EU in search of a place in the confrontation between America and China


EU in search of a place in the confrontation between America and China

As the rivalry between the United States and China intensifies, the prospect of a split of the world into two warring trade and economic camps becomes more and more real. Such a development of events can put almost every state or interstate association in the world before the need to “choose a side.” Would the European Union be in a particularly difficult situation in this case?


By now, China has already turned into the second economy of the world. And also in one of the global technology leaders. The boom in the economy strengthens Beijing’s political position in the world. However, the concentration of all power in the hands of one party frightens the West, which sees China as “a threat to the liberal world order.” In this context, the US trade war with China is seen only as an echo of the “struggle for world domination.” China is a problem the West has not “seen” before. It is possible that he still “does not even clearly distinguish its contours,” says an American expert on the pages of the French Le Figaro. Analysts on both sides of the Atlantic agree that Europe’s role in the growing confrontation is “dangerous.”





The divergence of the EU and US positions on many international issues began long before Trump. However, it was the current head of the White House who demonstrated the depth of disagreement. The priority of his National Security Strategy, he proclaimed the competition of powers on the principle of “all against all.” The existing world order with the collective West at the head is the source of a number of the most serious problems for the United States. Such doctrinal views of the head of the White House make Europeans even more doubt in America’s readiness to continue to adhere to their allied commitments unchanged. The most far-sighted politicians in the EU are forced to admit that the current situation is turning Europe into America’s hostage in security matters. Objectively hinders the strengthening of the independence of the EU, even in the affairs of the continent, not to mention the world.

In relation to the United States, the EU’s main task remains to develop a response on all four fronts of the “geopolitical attack” by Trump: Iran, trade, defense, and migration policy. However, there is a split among the EU member states on many issues, individual countries are not able to compete with the American economy, and Europe as a whole is critically dependent on the United States in the defense sphere. As a result, Europeans still cannot agree on how tough it is to respond to Trump's policies. And even the leading European economy, Germany, recognizes the problem of the dependence of many firms on the provision of loans by banks, which, in turn, are mostly refinanced in the United States.

At the same time, the EU and the United States retain a mutual interest in resolving the problem of “dishonest actions” in Beijing. This is an escalation of allegations against China of intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, industrial subsidies and market distortions created by state-owned companies and overstocking. There is also a general security concern. NATO, which first mentioned China in a declaration following a summit last December, is “suspiciously” observing the PLA’s presence in the Mediterranean and the Baltic. “If China invests more and more in the ports and infrastructure of Europe, it will have the opportunity in an emergency to block the movement of troops. This is what should alert NATO, ”says German Handelsblatt.

Over the past years, when the US has become increasingly self-contained, the common agenda of Europe and China has expanded markedly. Europeans and the Chinese have clearly demonstrated similar approaches to global trade and climate change policies. In response to the protectionist strategy put forward by the US president under the slogan "America First", China seeks to present itself as a supporter of openness and free trade, at least on a Eurasian scale. Beijing is working to expand the agenda in relation to Europe, including common value orientations. For example, both the EU and China prefer to solve international problems within the framework of multilateral institutions. Both partners are not enthusiastic about the unilateral actions of the United States. China and Europe are also brought together by Trump's sharp accusations against both world economic centers of artificially restricting US imports and currency manipulation. China demonstrated its readiness, in the event of a weakening of the transatlantic ties, to fill the vacuum immediately without delay.





At the same time, it seems that the scale and depth of rapprochement between the EU and China have objective limits. Firstly, a number of serious political disagreements remain, in particular, on such an important topic for Europe as human rights. Europeans' concern is still relevant about the significant imbalance in trade and economic relations, the restrictions for European companies operating in China. Finally, one of the main reasons for the current rapprochement between Brussels and Beijing is the political course of the current US President Trump.

Under the influence of all these circumstances, the EU has gradually tightened control over Chinese investment, especially in the high-tech sector and infrastructure. During the high-level consultations held in 2019, Europeans, who used the factor of strengthening the trade war between the United States and China, managed to achieve certain concessions from Beijing in terms of access of their companies and goods to the Chinese market. However, it is unclear whether Western experts state whether Europe is capable of exerting real pressure on China if the latter does not fulfill its obligations.

