| 3 December 2021, Friday |

China’s EU envoy says no flexibility on Taiwan, sanctions, trade

China will never change its attitude on Taiwan, nor will it modify its position that the European Union must eliminate its sanctions in order for a new Sino-EU investment deal to be ratified, China’s ambassador to the EU said on Tuesday.

Despite plans for an EU-China meeting by the end of the year, Zhang Ming’s remarks offered little optimism for a diplomatic breakthrough after EU nations like Lithuania boosted connections with Taiwan this year.

“If anything changes, it is that the Chinese people’s determination to accomplish our country’s reunification grows even stronger,” Zhang said of Taiwan.

“Some individuals in Europe appear to misunderstand the Chinese people’s ambition for our country’s reunification,” he said at an online think-tank event in Brussels.

Zhang Ming said any attempt by Europeans to develop official relations with Taiwan was unacceptable, after Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu took a rare trip to Europe in late October, angering Beijing.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its “sacred territory” and has not ruled out the use force to ensure eventual unification. Taiwan does not have formal diplomatic relations with any European countries apart from Vatican City. But it is keen to deepen ties with EU democracies.

In March, the EU imposed sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights abuses in Xinjiang and China responded with its own sanctions on Europeans. Neither side is ready to lift them.

Zhang noted that it took China and the EU seven years and 35 rounds of negotiations to agree politically on the investment pact in December last year.

“I regret to see that because of obstacles caused by the European side, its ratification has hit the rocks,” he said, referring to the sanctions.

Accused of mass detentions of Muslim Uyghurs in northwestern China, those targeted by the EU included Chen Mingguo, the director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau. The EU said Chen was responsible for “serious human rights violations”.

China denies any wrongdoing and called on the West not to interfere in its internal affairs, particularly on the Uyghurs, an ethnic group seen as more closely linked to Central Asians than to China’s Han majority.