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China accused the European Union of "naked protectionist behaviour" on Thursday after Commission President Ursula von der Leyen launched an investigation into state subsidies for Chinese electric vehicles.
"China expresses its high concern and strong dissatisfaction" over the probe which "will have a negative impact on China-EU economic and trade relations," the commerce ministry said in a statement.
"China will pay close attention to the protectionist tendency and follow-up actions of the European side, and firmly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises," the statement said.
China’s reaction comes a day after von der Leyen announced in her annual State of the Union address that she would open an investigation into Chinese e-carmakers, accusing Beijing of "distorting" the European market.
The probe, which stems from months of pressure from France to clamp down on insurgent Chinese car manufacturers, could pave the way for the EU to impose additional taxes on Chinese vehicles.
But it also opens up European carmakers — most notably German brands which have a major presence in China — to retaliation from Beijing.
The probe will top the agenda at a high-level EU-China economic and trade dialogue being held on September 25, ahead of a bilateral summit later this year. The commerce ministry made no reference in its statement to the talks in Beijing, which EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis is due to attend.
Expropriation Bill: The Government can seize your property without paying you for it
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