26.10.2021 Author: Vladimir Terehov

Europe at a Crossroads in its Relations with China


The always debatable category of political Europe refers primarily to the leading European countries, such as Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, and the representative structures and personalities of the European Union. The EU is currently under the influence of different kinds of internal and external disturbances (threatening the very existence of this Union), and the adequacy of the mentioned “personalities” to the emerging realities is questionable.

One often gets the impression that the latter’s aim (and of the EU as a whole) is to promote some strange “values” (called “European” for some reason) and a “green climate” agenda in the modern economy.

Let us confine to these explanations the category “Europe,” even though there are many other vital issues beyond their scope.

In the complex and controversial system of Sino-European relations, the successful conclusion of years of negotiations on a Comprehensive Agreement of Investment (CAI) at the very end of 2020 was a breakthrough. It took place during a video summit in which the interlocutors of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping were German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and top EU officials Charles Michel and Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen.

The expert assessments of the fact that Comprehensive Agreement on Investments has been reached and its content draw attention to several points. First, it is noted that this is the first document between the PRC and the EU on the economy (widely interpreted), the various components of which have been under negotiation for decades. Secondly, the trade sector was left outside the scope of this document. This is quite natural. So far, there have been no concrete results in the twenty-year process (launched after China acceded to the WTO in 2001) of giving the PRC’s economy the label of a market-oriented economy. The EU remains one of the main obstacles.

Finally, the authors of the aforementioned assessments correctly point out that the entire set of circumstances surrounding the CAI Agreement cannot be fully described by the well-known formula “business as usual,” because the category “politics” is evidently present. Along with this statement, memes about various kinds of violations by China (in the Xinjiang Uyghur and Tibet Autonomous Regions, Hong Kong) and its pressure on Taiwan are mainstreamed, and accusations in initiating the Covid-19 pandemic are made. Despite persistent “instructions” on these matters to Beijing, coming from Brussels and Washington, the former shows no desire to “mend” its ways.

Moreover, at the beginning of this summer, Europe and China exchanged blows (related to the mainstreaming of the first Uyghur-genocide theme) when sanctions were imposed on some individuals of the parties.

This switching of politics to business (incidentally, it also characterizes the EU relations with Russia) makes the prospect of CAI ratification uncertain. It is correct to say that it will depend on the development of the transformation of the political reality in general.

In any case, let us repeat that the very fact of the conclusion of the CAI in late 2020 was a milestone. Moreover, the Europeans undoubtedly took advantage of the pause in attention (related to the transfer of power in Washington) that their Big Brother was giving to matters in its foreign policy arena. This fact directly contradicted the common Western front against “new geopolitical challenges,” the sources of which are now appointed to be China and Russia.

However, the earlier propaganda machine associated with the same Chinese “violations” has sharply increased its momentum. And the swing of Europe’s political-economic preferences has once again moved towards Washington. At the May 20 session of the European Parliament, the ratification of the CAI was suspended, and its further prospect, to reiterate, remains unclear.

A month later, in Europe, during a week-long trip to the continent, the new American President Joe Biden became active, who has declared his intention to return the US to the world stage. It was evidenced by the adoption of several documents based on meetings with the leaders of allied countries and privileged foreign policy partners.

One such document was the Joint Statement signed on June 15 in Brussels (following the US-EU summit), which is seen as a basis for restoring and further strengthening the (seriously faltering) transatlantic relations.

The establishment of a bilateral EU-US Trade and Technology Council, which was the main outcome of the meeting of US and EU officials in Pittsburgh on September 29 this year, was an act of practical implementation of the course set in Brussels to strengthen the transatlantic relations. The adopted Joint Statement articulates the objectives, modalities, and main lines of work of the TTC.

A special emphasis in the document is placed on efforts to jointly develop cutting-edge technologies, first and foremost in the field of Artificial Intelligence. In Annexes III and V, the restrictions are formulated on access to the results of such works, the use of which will be available only to countries that share the same “values” and their economies meet the definition of the market-based. Again, the US and the EU believe that the PRC and Russia have serious problems with both.

China certainly understood the negative message implicitly addressed to it by this document, which was expressed in very general terms on the eve of the meeting in Pittsburgh by US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. In her view, the US and the EU should be concerned mainly with developing their own economies. China’s Global Times assessed these words as an effort to “slow down the innovative development” of the PRC by transatlantic allies.

It should be noted that while taking part in joint actions with the USA, the EU by no means ceases its policy of maintaining various contacts with China, which were held almost continuously during the whole summer. The most recent of them was the regular (the 11th in a row) Foreign Ministerial Dialogue on September 28, that is, with Wang Yi and Josep Borrell.

Of the three most important European countries outlined above, the PRC has always paid special attention to relations with the EU leader, Germany, which has so far been the least active in anti-China military and political provocations. Meanwhile, Germany is the main source of difficulty in Sino-European trade and economic relations. In particular, this applies to the problem of the Chinese economy obtaining market-oriented status (from the EU in general).

Of all the European leaders, Chancellor Angela Merkel has always been the most respected in Beijing, positioning herself as a kind of “guide” for China on its way to obtaining the very status of a “market-oriented” economy. The fact of Angela Merkel’s impending resignation as German Chancellor is assessed in Beijing with notable sorrow. Something will happen after the representatives from the Green Party, i.e., outright agents of the international globalist cabal, take their place in the German government.

Two other leading European powers, the UK and France are involved in provocative US military and political demonstrations vis-à-vis the PRC. What remains unclear is the motivation behind their behavior toward a potentially beneficial partner in the system of international relations.

For example, just five years ago, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, receiving the Chinese leader in his country, spoke of the coming Golden Age in Sino-British relations. Today, a British squadron led by the newest HM Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier is passing through the Taiwan Strait on its way home. This does not prevent Prime Minister Boris Johnson from welcoming possible Chinese investment into the British economy. Global Times has figuratively illustrated London’s bifurcated behavior in its relations with the PRC.

France is even more defiant. In addition to participation in military demonstrations against the PRC, it is also intensifying its support for one side in the Sino-Indian conflict. France’s involvement in the Taiwan problem is becoming increasingly visible.

Eastern European “grandees” (Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovakia) are not far behind, as they are also increasingly showing their “concerns” about the situation around Taiwan.

All this absurdity, conditioned by a demonstration of concern over some events happening on the other side of the globe, is progressing amid the backdrop of escalating various problems in Europe. Both Old Europeans and Young Europeans should deal with them in the first place. Before it’s too late.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.