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Xi tells Dutch PM Rutte 'no force can stop' China tech progress
Xi tells Dutch PM Rutte 'no force can stop' China tech progress
by AFP Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Mar 27, 2024

Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Wednesday told Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte that China's technological progress could not be held back, as they met in Beijing for talks on subjects including the crucial semiconductor industry.

Dutch chip-making machine supplier ASML is one of the world's leading manufacturers of equipment to make state-of-the-art semiconductors, used in everything from mobile phones to cars.

The sector has become a key battleground in recent years, with the United States and some European countries blocking exports of high-tech chip technology to China over fears of military use.

ASML announced this year that it had been blocked from exporting "a small number" of its advanced machines to China, amid reports of US pressure on the Dutch government.

"The Chinese people also have legitimate development rights, and no force can stop the pace of China's scientific and technological progress," Xi told Rutte on Wednesday according to state news agency Xinhua.

Xi added that "China will continue to pursue a win-win approach (and) open wider to the outside world at a high level".

"There is no way out for 'decoupling and breaking the chain,' and opening-up and cooperation are the only choice," Xinhua quoted him as saying.

Rutte told reporters at a press conference that he couldn't share details of what had been discussed around semiconductors.

"What I can tell you about our semiconductor sector and companies like ASML is that when we have to take measures that they are never aimed at one country specifically," he said.

"We always try to make sure that the impact is limited, it's not impacting the supply chain and therefore is not impacting, let's say, the overall economic relationship."

In January, ASML reported soaring profits for 2023, despite the growing threat of trade controls hampering its ability to operate in key overseas markets.

Meanwhile, there have also been concerns about Beijing's imposing of export controls on gallium and germanium -- two rare earth metals critical for the manufacture of semiconductors.

ASML has previously shrugged off the financial impact of the geopolitical headwinds, with top officials saying the firm is well-placed to weather the storm.

Rutte's comments came at the close of a two-day visit to Beijing, where he and Dutch Trade Minister Geoffrey van Leeuwen held talks with top Chinese leaders and visited with representatives from the European business community.

A readout provided by the Dutch government ahead of the visit said that key topics would include equal market access, opportunities for economic cooperation and the ongoing situations in Ukraine and the Middle East.

The Dutch prime minister -- regarded as a likely candidate for the next secretary-general of NATO -- said Wednesday that the Western military alliance did not come up in his discussions with Chinese leaders.

But on the war in Ukraine, Rutte said he urged China to use its influence with Russia to bring about peace.

Beijing, which has not condemned Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, has deepened its ties with Moscow in recent years, to the dismay of many European leaders.

"What I particularly tried to do today... in my conversations with (President Xi and Premier Li Qiang) is make clear that this is a direct security issue for us, because if Russia will be successful in Ukraine it will be a threat to the whole of Europe," said Rutte.

"It will make Russia more powerful, which is, by the way, also not in the interests of China.

"I also asked them to put their considerable weight... on Russia to influence the course of events," he added.

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