However, China’s actions since the pandemic began did not lead to the conclusion that it is now time for Europe to cool down on China in Brussels.
Despite accusations of hiding the disease early, misinformation and controversial “masked diplomacy” are spreading – the Chinese government exported medical supplies, such as masks and gowns, when the virus hit Europe in hopes of gaining public relations. In some cases – a large number of people from both member states and EU institutions have told CNN that the outbreak is in fact reinforcing the fact that the relationship with China is more important than ever. These resources were not yet authorized to record about the policy to be adopted.
The logic looks like this: the current priorities of the EU are economically and strategically managing recovery from the coronavirus; being a serious geopolitical player; Strengthening the European economy; and being the world leader in the climate crisis.
In Brussels, it is accepted that each of the expanding relations with China is involved. Authorities believe China’s involvement is crucial if understanding the world virus and taking the right lessons from the epidemic. China’s enormous wealth and willingness to invest is a very attractive possibility to tackle EU economies. A good place to start is the world’s largest pollutant if the climate crisis is to be brought under control. And by following a careful path between the US and China, Europe is creating a unique role in the international scene that gives it diplomatic autonomy from Washington.
However, the pandemic also highlighted other issues that China’s European leaders are willing to ignore; these include the dominant imprisonment of one million Muslim Uyghurs, industrial espionage, and the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, in the western Xinjiangb region of the country. .
Inappropriately, this reminder came months before the EU and China are scheduled to meet at a center summit in September to strengthen future relations. Perhaps mercifully, Covid-19 postponed this meeting.
“Pandemic was a call for awakening for the member states, blinded by the glow of the Chinese state that was sleeping towards the Chinese summit in September,” said Steven Blockmans, head of the European Policy Research Center for foreign policy. Said. “Covering and spreading false information in Wuhan weakened China’s position on how reliable a partner can be for Europe.”
This places Europe in a narrow spot. On the one hand, he must contact Beijing; on the other hand, it should better acknowledge that China is a systemic competitor that cannot be fully trusted. For now, the EU remains committed to this position.
A senior European diplomat, who is not authorized to determine a position not accepted by the European Union, “We have a complex relationship with China, as required. Both partner and competitor.” Said.
Europe and China have grown even more in the past thirty years, as both sides find it impossible to ignore the appeal of the other’s economic power. Chinese currency seemed even more attractive to European economies, as China could grow after the economic collapse. Although cooperation with Beijing has always come along with disagreements on security risks and key issues of democracy, the benefit was largely worth it.
Although the EU sees its complex position on China as a diplomatic advantage, it puts complex issues at risk with the UK and the United States, two of its closest allies in the near future.
Last year, the Boris Johnson government controversially acknowledged that the Chinese telecom giant Huawei could make up 35% of Britain’s 5G infrastructure, despite the huge pressure from Washington.
At the time, the debate was about whether he left the British vulnerable to Chinese espionage. “From the UK perspective, 5G is no longer just a talk about managing risk, but part of a broader geopolitical issue,” said a former British Foreign Minister Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Said. Rifkind believes that China’s main foreign policy is “threatening those who do not comply with China’s view of how it should behave” and that governments cannot currently divorce their behavior against Covid, Hong Kong and Uighurs. “
The Huawei decision is currently under review, and a senior British official who is familiar with the review process told CNN “it is fair to say that it does not look good for Huawei”. The official was not allowed to speak on the record.
The UK also followed an extremely robust road in Hong Kong, saying that China will provide millions of Hong Kongers the road to citizenship as they prepare to implement a new and new national security law in the city.
Of course, this change in London is viewed as a huge win by the Chinese falcons in Washington, who have been turning the screws since 2016 under the guidance of President Donald Trump. And Britain is now on the corner, the US might be good, and should be encouraged to hit China harder.
“It will be difficult for the EU to ignore the US sanctions and twinning requests,” Blockmans said. Said. “Governments, [the US] the election is over. But if the next administration imposes secondary sanctions like Trump did with Iran, the EU will need to find new ways to maintain its autonomy in international relations. “
This autonomy is still incredibly valuable for the EU. “The EU has a clear willingness not to become an instrument of US diplomacy and not to find its own way of dealing with China,” the EU diplomat said. Said. However, the diplomat acknowledges that Brussels’ economy of the eurozone could not act with the same “naiveness” as it did after the Eurozone crisis, which welcomed both direct Chinese investment and the acquisition of failed companies – and Europe opened “markets that do not guarantee security, among other things. . “
Four EU officials admitted that they regret that they were not particularly ambitious about China. “We are the number one market in the world, and now we should use it as leverage when dealing with China,” said an EU diplomat who participated in Brussels’ foreign policy. Said.
Blockmans thinks they can go even further and use assets such as the EU’s only lucrative market and laws that control leverage in negotiations: “The Union should expand its global strategy and use international and EU law more adroitically to defend its interests, and and it is moving towards the USA. ”
All of this will become very complicated. After all, the EU’s international international goal continues to balance its relations between the U.S. and China with the risk of angering the latter, recognizing that it is a systemic opponent. This would be difficult for any world power to disappear. When you remember that the EU is made up of 27 member states, all of whom have an equal say in this regard, there is potential for explosion.
For now, all member states are roughly in the same place, agree that China’s participation is important, but more attention should be paid to the fact that China is a systemic rival.
However, a finger-pointing post-pandemic blame game in China could turn some states into larger falcons, while propaganda that spread a pro-Chinese narrative was effective in more Euroskeptic countries. Beijing has succeeded in choosing member states historically sympathetic to China, particularly the less wealthy Eastern European states and populist governments in Italy and Austria.
If thinking among member states is beginning to crumble in the coming months, large wigs in Brussels may need to freeze for a while.
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