Home Featured Von der Leyen warns China — again — not to use force against Taiwan
Von der Leyen warns China — again — not to use force against Taiwan

Von der Leyen warns China — again — not to use force against Taiwan

by host

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday again warned China against using force in the Taiwan Strait, reiterating a message she delivered to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a high-stakes visit to Beijing earlier this month.

The EU, von der Leyen said, has “consistently called for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and we stand strongly against any unilateral change of the status quo, in particular by the use of force.”

Her comments, made before the European Parliament, highlight the distance between herself and French President Emmanuel Macron on the issue — a disagreement that recently jumped into the spotlight while the two were jointly traveling in China.

Toward the end of the trip, Macron suggested in an interview with POLITICO and the French daily Les Echos that Europe should be wary of getting drawn into a U.S.-China confrontation over Taiwan, remarks that came shortly after von der Leyen sent a stern warning to Beijing not to meddle in Taiwan affairs.

Von der Leyen on Tuesday reaffirmed that the EU is committed to the “One China policy.” The approach recognizes Beijing — which claims Taiwan as part of its territory — as the “sole legal government of China,” but still allows informal relations with Taiwan.

Von der Leyen’s speech to MEPs — part of a wider debate in the Parliament on China Tuesday — was her first opportunity to address the controversy since her joint visit with Macron to China, where the French president’s comments cast doubt over whether Europe would help the U.S. if Beijing was to invade Taiwan. The U.S., for its part, has pledged to defend the self-governing island.

In his interview with POLITICO and Les Echos, Macron said “the great risk” Europe faces is that it “gets caught up in crises that are not ours” — including Taiwan.

The French president’s remarks exposed the EU’s fissures on China and sparked a global backlash. The message was particularly poorly received in Eastern and Central European countries, which historically favor closer ties with the U.S.

Von der Leyen’s comments in her Tuesday speech echoed similar remarks recently from German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who sought to distance herself from Macron during her own visit to China last week.

A “unilateral and violent change in the status quo would not be acceptable to us as Europeans,” Baerbock said, adding that any military escalation would be a “horror scenario for the entire world.”

In her Tuesday speech, von der Leyen highlighted the need for an EU-wide approach to relations with Beijing.

“I believe we can — and we must — carve out our own distinct European approach that also leaves space for us to cooperate with other partners, too,” she said, reiterating her previous calls to update the bloc’s China strategy, noting that both the EU and China have changed since the bloc last agreed on a strategy in 2019.

Earlier on Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who postponed a trip to Beijing last week after contracting COVID-19,  stressed the need for dialogue with China, noting that the EU had never explicitly defined China as a threat to its security as it had done with Russia.

“We have to keep talking to China,” he told MEPs at the opening of the session. “We can’t stop negotiating with China when it comes to trying to sort out the biggest problems in the world because China is not a democracy.”

Noting that China is the biggest creditor of emerging economies, he said, “We need to keep talking because of its massive influence in the world.”

But he also said that it was time to “recalibrate” the EU’s strategy on China, similarly citing the evolving global picture since 2019.

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