The President of the European Council will visit China next week to hold a summit with Xi

European Council President Charles Michel will travel to Beijing for a meeting with Xi Jinping next week, in a move likely to highlight European divisions over how to deal with China.

Michel, who represents leaders of the 27 EU member states, is scheduled to visit Beijing on Dec. 1 to meet Xi and other senior Chinese officials, the first time the EU chief has met Xi in China in a year. 2018.

The trip, first reported by the Financial Times, comes at a very sensitive time for relations between China and Western powers. Relations have been strained by Beijing’s failure to condemn Russia’s war against Ukraine, its stance toward Taiwan, and its repression in Hong Kong.

Xi and Michel’s meeting follows a strategic discussion among EU leaders last month on how to adjust the bloc’s relationship with China in light of Xi’s increasingly hardline policies and deepening rivalry between Washington and Beijing.

Supporters of what a person who briefed him said about the meeting said it would feature the “full red carpet treatment” said it was part of an effort to keep lines of communication open with China despite rising tensions with Western capitals.

Against the backdrop of the tense geopolitical and economic environment, the visit is an opportune opportunity for both the EU and China to participate. Michel’s office said the leaders of the European Union and China will discuss global challenges as well as issues of common interest.

The visit follows a state visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier this month that sparked concern among other EU member states, as the bloc wrestles over how to toughen its approach to Beijing.

It also comes after a three-hour meeting between Xi and Joe Biden on the eve of the G20 summit in Bali this month, during which the US president said he seeks to responsibly manage the relationship with Beijing.

Under pressure from the United States to stick to its more hawkish stance, Brussels is rethinking its engagement with China, aiming to reduce its heavy economic dependence on Beijing. Washington and hard-line European Union states see this as a major weakness for European economies.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted soul-searching within the European Union about its relationship with China, as capitals realized that its concept of economic interdependence with Moscow had completely failed to give them any leverage over Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Brussels urged member states last month that the EU should recalibrate its attitude toward China and see it as a global competitor with limited areas of potential engagement.

“China has become a stronger global competitor to the European Union, the United States and other like-minded partners,” the commission’s foreign policy arm told state capitals. “It is therefore essential to assess how best to respond to current and anticipated challenges.”

Michel, who had a video call with Xi in April, said at the Bali summit that the EU needs to “rebalance” the relationship with China, but that “it is important to listen to each other, to develop a better understanding.”

Michel suggested in October after EU leaders debated that human rights issues, climate change, economic relations and global health were likely to form part of the talks.

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