Useful information about China's political relations and human rights matters. 

Political Relations

The EU and China hold regular bilateral discussions and an annual Strategic Dialogue to discuss bilateral relations with a focus on foreign and security policy, at the level of the High Representative/Vice President on the EU side, and the State Councillor for Foreign Affairs on the Chinese side. On a day-to-day basis, the EU Delegation in Beijing works closely together with Member States Embassies to defend EU interests and values and engage with Chinese counterparts to implement concrete results.

The EU aims to reinforce its engagement with China on foreign policy and security issues and will continue to:

  • Encourage China to mobilise its diplomatic and other resources to support international security; contribute to peace and security in the EU's neighbourhood in line with international law.
  • Ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in the East and South China Seas; settle disputes peacefully and in accordance with the rule of law.
  • Seek common ground with China on disarmament, non-proliferation, counter-terrorism and cyberspace. 
  • Explore opportunities for establishing trilateral cooperation with China to support development, capacity-building, and peacekeeping operations in developing countries.

In addition, the EU continues to explore ways how to advance relations through connectivity, infrastructure, trade, digital, and people-to-people connections between Europe and China. Recently, the European Council approved a new geostrategic and global approach to connectivity. The Council Conclusions build on the 2018 Joint Communication and Council Conclusions, “Connecting Europe and Asia – building blocks for an EU Strategy”. They reaffirm the same basic principle, namely that connectivity should be sustainable, comprehensive, and rules-based. The new approach highlights the importance of connectivity for economic growth, security and resilience. Better connectivity would contribute to the diversification of value chains, reduce strategic dependencies and boost competitiveness for the EU and its partners. In line with their UN and G20 commitments, the strategy navigates the EU to find practical ways to engage China in accepting new responsibilities.

In April 2021, the Council adopted Council Conclusions on the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. This demonstrates the EU’s recognition of the growing importance of the region and its commitment to reinforcing its role in cooperation with its partners there. This renewed commitment to the region is inclusive of all partners wishing to cooperate with the EU. The strategy is deliberately pragmatic, flexible and multi-faceted, allowing the EU to adapt and build its cooperation according to specific policy areas where partners can find common ground based on shared principles, values or mutual interest.

Human Rights

The EU adheres to international rules and norms, and respect for human rights as set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Principles of Engagement set out in the strategy state that:

"The EU's external action is governed by the principles which have inspired its own creation: democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for the principles of the UN Charter and international law. These principles are reflected in the Chinese constitution and in the international instruments that China has signed. The protection of human rights will continue to be a core part of the EU's engagement with China. The EU believes that treating human beings with dignity and respect is essential if citizens are to fulfill themselves and flourish creatively, and is good for the stability and security of Chinese society and the world order.”

The EU is committed to promoting the universality of human rights and to improving the human rights situation in China in an active and sustained way. In doing so, constructive dialogue and outreach remain the European Union's preferred means of action.

The EU and China discuss human rights during high-level dialogues and under a dedicated Human Rights Dialogue. The EU-China Human Rights Dialogue was established in 1995 and has been meeting ever since. However, travel restrictions imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic have created a new set of challenges to the continuation of this dialogue.

Notwithstanding the significant differences between the EU and China concerning human rights, both sides are committed, as agreed in the EU-China 2020 Agenda, to engaging on these issues and to conducting open and frank discussions. The Human Rights Dialogue allows the two sides to convey their concerns about issues such as the rule of law, freedom of expressionfreedom of religion and belief, freedom of assembly and association, the death penalty, prevention of torture, the situation of human rights defenders, the rights of persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities, social integration and other issues relating to social, cultural, civil and political rights.

The dialogue, together with public diplomacy and outreach efforts by the EU and its Member States, has contributed to some positive results. The EU is determined to continue to work with China, building on China's own Human Rights Action Plan, to promote respect for international human rights obligations.

The EU is committed to using its co-operation programmes to promote human rights in China. In this regard, it supports a number of projects to promote the universal values of human rights in China, including through projects specifically funded under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). It also supports seminars and other activities that allow European and Chinese experts to exchange views and experiences.