In general, by the beginning of last year, the EU’s policy in relations with Washington and Beijing was its own version of the game in the world, where any two parties can always agree. Or refuse almost any agreement. A favorite tactic of European politicians and diplomats was bluffing. Which, on the one hand, was supposed to level the Trump tactics of “escalation — receiving concessions”. On the other hand, the lack of political and economic “leverage” in the conversation with Beijing. As a result, in Washington, the European Commission supported the United States against the PRC. And in Beijing, she showed an “understanding” of the position of China in trade disputes with America.

The United States quickly made it clear that such a situation categorically did not suit them. “Europe’s neutrality is not acceptable: if Europe, in the event of an escalation of Shina-US rivalry, tries to stay away, the Americans will rightly conclude that NATO has ceased to be useful and will leave the alliance,” emphasizes Foreign Policy.

From across the ocean, Europe offers two possible scenarios for the future. The first one is tougher. Europe takes the brunt of its own security. And the United States remains in NATO, but only as of the “last line of defense.” In exchange, Europe takes a firm pro-American stance against the PRC, especially in protecting technology important to national security. And the second, softer. Europe needs to recognize the “problem of rising China” and develop its own approach to it. Greater coordination is needed between Europeans and Americans in countering Beijing. However, complete unanimity is unattainable. The main thing is that Europe can protect its “economic and technological sovereignty.” The most important goal of Europe on the way to the implementation of this strategy, the achievement of “unity and autonomy.”





An alternative, from the point of view of traditional Euro-Atlantic elites, is the final “collapse of the West as a unity of countries committed to liberal democratic values”. The report dedicated to the opening of the next international security conference in Munich was dedicated to this topic. “We are witnesses to the” collapse of the West “as a relatively cohesive geopolitical configuration,” the report said. “The world is becoming less and less western. But more importantly, the West itself is becoming less western. ”

And indeed, by the beginning of this year, the situation for the European Union has become even more confused. The UK exits from the community have become a fait accompli. This markedly weakened, first of all, the geopolitical potential of the EU. And Germany, which has been criticized a lot for its reluctance to “face the geopolitical truth”, including the “lack of plan B” in case Americans leave Europe, is in the midst of a political crisis. Skeptics even believe that Europe is “strategic ... bare and unviable alone.” Will there be room for “unity and autonomy” in the European Union?

During the same Munich conference, EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell stated: “We need gradual steps towards rejecting the principle of unanimity in the Community’s foreign policy... Otherwise, paralysis will come. ” And the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, is no longer as categorical as in 2018 regarding the need for Europe to create a “counterbalance” to America in world affairs. “In the future, we ourselves will have to do more for our security, however, I consider it wrong to oppose Europe and the USA. We are part of the defense alliance — we are talking about NATO — and it works. ” Regarding the possible mediating role of Europeans in the geopolitical clash between Washington and Beijing, Maas advocated a “single EU position on trade and security,” based on “existing values.” At the same time, the words of Maas Deutsche Welle conveys, the interests of both Washington and Beijing should be taken into account.

Current global trends pose the subjects of international relations, claiming to be an independent center of influence, with a difficult choice: to aim at creating their own order, integrate with others and fight for an adequate position within a new collective order or try to fence themselves off from changes. Europe is indeed in an increasingly difficult situation.

The United States requires certainty at the level of political and even legal obligations. Threatening, in the event of a refusal, to completely dismantle the entire old order of relations, for decades relieving Europeans of the need to make independent, but difficult and costly decisions in every sense. In turn, the rapid economic and technological rise of China by its very fact pushes Europeans towards a definite goal-setting: does Europe want to trade and exchange technologies with a possible future leader in many important areas of scientific and technological progress? Ultimately, whether the Old World wants to maintain the position of one of the most advanced socioeconomic regions of the world.


With any development of events, Europe will have to bear the burden of responsibility. And also significantly higher costs than before. In words, the leaders of the continent are still showing interest in a multi-polar model of the international system. But in order not to be “crushed” in the confrontation between Washington and Beijing, Europe is very likely to abandon attempts to return “everything as it was before”.

Author: Sandra Brown
Views: 95

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