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Shift from earlier differences to more common ground seen, expert says

Giving a much-needed boost to solidarity and strategic communication between Beijing and Brussels amid the global economic downturn and geopolitical changes will be high on the agenda during the upcoming visit to China by European Union leader Charles Michel, officials and experts said.

At the invitation of President Xi Jinping, Michel, president of the European Council, will pay a visit to China on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying announced on Monday.

This will be the first official meeting between the leaders of China and the EU since the conclusion of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last month.

The two sides should use the visit to repair mutual trust, bolster mutual understanding in political and security areas, and contain the impulses of some European politicians who seek "decoupling" of the major economic engines, observers said.

During the visit, Xi will hold talks with Michel. In addition, Premier Li Keqiang, and Li Zhanshu, chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, will also meet with him.

"Leaders of the two sides will have an in-depth exchange of views on China-EU relations as well as international and regional issues of common concern," Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday.

China attaches great importance to developing relations with the EU, he said.

Beijing is "willing to strengthen strategic communication with the EU through this visit, build on consensus, and jointly advance the sustained, sound and stable development of China-EU relations so as to inject more stability into the complicated and turbulent international situation", Zhao added.

Last year, annual China-EU trade exceeded $800 billion for the first time, and cumulative two-way investment went beyond $270 billion. In the first eight months of this year, the EU's investment in China reached $7.45 billion, a year-on-year increase of 121.5 percent.

"The settled visit schedule displays a shared belief of both sides that China-EU ties need balance and should remain stable," said Cui Hongjian, director of the China Institute of International Studies' European studies department.

Although China-EU ties have been affected by differences in the past two years, the Ukraine crisis has prompted the EU to realize that aligning with Washington on all fronts does not serve its own interests, Cui said.

"Beijing and Brussels have started to shift from some earlier differences to more common ground," Cui added.

Michel's China visit comes in the wake of recent frequent interactions between the leaders of China and some major EU member countries, experts said.

"China's door is always open to the people who bear good faith and are willing to cooperate, to work with China," said Xue Xiaorong, an associate professor at Fudan University in Shanghai.

"Achieving strategic autonomy is the only path for the EU" if it wants to remain powerful in the changing multipolar world and maintain its global influence, Xue wrote in a recent online opinion article.

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