China recognises that there are worries about its cooperation with central and eastern European countries, but is not seeking to undermine the European Union, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Friday ahead of a leaders’ summit in Bulgaria. China has courted central and eastern European states, including with annual summits, which has fed concern in western European capitals that Beijing is seeking to divide the continent, as well as complaints about Beijing’s push for control of joint investment projects. Speaking as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang gets ready to go to this year’s “16+1” summit between China and central and eastern European countries in Sofia next week, deputy foreign minister Wang Chao said he was aware of the concerns, and gave assurances of China’s support for European integration. “Certainly, there has been some worry recently in some European countries about the 16+1 cooperation,” Wang told a news briefing, adding that in central and eastern European nations this mechanism had been broadly welcomed. China rejects claims its summits with east European nations are divisive for the EU “A unified, stable, prosperous EU is in line with China’s basic interests. China’s position on this has never changed,” he said. “16+1 cooperation is open and transparent. We believe that promoting 16+1 cooperation and promoting China-Europe ties are not mutually exclusive.” While cooperating with central and eastern European countries, China respects the EU’s jurisdiction over trade, investment and other areas, and EU rules on government purchasing, Wang said. Is China using ‘divide and rule’ tactics to gain influence in Europe? Li will also be visiting Germany, where he will meet Chancellor Angela Merkel. China has sought to make common ground with the EU at a time when both are engaged in trade disputes with the United States. Although the EU shares many of the same concerns about China as Washington – over market access, intellectual property rights and forced technology transfers – it has not joined with the US in threatening punitive unilateral tariffs. EU presents (nearly) united front against China’s ‘unfair’ Belt and Road Initiative China and the EU will hold their own summit in Beijing in mid July. Wider EU-China summits have become more tense in recent years, with the past two meetings failing to produce a joint statement against a background of disagreements over the South China Sea and trade.