Hopes that China will ride to the rescue of the single currency were dealt a blow last night after Beijing warned that it will not be Europe’s ‘saviour’.
State-run news agency Xinhua said the country cannot ‘provide a cure for the European malaise’.
It came after European officials begged China for bailout funds to help protect large economies such as Italy and Spain from financial ruin.
The decision to ask China for cash was seen as a watershed moment in the shift of economic power from West to East.
Opponents of French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the move was ‘shocking’.
Socialist party leader Martine Aubry said: ‘By turning to the Chinese, the Europeans are showing they are weak. The response should have been European.’
In an English-language commentary, Xinhua said China could not stand by while its largest trading partner foundered.
‘Beijing’s good-will gesture is a good response to those who see China as a threatening rival to Europe,’ it wrote.
‘Despite differences in politics, economy and culture, China and the EU are still good friends and partners.
‘However, amid such an unprecedented crisis in Europe, China can neither take up the role as a saviour to the Europeans, nor provide a “cure” for the European malaise.
‘Obviously, it is up to the European countries themselves to tackle their financial problems. But China can do within its capacity to help as a friend.’
Such commentaries offer an insight into government thinking, even if they do not reflect official policy.
Klaus Regling, the head of the European Financial Stability Facility, was dispatched to China last week after the EU unveiled its plan to rescue Greece, shore up the banking system, and increase the size of the bailout fund.
It was hoped that China may pump around £60billion into the fund, which is expected to be boosted to 1trillion euro (£877billion). But after a series of meetings, Mr Regling admitted there will be no quick deal with China.
China’s pile of around £2trillion in foreign exchange reserves is the biggest in the world and keeps growing.
Analysts estimate that China holds about a quarter of its foreign exchange in euro assets and there are few other places for it to park investments of such a scale
A prominent member of Mr Sarkozy’s centre-right party, former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, said that making a stand against China was pointless.
‘We cannot go it alone. China has taken over the baton and become banker to the world. That’s the new deal of the 21st century,’ he said.
Mr Sarkozy was also criticised by Left-wing political opponents in France who claimed his enthusiasm for a deal with China showed ‘European weakness’.
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