Earlier this month, Germany announced that a landmark summit between the European Union and China, planned for September in Leipzig, would be postponed. It was initially slated to be the first-ever meeting between China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and all 27 of his counterparts from EU member states. Officials had hoped to make progress at the meeting on a key investment treaty, but have now decided to delay it, ostensibly due to travel difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Many analysts aren’t buying that excuse, though. Relations between Europe and China have deteriorated of late in part because of a disinformation campaign waged by Beijing scorning European countries for their allegedly weak handling of the pandemic and obscuring China’s own lack of transparency about the virus. There are also fresh concerns about Beijing’s efforts to tighten its grip over Hong Kong. Against that backdrop, many observers saw little chance of any progress being made by September, especially on the investment pact and on efforts to increase cooperation on tackling climate change.
“There was no expectation of progress to speak of by September on the main issues of investment and climate,” Reinhard Butikofer, head of the European Parliament's delegation on China, recently told the German news service Deutsche Welle. “A summit without substance could easily have turned into an embarrassment.”