Czech president: democratic world needs united approach towards China

By Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The European Union and other democracies need a united and realistic stance towards China because even the largest EU countries cannot play on equal terms with Beijing on their own, Czech President Petr Pavel said.

The EU has been attempting to strike a balance between the views of its 27 member countries and a desire to keep a distinctive EU approach to China, while also preserving a close partnership with the United States.

Speaking to Reuters in an interview, Pavel, 61, said China's actions amid the Ukraine war showed it was not a constructive player. European nations have criticised Beijing for its refusal to describe Russia's war in Ukraine as an invasion, or to call for a Russian withdrawal.

"We see that its strategic aims really are not compatible with ours, that values on which Chinese society is built are not and will not be our values," Pavel said.

"And if we are to be balanced in relation to China, we need to operate in a united way if possible, not only within the EU or Europe but with all democratic countries of the world."

While countries like Germany or France, whose leaders visited China in recent months, are trying to maintain and promote bilateral relations with China, only a united EU could be treated by Beijing as an equal partner, Pavel told Reuters.

"China is glad for any bilateral meeting obviously, for any chance to split the European countries or split Europe from the United States, that is why it is important to stress that we can succeed in our relations with China only in unity," he said.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller; Editing by Nick Macfie)