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

Resolution submitted by: JEF Political Commission 3: External Affairs & Global Governance

Adopted by the online Federal Committee (FC Home) on 25 October 2020

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;
  • In this light, noting with concern initiatives introduced by China, such as the 17+1 Initiative[2], that create divisions within the EU and that go against the idea of a united and federal Europe;
  • Deploring the unanimity requirement for foreign policy in the Council that prevents the European Union from taking a clear position on breaches of human rights;
  • 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, weakening the EU in China’s favour;
  • 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;
  • Noting with alarm the lack of animal welfare standards, and food safety enforcement within the Chinese intensive pork production as well as in small scale markets, as was seen with the outbreak of COVID-19;
  • 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 alarm China’s increasing aggression in the South China Sea as well as towards Taiwan in public speech and military actions and emphasising in this sense the importance of respecting international law and global governance;
  • 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;
  • Welcoming the development of new technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence, but deeply concerned that this is accompanied by intellectual property rights breaches, security and privacy issues, human rights attacks, and the deployment of these technologies during disinformation campaigns;
  • Acknowledging both China’s economic importance to the European Union as the EU’s second largest trading partner and the importance of the European Union to China as its largest trading partner;
  • Taking note of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the investments made in the EU as well as other countries as a part of it;
  • Acknowledging the need of an EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, but noting the limited progress made;
  • 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;
  • Acknowledging the distinct structure of the Chinese society and its political system, but 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 European Union and its Member States stand united and prioritise a common foreign policy position towards China and not let China divide the European Union by using, for instance, the 17+1 Initiative as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, and its mask diplomacy during the COVID-19 crisis;
  2. Calls on the European Union and its Member States to diversify imports and reduce the dependency on Chinese products, especially for strategic goods, such as masks during a healthcare crisis;
  3. Calls on the European Union to increase cooperation with China to develop vaccines during the COVID-19 crisis and future pandemics; 
  4. Encourages the European Union to work with the World Health Organisation to develop a strong regulatory framework on safety and hygiene standards for wet markets and animal welfare and calls on the European Union to use its economic and political leverage to ensure Chinese compliance to these regulations;
  5. 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;
  6. 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; 
  7. Urges the EU to adopt a human rights sanctions regime based on qualified majority voting addressing all human rights abuses across the world; 
  8. Further urges that such a sanctioning framework freezes assets and imposes travel restrictions for the leaders involved in the Uighur repression and to use economic sanctions where appropriate;
  9. Demands that all EU Member States automatically grant refugee status to Uighurs fleeing China;
  10. Encourages the EU and its Member States to build a global consensus and alliances with partners condemning human rights violations to amplify sanctions, especially regarding the Uighur repression;
  11. 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;
  12. Demands the EU to further work towards conflict resolution in the South China Sea with respect to international law, before the situation escalates;
  13. 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;
  14. 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;
  15. Urges the European Union 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;
  16. Calls on the EU to work closer with China and build on common values such as peace and democracy to relaunch multilateralism and multipolarity and 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 to the existing global rules;
  17. 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; 
  18. Urges the EU to increase cooperation with China to combat climate change, by intensifying cooperation on research and development of innovative solutions;
  19. Calls on the EU and its Member States to openly condemn Chinese investments that are counterproductive in the fight against climate change, such as coal power plants in China and its neighbouring countries; 
  20. 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;
  21. 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;
  22. 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;
  23. Calls on JEF Europe to share their experience with advocating for European federalism and to promote federalism as a model when engaging with Chinese civil society organisations.

— Read the resolution —

[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 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 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)