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LIU Zuokui:EU should help to end Ukraine crisis

Liu Zuokui, senior research fellow at the Institute of European Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).   

The article was originally published in China Daily on March 28, 2022. The article has been authorized.    

MA XUEJING/CHINA DAILY

China's response to the Ukraine-Russia conflict has been different from those of the United States and the European Union, as a result speculation has been rife over what the three sides, respectively, stand to gain or lose from the crisis. 

The conflict, however, will leave a mark on China-EU relations as it has shaken up the European security structure and world order, and will have a huge impact on geopolitics. 

China has become an indirect victim of geopolitical conflicts and Western sanctions, although it has not taken sides in any conflict, including the Eurasian conflict. The Ukraine crisis, unstable supply chains, and increasing ideological and strategic confrontations engineered by the United States have caused serious damage to China's external environment and thus affected its development. 

On the other hand, the EU is mired in the Ukraine-Russia conflict and, according to some European leaders, is facing its worst crisis since the end of World War II. Indeed, the European bloc is feeling the impact of the conflict in many fields including economy, security, energy and finance. 

It also has to provide for more than 3 million Ukrainian refugees who have fled Ukraine, and ensure Eastern and Western Europe are not torn further apart due to the security threats. In short, the EU's strategic autonomy has taken another serious hit after the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The EU, in fact, is one of the biggest losers in the Ukraine-Russia conflictand perhaps that's why it wants peace, and hopes China would play an active role in promoting peace talks between the warring sides. 

Since the two sides agree on this issue, the scope of cooperation is high. But to work together to persuade Russia and Ukraine to end the conflict through peaceful talks, China and the EU should know the best way to bring the warring sides to the negotiation table is to prevent the US from further muddying the waters and deriving strategic and political capital from its geopolitical games in Eurasia. 

China does not want to jump into the trap of "democracy versus authoritarianism", and the EU should realize that the Joe Biden administration has not abandoned the "America First" strategy, and hegemonic interests always come first for the US. The result of the bungling of the US and the EU is that the former does not want to take much responsibility for the crisis but hopes the latter would clean up the mess. 

China sympathizes with the EU for the problems it is facing due to the Ukraine-Russia conflict. But the EU needs to understand that while China has always opposed any infringement on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries, it has also insisted that unilateral sanctions only worsen a situation and extraterritorial countries should not fish for profits by taking advantage of a country's security structure. 

The conflict erupted because Russia felt threatened by NATO's continued eastward expansion and squeezing of its security space. And Russia knows it is the US that is pulling NATO's strings because its intention is to weaken and strategically encircle Russiaand Chinaand maintain its global hegemony. 

China, too, is opposed to NATO's eastward expansion, as it is against geopolitical games and wary of the trans-Atlantic military alliance forces' increasing presence in the Asia-Pacific region, and believes it is NATO's next target. 

Only when the EU takes these factors into consideration can it realize that China does not want to change the world order; it just uses its own historical latitude and logic to differentiate between right and wrong. In fact, China is a supporter of the existing global free trade mechanism, because it has benefited from it. 

But China wants reforms in the US-centric international financial system and economic order, and hopes the EU will work with it to create an open, inclusive and universally beneficial global economic order. 

Close cooperation between China and the EU could be a driving force for global peace and development, as well as globalization. The two sides could also cooperate to prevent the emergence of parallel global markets and systems. But for that, the two economies have to ensure their relationship is not hijacked by the hegemonic power or derailed by the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Yet both sides should draw lessons from the conflict to clear their ideological misunderstandings, abandon the Cold War mentality, and jointly contribute to global economic recovery. 

To begin with, China and the EU should make serious efforts to prevent external forces from interfering in their cooperation, paving the way for both sides' leaders to hold successful talks, and promote the China-France-Germany dialogue and implement its agreements. 

The two sides should also lift the mutual sanctions sooner rather than later to create the right environment for the early ratification of the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, as the Ukraine crisis, among other things, has highlighted the importance of the strategic nature of China-EU cooperation and the need to preserve it. 

With the international environment having undergone unprecedented changes, China and the EU have become a key force for maintaining peace and promoting development, and supporting forces in building a community with a shared future for mankind. 

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