BEIJING/BRUSSELS, Nov 8 (Reuters) – Chinese authorities behind a major trade show in Shanghai pulled an opening ceremony address from the president of the European Council that was set to condemn Russia’s “illegal war” in Ukraine and its ‘called for a reduced dependence of EU trade on China. , diplomats said.
The pre-recorded video by Charles Michel was meant to be one of many from world leaders and heads of international organizations, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the opening of the China International Import Expo (CIIE) on Friday, three people said. European diplomat to Reuters.
The diplomats, who cannot be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, told Reuters they were surprised the speech had been removed.
“President Michel was invited to address the 5th Hongqiao/CIIE Forum in Shanghai,” Barend Leyts, a spokesman for Michel, told Reuters. “As requested by the Chinese authorities, we did indeed provide a pre-recorded message that was not ultimately shown. We have addressed this through the normal diplomatic channels.”
Neither of the expo’s co-organizers, China’s commerce ministry and the Shanghai municipal government, responded to Reuters requests for comment. A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry denied awareness of the issue.
“I do not know the relevant situation,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at a regular briefing in Beijing on Tuesday. “I cannot comment on this.”
Other dignitaries who spoke at the ceremony after Xi included the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, the director general of the World Trade Organization and the presidents of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Belarus, according to the expo’s official website.
Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus is a loyal ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his country has hosted thousands of Russian troops before and during Moscow’s so-called “special operation” in Ukraine.
FOCUS ON RUSSIA AND TRADE
The speech of the President of the European Council was to be highly critical of “Russia’s illegal war against Ukraine” and he says that Europe is learning “important lessons” from it, according to excerpts from the address given by EU diplomats.
Europe was too dependent on Russia for fossil fuels, which led to a trade imbalance, Michel said.
“In Europe, we want balance in our trade relations… to avoid over-dependencies,” according to the diplomats who were aware of what he had to say. “This is also true of our trade relationship with China.”
Michel also had to ask China to do more to end the bloodshed in Ukraine.
China has consistently refused to condemn the Russian offensive, which has devastated cities across Ukraine and killed thousands of soldiers and civilians since it began on February 24.
“China has a role to play in using its influence to stop Russia’s brutal war … through your so-called “borderless” partnership with Russia,” Michel said, referring to an agreement announced by Xi and Putin in Beijing before war broke out. “You, China, can help end this.”
Both Xi and Michel are expected to attend the Group of Twenty (G20) heads of state summit in Bali next Tuesday and Wednesday.
The president of the European Council is one of the top officials in the European Union whose role includes representing the bloc at international summits and at bilateral summits with other heads of state.
Since 2019, the EU has officially viewed China as a partner, an economic competitor and a systemic competitor.
The EU’s foreign policy service said in a paper last month that Beijing should now be seen primarily as a challenger promoting “an alternative vision of the world order”.
Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels; Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Beijing; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Gareth Jones
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