Europe Needs ‘Strong Sustainable’ Communication With China, German Foreign Minister Maas Says

Previously, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that Beijing’s immediate retaliation to 22 March sanctions created “a new atmosphere” and “new situation” for EU-China relations.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the European Union needs strong communication channels with Beijing, stressing that “de-coupling” is wrong.

Maas said China has been described “as a partner, competitor, and systemic rival at the same time” in the European Union.

“In all these three dimensions we need strong, sustainable communication channels with Beijing. De-coupling is the wrong way to go,” the foreign minister said ahead of a virtual meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

A woman wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus sits near a screen showing China and US flags as she listens to a speech by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Lanting Forum on bringing China-US relations back to the right track, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing on Monday, 22 February 2021

Tensions between China and the EU bubbled in March when the US, EU, UK, and Canada announced sanctions on several Chinese officials following allegations of human rights violations against the Xinjiang Uyghur Muslims, with purported abuses ranging from forced labour to mass detention in internment camps, and restrictions on religious freedoms.

China has repeatedly rejected the allegations, stressing that Uyghurs attend vocational education and training centres as part of a de-radicalisation programme seeking to integrate them into society.

Beijing responded with reciprocal sanctions, targeting 10 EU officials, five UK MPs, an academic, a lawyer, and four British entities, prohibiting them from doing business with China.

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