The EU and China have been negotiating an investment agreement for seven years.
However, from the EU's point of view, key questions remain open.
The leaders of the EU demanded concessions from the government in Beijing.
"China must convince us that an investment agreement is worth it," said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after a video conference with China's head of state Xi Jinping.
On issues such as market access for EU companies, the government in Beijing must "move in order to achieve the common goal of finalizing the negotiations this year".
From a European perspective, the agreement is intended to improve the conditions for companies in the Chinese market.
China, on the other hand, has an interest in retaining its access to the European market.
The German EU Council Presidency actually wanted to pass the agreement at a large EU-China summit in Leipzig.
However, the meeting was canceled due to the corona pandemic.
Instead, von der Leyen as well as EU Council President Charles Michel and Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) held a video with Xi on behalf of the EU countries.
Von der Leyen then made it clear that "a great deal" still had to be done before the agreement was concluded.
The Brussels and Beijing negotiators are already agreed on three areas: the behavior of Chinese state-owned companies, the practice of forced technology transfers and the transparency of state aid for companies.
When it comes to market access, however, and especially in future sectors such as digital technologies, "we see that our investors still encounter too many barriers," said von der Leyen.
Other unanswered questions are climate protection or the overproduction of the Chinese economy in traditional sectors such as steel and aluminum production and in the high-tech sector.
Another point of contention is China's handling of the Uyghurs.
EU Council President Charles Michel said that they had asked for access for independent observers to the mostly Uyghur region of Xinjiang in northwest China.
According to human rights organizations, more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslims are held in detention camps in Xinjiang.
According to the activists, they are being forced to give up their religion, culture and language, and in some cases they are also mistreated.
The Beijing government rejects the allegations and speaks of "educational centers" that serve to fight Islamist radicalization.