Saturday, December 4, 2021

Beijing warns of ‘a little bit shaky’ ties with Europe in wake of visa rule change

A day after the European Union suspended visa-free travel to China, Beijing warned Friday that relations between Beijing and Brussels had always been “a little bit shaky.”

But the Chinese Commerce Ministry was also upbeat about preliminary negotiations on a new free trade deal with the bloc.

“Europe and China have an important strategic partnership, and I believe there is an enormous scope of improvement that can be achieved,” said Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Commerce.

Hua’s remarks came a day after the European Union said it would limit Chinese citizens’ travel to Europe because of Beijing’s policies to limit emigration.

Visitors from Europe can now travel to or live in all member states without a visa, but the visa-free status is suspended for three months in accordance with EU regulations. EU citizens were exempt from visas when they traveled to China for business purposes.

“Every country has the right to protect its own security and its own interests,” Hua said. “The situation as before is that China-Europe relations have always been a little bit shaky. … I think in view of today’s development, I believe China-Europe relations can overcome any difficulties that may occur.”

The government suspended visa-free travel earlier this month due to Beijing’s restrictions on emigration from China.

The suspension was announced after revelations about Beijing’s systemic meddling in European politics.

“It’s clear that what’s involved here is political interference in the functioning of European political life,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Thursday.

Hua said the decision, while understandable, amounted to a misunderstanding of China’s regulations.

“We’ve repeatedly pointed out that the Chinese government strictly enforces its laws. It strictly applies all rules and regulations related to its people and its freedom,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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