Critical Technology Tracker;
  • Highlighting the growing importance of civil society in China, for instance in the strong stance civil society organisations are taking in the fight against climate change and against the government’s repressive COVID-19 measures;
  • Deeply concerned about growing nationalistic tendencies and strongly believing in federalism combined with democracy as the best political structure for diverse societies;

JEF Europe therefore,

  1. Demands the EU and its Member States stand united and prioritise a common foreign policy and long-term strategy towards China and not let China divide the EU by using, for instance, the 14+1 Initiative as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, and its mask diplomacy during the COVID-19 crisis;
  1. Calls on the EU and its Member States to diversify imports and reduce the dependency on Chinese products, especially for strategic goods;
  1. Also calls on the EU and its Member States to take a strong stance against the violation of human rights in China, and to use their diplomatic, economic and normative power to demand improvement of human rights in the country;
  1. Urges the EU and its Member States to take a unanimous and clear position condemning the persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang province and the existence of so-called re-education camps as a clear violation of Human Rights;
  1. Urges the EU to adopt qualified majority voting for its human rights sanctions regime that addresses all human rights violations around the world and calls for such a sanctions framework to freeze assets and impose
    travel restrictions on leaders involved in the Uyghur crackdown and use economic sanctions where appropriate;
  1. Demands that all Member States automatically grant refugee status to Uighurs fleeing China;
  1. Urges the EU and its Member States to take a unanimous and clear position condemning the Chinese and Hong Kong governments’ reaction to the democratic movement in Hong Kong and use its economic leverage to prevent further restrictions of freedoms;
  1. Demands the EU to further work towards conflict resolution in the South China Sea with respect to international law, before the situation escalates;
  1. Calls on the EU and its Member States to develop closer diplomatic relations with Taiwan and investigate options on how to better integrate it into global governance institutions such as the UN, while simultaneously working on conflict resolution between China and Taiwan;
  1. Calls on the EU to use its economic and diplomatic power to advocate for the ratification of important ILO conventions by China, and to ensure that ILO principles are effectively implemented, especially concerning fundamental rights at work and the elimination of forced labour and child labour;
  1. Urges the EU to put security measures in place for new technologies and to strengthen global governance on intellectual property rights and data protection, especially in the development of data-intensive technologies such as artificial intelligence;
  1. Calls on the EU to work closer with China to revitalise multilateral institutions, such as reforming the World Trade Organisation, enhance global rules setting to work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and ensure compliance with the existing global rules;
  1. Urges the EU to partner with China in the pursuit of stronger global rules setting to combat climate change, by going beyond existing rules and standards with highly ambitious countries as well as enforcing existing global agreements such as the Paris Agreement;
  1. Encourages the EU to use its economic and diplomatic power to engage in discussions with Chinese diplomats about the damaging effects of certain elements of China’s foreign policy in making progress towards the Agenda 2030, such as foreign investments leading to unsustainable debt;
  1. Therefore urges the EU to advocate and use its leverage for the full participation of China in the Paris Club, including all Chinese development banks and more specifically the participation of Chinese development banks in the Debt Service Suspension Initiative for poor countries;
  1. Encourages the EU to further support and develop dialogue with civil society, NGOs, universities, research institutions, the business community and the general public in China.

[1] The People’s Republic of China will be shortened to China throughout this resolution, and the Republic of China will be shortened to Taiwan.

[2] ​​The 17+1(now 14+1) Initiative (also known as China-CEE) is an initiative by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote business and investment relations between China and 17 (now 14) countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

[3] The ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle is enshrined in the Basic Law agreement, a document equivalent to a constitution for Hong Kong. Further reading about the Basic Law agreement (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-49633862) and about the link with the National Security Law (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-52765838)