Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to Germany in September for a historic meeting with all EU national leaders has been postponed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said on Wednesday.
The delay, attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic, came a week after China’s National People’s Congress approved plans for a controversial Hong Kong national security law. It was announced after Merkel made phone calls with Xi and European Council President Charles Michel.
It also comes amid the EU’s growing calls to be more assertive to China’s geopolitical power, laying out plans to stop foreign entities – a nuanced reference to Chinese companies – potentially taking over struggling European counterparts during a post-pandemic economic crisis.
“The three sides emphasised the importance of this plan,” said Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert.
“They agreed that, given the overall pandemic situation, the meeting cannot take place at the scheduled time, but should be rescheduled. The details should be agreed upon soon,” he said.
But Xi boosted momentum for cooperation in the phone call, saying China was willing to work with Germany to support the World Health Organisation – which US President Donald Trump said he planned to leave.
Xi said the long-term prospects for China’s economic development were still positive, and China was committed to continuing to open up its market for foreign investors.
“China will continue to create a favourable environment for German businesses to invest,” he was quoted by as saying Xinhua.
Noting that Germany was due to take over the presidency of the European Union, Xi said Berlin could further push forward the relationship between China and Europe.
“China is willing to strengthen strategic cooperation with Germany and Europe, supporting multilateralism and handling global challenges,” he said.
China would ensure close communication with both Germany and Europe, he said.
Merkel had previously snubbed Trump’s plan to host the forthcoming G7 summit in Washington in June, also citing the pandemic.
Europe is currently grappling with plans to reopen social activities amid the need to balance both economic and medical considerations.
Merkel initially hoped to use the event to persuade Xi to agree to a long overdue EU-China investment agreement, sources said.
The EU has hoped that China would remove barriers for European companies operating in China against the unfair advantage in favour of state-owned enterprises.
The latest round of negotiations took place late last month, but according to the EU’s description, there was still no breakthrough on the topic of such state-backed enterprises.
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This article Xi Jinping’s September meeting with EU leaders in Germany postponed due to coronavirus first appeared on South China Morning Post