The foreign ministers of China and Germany have underscored the need for Brussels to engage rather than isolate Beijing as sanctions over alleged labour abuses in Xinjiang cast a shadow over a landmark investment agreement with the EU. The call for cooperation came during a video conference on Wednesday between German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Wang said China and Germany should ensure the stability of global industrial and supply chains and resist decoupling, according to a statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry. “China does not approve of division based on ideology and engaging in new collective confrontations. It is even more opposed to engaging in ‘small cliques’, advocating a ‘new cold war’, and even arbitrarily imposing unilateral sanctions based on false information,” Wang was quoted as saying. “China and Germany should jointly be defenders of multilateralism and contributors to global development.” Before the meeting, Maas stressed the need for strong communication with Beijing. “In the European Union, we have been describing China as a partner, competitor and systemic rival at the same time,” he said. “Decoupling is the wrong way to go.” The meeting comes just weeks after China was hit by a round of coordinated sanctions from the United States, the EU, Britain and Canada over reports of forced labour in the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang, accusations that Beijing rejects. Those reports prompted calls from some European lawmakers to scrap the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, which China and the European Union reached in December but have still to ratify. At the time, Beijing described the agreement as a showcase of China-Europe cooperation. Prospects for engagement between the EU and China are also clouded by the departure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel , who has been a leading advocate of better relations with Beijing and will step down this year. In the last two weeks, Merkel has spoken twice to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Official government readouts from Germany and China indicate that the agenda did not include possible sanctions on German officials or issues such as Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan or Huawei – Europe’s biggest talking points on China. On Wednesday, Wang said ties between China and Germany remained stable, benefiting both China and Europe, and the two countries should embark on a fresh round of high-level exchanges as soon as possible. “China and Germany must always grasp the important principles and valuable experience of mutual respect,” he was quoted as saying. Wang said China and Germany should cooperate on 5G technology, clean energy, public health and digital economy. “We hope Germany can be opened to China, and remove the export restrictions on high technology to China, creating a fair, open and non-discriminatory operation environment to Chinese businesses in Germany,” he said.