In Meeting With Xi, E.U. Leader Takes Tough Line on Ukraine War

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, put pressure Monday on China to help resolve the war in Ukraine, saying Beijing should “use all its influence on Russia to end its war of aggression against Ukraine.”

She spoke after accompanying President Emmanuel Macron of France in a meeting with Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, who began his first visit to Europe in five years on Sunday. Ms. von der Leyen has persistently taken a stronger line toward China than has Mr. Macron.

With President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia again suggesting he might be prepared to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine, she said Mr. Xi had played “an important role in de-escalating Russia’s irresponsible nuclear threats.” She was confident, Ms. von der Leyen said, that Mr. Xi would “continue to do so against the backdrop of ongoing nuclear threats by Russia.”

Whether her appeal would have any impact on Mr. Xi was unclear, and describing the conflict as Russia’s “war of aggression” in Ukraine seemed likely to irk the Chinese leader. Beijing has forged a “no limits” friendship with Russia and provided Moscow with critical support for its military effort, including jet fighter parts, microchips and other dual-use equipment.

“More effort is needed to curtail delivery of dual-use goods to Russia that find their way to the battlefield,” Ms. von der Leyen said of China. “And given the existential nature of the threats stemming from this war for both Ukraine and Europe, this does affect E.U.-China relations.”

It is relatively unusual for a top European official to describe the war in Ukraine as an “existential threat” to the European continent. Doing so may reflect Mr. Putin’s renewed talk of the use of nuclear weapons.

Ms. von der Leyen also took a firm line on trade. Tensions are high between the 27-nation European Union and China over fast-growing imports of electric vehicles and other goods. Excess, and often heavily subsidized, manufacturing combined with weak domestic demand have led to a big export push from China.

“These subsidized products, such as electric vehicles or, for example, steel, are flooding the European market,” Ms. von der Leyen said. “At the same time China continues to massively support its manufacturing sector, and this is combined with domestic demand that is not increasing.”

“The world,” she declared, “cannot absorb China’s surplus production.”

The war in Ukraine, and the consequent need to make a sharp adjustment in procurement of energy as most of the continent stopped buying from Russia, has put great pressure on European economies. Inflation has risen, and the fear that China could put companies out of business has risen along with it.

“Europe cannot accept market distorting practices that could lead to deindustrialization here at home,” Ms. von der Leyen said, adding that “Europe will not waver from making tough decisions needed to protect its economy and security.”

A little over a year ago, Ms. von der Leyen accompanied Mr. Macron on a visit to China, where the French leader was lavishly received. The visit ended with a Sino-French declaration of a “global strategic partnership” and the French leader echoed the Chinese lexicon of a “multipolar” world, freed of “blocs” and the “Cold War mentality.”

Ms. von der Leyen, however, warned at the time that “China has now turned the page on the era of ‘reform and opening’ and is moving into a new era of security and control.”

China’s aim, she said, was to become the world’s most powerful nation by midcentury and secure a “systemic change of the international order with China at its center.”

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