EU leaders meet China's Xi for summit with high stakes but low expectations

European leaders met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Thursday for talks dominated by divisions between the bloc and its largest economic partner over everything from trade to the war in Ukraine.

China and the EU have ramped up diplomatic engagement this year in an attempt to steer post-pandemic recovery and repair damaged ties, with a number of its commissioners visiting Beijing to restart high-level dialogue.

China's state news agency Xinhua reported Thursday morning that President Xi had kicked off talks with EU chiefs Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen in the capital.

The bloc says it hopes Thursday's meetings between the EU leaders and Beijing's top brass  —  their first in person in more than four years  —  will provide a chance to discuss areas of common interest such as climate change and health.

But they will also address more touchy topics, from human rights and Beijing's continued ties with Russia despite its war in Ukraine to the yawning trade gap between the two powers.

Von der Leyen warned this week that the bloc would "not tolerate" that imbalance indefinitely.

"We have tools to protect our market," she told AFP.

Beijing hit back on Wednesday, saying that the bloc's efforts to curb exports of sensitive tech to China while balancing trade didn't "make sense".

European officials have said repeatedly this year they aim to "derisk" their economic ties to China after the war in Ukraine exposed the continent's energy dependence on Russia.

'Zero trust'

Beijing's goal this week will be to "hinder or delay derisking at a minimum cost", Grzegorz Stec, an analyst at China-focused think tank MERICS, told a media briefing Wednesday.

Beijing will attempt...

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