China taps support from Poland, Serbia after frozen EU deal

BEIJING • China and the European Union are partners, not competitors, and cooperation will help both sides, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Polish counterpart as the Asian nation seeks support after an investment deal with the bloc was put on hold.

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said his country believes that a China-EU investment deal is beneficial for both sides, and the two should deal with disagreements properly, said a Chinese government statement last Saturday.

Mr Rau and the foreign ministers of Serbia, Hungary and Ireland are visiting China from Saturday to today following an invitation from Mr Wang.

European lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a resolution this month to withhold ratification of an investment agreement with China in response to sanctions against members of the bloc.

China retaliated against the United States, Britain and the EU over sanctions related to allegations of human rights abuses in the western region of Xinjiang.

The investment pact had been seen as proof of both Europe's independence from the US and China's ability to collaborate with American allies who adopt a more moderate approach.

Attitudes in several European capitals have grown less favourable towards China since the Covid-19 outbreak fuelled a range of diplomatic disputes.

China has waged a vigorous international campaign against the allegations related to Xinjiang, saying it is trying to fight terrorism and improve the livelihoods of minorities there.

Poland understands and respects China's legitimate rights and interests and would like to make active efforts for the healthy development of EU-China relations, the statement from the Chinese government cited Mr Rau as saying.

Poland also welcomes Chinese investment and will not adopt discriminatory measures against its companies, Mr Rau said, adding that the country is also willing to expand agricultural exports to China.

In the meeting with Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic, Mr Wang said China supports plans by its Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers to talk to Serbia on joint production in the European nation.

The two sides agreed to accelerate infrastructure and energy cooperation, including one project involving the Serbian section of the Budapest-Belgrade railway. The rail project is mostly financed by loans from China.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2021, with the headline 'China taps support from Poland, Serbia after frozen EU deal'. Subscribe