The European Union (EU) has stressed the need to “uphold a global, open, stable, peaceful and secure digital environment” following its latest talks with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He.
The comments came after Liu held a virtual meeting with European Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager on Thursday.
On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi unveiled Beijing’s “Initiative on Global Data Security” as an alternative to the “Clean Network” initiative proposed by the United States.
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While there was “no direct mention” of the Chinese initiative, Liu made reference to the “spirit” of it during his talks with Vestager, according to an EU official with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“This first high-level digital dialogue was held today in a constructive atmosphere,” Vestager said in a press statement after the meeting, adding that the two sides would “both play a role in defining how global technological developments will go forward”.
“The dialogue is therefore necessary to foster cooperation, but also to address divergences we have, like on reciprocity, data protection and fundamental rights,” she said.
In the same statement, the EU said the European Commission “presented its digital strategy and stressed its priorities to promote reciprocity, fair competition and fundamental rights” during an “open and frank” discussion “on topics where [our] approaches differ”, emphasising the broad gap between the digital policies of Beijing and Brussels.
“The EU underlined the need to uphold a global, open, stable, peaceful and secure digital environment,” it said.
The EU source said that while Liu did not make any specific commitments, he signalled Beijing would review its policies on product safety and research reciprocity, two of the EU’s main concerns.
“Liu gave the impression he took these [digital] concerns seriously and they were willing to make promises on concrete things, especially on product safety where there is room for the fastest progress,” the person said.
“On research and innovation, where the EU has put forward a road map to improve access to Chinese facilities, China promised to come back in a swift manner,” the source said.
Research reciprocity is a key concern for the EU as its labs are open to Chinese researchers even though Beijing does not afford the same privileges to European teams.
Another key area for the EU is the development of artificial intelligence, a field in which China is a key player, but its use and adherence to human rights causes concern to EU’s standards regulators.
Liu has played an increasingly prominent role in shaping the China-EU relationship. Thursday’s talks came after he held a virtual meeting on trade and investment with another executive vice-president of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis at the end of July.
Beijing has yet to release a statement on Liu’s meeting.
Meanwhile, the EU and Canada said they would continue to “stand up for our interests and values vis-à-vis China, including human rights and fundamental freedoms”, after a meeting between their foreign policy chiefs.
“The EU and Canada will continue to call on China to respect the rule of law and international governance standards, including on issues related to trade, investment, and science and technology,” they said in a joint press release.
The two sides also expressed “deep concern” about the continued arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Beijing’s use of the death penalty, its treatment of ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang and Tibet, and the situation in Hong Kong.
More from South China Morning Post:
- China-EU relations: Liu He set to promote Beijing’s global data security initiative at Thursday’s talks
- China slams US ‘bullying’ of tech firms, unveils data security initiative
- ‘Damage control’ at heart of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s mission to Europe
- Beijing’s envoy to EU says China and Europe face a choice ‘that could shape the world’s future’
This article China-EU relations: Liu He, Margrethe Vestager hold ‘constructive’ talks on global digital security first appeared on South China Morning Post