EU Official Says China Trying to Exploit Division Within Europe, Member States Must Remain Unified

The European Union's foreign policy chief cautioned member states against allowing China to take advantage of diplomatic divisions between them in order to impose their "state-centric" stance.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, a Spanish politician, penned an article published in several European newspapers Friday that touted China as a "partner country," but warned the 27-nation bloc that it must "act jointly against superpowers." Borrell said member states must "maintain the necessary collective discipline" as China may look to take advantage of their nuanced views on diplomacy and governing amid the coronavirus pandemic. The EU has previously criticized Chinese government officials for promoting disinformation campaigns and distributing propaganda through a report China allegedly tried to block.

Borrell expressed his concern that the communist Beijing government has repeatedly made sure to "tell the world" about the aid they've provided to other countries, while the EU has avoided politicization of their own pandemic efforts.

"The change in the EU's relations with China has accelerated in different phases since the outbreak of Covid-19," Borrell wrote in the syndicated opinion piece. "When the hospitals in China were overloaded, the EU provided extensive support without making a fuss about it. Later, when Europe became the epicenter of the pandemic, China sent medical equipment on a large scale and made the world aware of it."

"The key point is that we should support each other and show international solidarity -- and the European Union has always shown how committed it is here -- but that we should avoid political capital from such help to beat," he continued.

In April, China sought to block a European Union report that alleged Beijing was purposefully spreading disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak in order to push blame away from their role in allowing COVID-19 to spreak outside its borders. As Reuters reported, Chinese officials were "very angry" that EU appeared to be appeasing Washington by echoing Trump's criticisms of the Chinese government.

Borrell's comments were published the same day that Chinese President Xi Jinping held a telephone conversation with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in which the Chinese leader affirmed they "support the United Nations and World Health Organization in fighting the pandemic." Xi told the EU member state leader the Chinese government stands "ready to work with all countries" to control the spread of COVID-19.

"The diverse #EU - #China Relationships are changing. We are partners, economic competitors and systemic rivals, and our cooperation must be based on trust and reciprocity," Borrell tweeted Friday, linking to the guest piece he wrote in the German Der Standard publication that featured a graffiti image of Xi and U.S. President Donald Trump kissing while wearing masks.

Borrell said trust and reciprocity will be needed moving forward in order to ensure EU-China relations do not become soured during and after the pandemic.

Meanwhile, a Reuters report published Saturday highlighted concerns over crowds of people in testing centers in Wuhan, China where the virus originated at the end of last year. Wuhan health authorities confirmed they'd seen the first new cluster of infections arise last week after emerging from lockdown on April 8.

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EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, a Spanish politician, penned an article published in several European newspapers Friday which touted China as a "partner country" but warned the 27-nation bloc it must "act jointly against superpowers." THIERRY MONASSE / Contributor/Getty Images