Wang Yi, China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister, began his European tour on Wednesday, visiting Greece, Serbia, Albania, and Italy. The four European destinations are all regional countries with close collaboration and long-standing relations with China, and the tour is likely to cement cooperation and manage disagreements amid recent European turbulence.
Wang’s first stop was on Wednesday in Athens, where he met with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias for long talks between the Chinese and Greek delegations, focusing on strengthening bilateral cooperation, particularly in commerce, investment, culture, and tourism.
Wang’s visits come at a time when the European Parliament just passed a resolution last week calling for increased contact with Taiwan, and Taiwan’s external affairs authority leader, Joseph Wu, is visiting Slovakia and the Czech Republic starting this week.
An economic delegation visited the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Lithuania in addition to Wu’s travels. Following a bilateral conflict since early this year, Lithuania declared in May that it will leave the 17+1 cooperation arrangement between China and Central and Eastern European countries (China-CEECs).
There will always be certain distinctions between China and Europe. However, when politicians focus on differences rather than common ground, those differences are amplified and appear to be the mainstream of relations, according to Cui, who also noted that it is urgent and necessary for China and Europe to properly manage differences, resolve misunderstandings, and stabilize and restore the healthy development of relations.
Though disputes over Taiwan are a stumbling block in China-Europe ties, to claim Wang’s travel is a reaction to Taiwan-related provocations understates the significance of the visit.
The four countries are old friends and major partners, cooperating with China on the Belt and Road Initiative. The visit will strengthen friendships and facilitate practical cooperation. The connection between China and Serbia, which grew significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Albania, where friendship overcame differences in history, culture, ideology, and political systems is something that should be considered.
Italy was the G7’s first proponent of the BRI, and the two countries work closely on epidemic control. Wang’s visit is meant to clear up misunderstandings and strengthen collaboration amid some anti-China sentiment in Italy. Prior to the G20 conference in Rome, the two countries are anticipated to coordinate.