Chinese Foreign Minister plans Europe visit amid increasing tensions over Ukraine

Qin Gang's trip comes as EU reportedly proposes sanctions on Chinese companies supporting Russia’s war effort

Qin Gang, China's Foreign Minister, will this week visit France, Norway and Germany. Reuters
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China has announced its Foreign Minister Qin Gang will visit Germany, France and Norway this week amid increasing tensions over the war in Ukraine.

Mr Qin will be in Germany on Tuesday and in Norway on Friday. The French Foreign Ministry has yet to comment on his visit to France and China has not provided further details.

High-level meetings have intensified between China and European countries as the western governments try to convince Beijing to pressurise Russia to stop its war in Ukraine.

On a visit to Beijing last month, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock urged China to ask "the Russian aggressor to stop the war" and said "no other country has more influence on Russia".

During a visit to Beijing in March, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the situation in Ukraine would “be a determining factor for EU-China relations”.

Meanwhile, several media reports have suggested the European Union is considering imposing sanctions on Chinese companies supporting Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.

The European Commission, a staunch Ukraine ally, submitted a proposal to the bloc’s 27 countries that included imposing sanctions on seven Chinese companies, including some that have already been targeted by the US for selling equipment that can be used in weapons, the Financial Times reported.

Sanctions cannot be enforced without approval from all 27 member states. If agreed to, the measures would bar EU companies from dealing with the targeted entities.

The European Commission has declined to comment.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Monday said his country’s economic trade with Russia was “completely above board”.

“If the reports you mentioned are true, the EU’s actions will seriously undermine China-EU mutual trust and co-operation, and deepen division and confrontation in the world,” he said of the rumoured sanctions.

“It is highly dangerous. We urge the EU not to go on this wrong path, otherwise China will take firm actions to safeguard our legitimate and lawful interests.”

China has sought to portray itself as a neutral party in the war in Ukraine and has not condemned Russia’s invasion.

Many European officials view this position as ambivalent. Recent comments by China's ambassador to France questioning the sovereignty of ex-Soviet states were widely criticised.

A peace plan put forward by China for Ukraine has also been dismissed by Brussels officials, who highlighted Beijing and Moscow flaunting their “no-limits” friendship shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

Mr Qin's trip this week will not include a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who had to postpone a visit to China last month after contracting Covid 19, a commission representative said.

Mr Borrell will travel to Beijing "whenever the agenda will allow it", they said.

Updated: May 08, 2023, 7:52 PM