China continues its diplomatic push in Europe on Thursday with a high-level visit to the Netherlands where Vice President Han Zheng will be meeting the king and the prime minister — and facing questions about its relations with Russia and the European Union.
The visit comes amid difficult relations between China and the West. The 27-nation EU increasingly sees Beijing as a systemic rival on the global stage instead of an ally and economic partner.
Dutch King Willem Alexander received Han early on Thursday before Prime Minister Mark Rutte has political talks with the vice president in the afternoon. Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang has also travelled through Western Europe this week, meeting with his German and French counterparts.
On Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that Berlin wants to work in partnership with China “everywhere it’s possible” but that it would be naive to ignore the risk of ending up in a position of reliance, including on security issues. It is a view increasingly shared in the West.
The European Union is not specifically advocating decoupling from the economic and geopolitical giant but is proposing “de-risking” its relations to avoid becoming too dependent on China.
The EU, of which the Netherlands is a founding member, also wants Beijing to be more forceful in addressing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The visit comes amid diplomatic tensions around proposed new EU trade measures against countries that help the Kremlin to circumvent the bloc’s sanctions against Russia. The proposal sparked a warning from China that it would retaliate if targeted by such sanctions.