The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that instead of a red-carpet welcome from Germany, the other 26 EU member states and Brussels' top figures, Chinese President Xi Jinping will instead have to settle for a video conference with Merkel and the Presidents of the EU Commission and Council. "Obviously having a video call with just three leaders is a pretty lame consolation prize for China. We don't even know if there will be a final communiqué," said Steven Blockmans, acting director of the Centre for European Policy Studies.
Most long-term observers of EU-China relations agree that 2020 has been a bit of a disaster in that sphere. It hasn't just been China's initial poor handling of a pandemic that began in its borders that have damaged ties; Europe's most senior politicians have been forced to "think carefully about what kind of geopolitical actor China is trying to become," said an EU source.