China’s top diplomat will visit Europe next week, days after the foreign minister finishes his tour of the region, as Beijing seeks to boost engagement in the EU
Yang Jiechi, director of the Communist Party’s foreign affairs office, will travel to Greece and Spain, according to the two SCMP diplomatic sources. He is also expected to help lay the groundwork for President Xi Jinping’s upcoming special summit with European Union leaders in mid-September.
Yang’s trip highlights the growing strategic importance of Europe as rivalry between China and the US intensifies. It follows Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s five-nation visit. After stops in Italy and the Netherlands, Wang was in Norway on Thursday. He will also travel to France and Germany, finishing his trip on Tuesday – days before Yang is expected to arrive.
“Clearly, Yang is much closer to Xi [than Wang is] and is the highest foreign policy representative, so [his trip] means a lot,” said Mikko Huotari, executive director of the Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies. “This double effort [by Wang and Yang] is to my knowledge quite unprecedented. The timing is clearly to make sure that Europe is a strategic partner for China.”