But underlying the conversations will be a single topic of importance: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and what it means for relations between China and the West. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression — and the West’s failure to prepare for it — has set off alarm bells in European capitals, where concerns are mounting over whether the Continent has gotten too cozy with yet another authoritarian country with the potential for bellicosity. There’s just one problem. Europe doesn’t have a clear idea of what to do about it.
“We will see at the April Fool’s Day Summit, whether the EU is already able to apply the Russia lessons learned recently to its China relations,” said Reinhard Bütikofer, a German Green party grandee and the chair of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with China.
Friday’s meetings between Chinese President Xi Jinping, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel will not produce a joint statement. The leaders do not plan to hold a joint press conference. EU officials have said there will be no deliverables. So for many China watchers, the real questions the summit will answer are: To what extent has Europe learned from its mistakes with Putin? And is it really going to start pushing back harder against Beijing?