EU rings alarm bell on China — but isn’t sure how to respond – POLITICO

This is not the kind of talk China wants to have in Brussels – let alone on the verge of extending the reign of President Xi Jinping.

Just a day before the Communist Party Congress ends on Saturday and essentially names Xi China’s leader for life, EU leaders formally began a collective rethink of the bloc’s increasingly strained relationship with China, showing a sense of urgency not seen before Russia’s war against Ukraine. .

In a three-hour conversation, the 27 EU leaders, one by one, took the floor at the European Council meeting in Brussels to express their growing concern.

But while the diagnosis was unanimous—Beijing has become increasingly bellicose both militarily and economically as it moves closer to a belligerent Russia—the recommended treatments have been disparate.

Some have equated the situation with the EU’s misinterpretation of its relationship with Russia. Others shied away from the direct parallel, but still called for the EU to reduce its dependence on China’s technology and raw materials. Then there were those – including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz – who insisted that the EU must remain a beacon of global trade, even with China.

The varied views reflect the difficulties the EU will face in the coming years as China moves from threatened to imminent threat.

“We must not repeat the fact that we have been indifferent, indulgent, superficial in our relations with Russia,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi implored in a closing press conference, echoing the message many leaders offered during the discussion.

“Those that look like business connections,” he added, “are part of a general direction of the Chinese system, so they should be treated as such.”

Also Read :  Food: The curry powder conundrum

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo echoed Draghi’s sense of alarm.

“In the past, I think we’ve been a bit too complacent as European countries,” he told reporters. “In some areas, [China is] a competitor — is a fierce competitor. On some domains, we also see that they have hostile behavior. … We should understand that in many economic areas it is also geostrategic.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen went further and gave Xi a personal thumbs down.

“We’re seeing a pretty big acceleration of trends and tensions,” she said. “We have seen President Xi continue to reaffirm the very assertive and autonomous course that China has taken.”

Even the generally pro-Beijing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán agreed that the EU should become more “autonomous” during the discussion, according to another EU diplomat.

And German Chancellor Olaf Scholz – who is planning a trip to China next month and is set to become the first Western leader to welcome Xi as the newly-renamed leader – has also warned his fellow EU leaders about the future economic of Beijing, according to a senior diplomat informed. of the conversation without the phone.

Scholz told fellow leaders that China could be the source of the world’s next financial crisis, with the country at risk of falling into what economists call a middle-income trap, according to the diplomat.

However, while everyone was eager to have a say in their concerns about China, they were divided on how to address those concerns.

Also Read :  As temperatures plummet, IRC warns of winter hardships faced by refugees across Europe - World

The Baltic states, whose years of warnings about Russia’s vindictive intentions have fallen on deaf ears in much of Europe, are promoting a tougher approach to China.

“The more threats they face with Russia, the less interested they are in working with China,” one diplomat said, referring to the Baltic states.

Lithuania, for example, became the target of China’s trade embargo after it began building closer economic ties with Taiwan. Earlier this year, Estonia and Latvia followed Lithuania’s move to leave Beijing’s 17+1 economic club, which they criticize as a Chinese attempt to divide EU countries.

Instead, Scholz continued to defend Germany’s need to trade with China, despite the geopolitical changes at play. Borrowing some Trump-era rhetoric, he flatly rejected the notion of “decoupling.”

“The EU prides itself on being a union interested in global trade and not on the side of those who promote deglobalisation,” he said.

Just this week, Scholz reportedly backed a deal by Chinese shipping giant Cosco to acquire a stake in the port of Hamburg – despite strong opposition from within his own government.

Asked about the port deal in a press conference, Scholz said only that “nothing has been decided yet”, adding that “many questions” remained to be clarified.

Possible frustration over Scholz’s trip to China — to which he plans to bring a business delegation — was also reflected in the meeting of EU leaders, albeit implicitly. Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, for example, said that China is “best dealt with when we are 27, not when we are … one on one”.

Also Read :  Xi's overseas trip demonstrates China's commitment to global growth, governance

Furthermore, as has always been the case, EU countries are at odds over how closely to align with the US’s more anti-China stance, especially after President Joe Biden’s administration characterized China as “the most pressing geopolitical challenge importance of his country”.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, while backing calls to collaborate with the US on technology development, warned of the Americanization of Europe in managing relations with China: “It is important that Europe operates as self-confidently as possible, but also independently and that there is equality and reciprocity, so that we are not some kind of extension of America, but have our own policy towards China.”

Meanwhile, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin called on the EU to work with all democracies against China’s rise in technology.

“We should not build such strategic and critical dependencies on authoritarian countries,” she said when asked about the EU’s concerns about China. “We would need it in the future [to] work with other democratic countries also to build this type of export routes together with [the] The United States, with Great Britain, with Japan, with South Korea, Australia, India, New Zealand, for example.”

Hans von der Burchard and Barbara Moens contributed reporting.

This article is part of POLITICO Pro

The unique solution for policy professionals that combines the depth of POLITICO journalism with the power of technology

Exclusive, breaking news and information

Personalized policy information platform

A high-level public affairs network


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.