Analysis & Opinions - METRO U.N.

New Battleground? China-Europe vs. America-Europe

| May 15, 2019

The policies of the Trump Administration have produced an international alignment, which never existed before: China and Europe (EU) now find themselves on the same side in a global conflict where the American president attacks multilateralism, has withdrawn from major international trade agreements, has unilaterally imposed tariffs, and questioned the validity of the WTO.

The very country where previous administrations had labored hard to make China a “stakeholder” in a liberal trading order is now undermining its basic premises. Moreover, the US has withdrawn from other major agreements that it had co-negotiated with China and Europe: the Paris Accord on climate policy and the nuclear deal on Iran. Since both China and Europe have been on the receiving end of Trump’s punitive measures (besides a great deal of verbal assault), they have repeatedly asserted their shared belief in the multilateral order. Indeed, President Xi Jinping used a Davos Forum to present himself as the world’s major proponent of free trade.

But the convergence of Chinese and European interests remains partial. While both share an interest in an open global trading system, Europeans have growing misgivings about the way China abuses it to its own advantage: the subsidization of state-owned industries and services, the forced transfer of technology, the theft of intellectual property, or the lack of reciprocity in establishing companies. The recent strategic paper of the Federation of Industries of Germany, China’s main European trading partner, is an indicative example identifying these very problems while simultaneously expressing a strong desire to further develop the economic links with China in an interdependent global economy.

Europeans share these concerns about Chinese policies with the Trump Administration, but they profoundly disagree with its nationalist unilateralism and destructive style when dealing with them. Europe deplores the absence of a much more effective joint approach, cooperatively dealing with the problems of Chinese policies, including other like-minded countries such as Japan, thus forming a significantly stronger front.

While a Chinese-European alignment remains partial and is likely to change after Trump leaves the White House, the prognosis in the realm of geopolitics is quite different where European perceptions have shifted significantly. The rivalry between the US and a rising China, whose GNP will soon bypass America’s, will become the central relationship of global politics by later this century. Some argue it could even lead to war.

In the past, European thinking on security was dominated by concepts dating back to the Cold War, and China was almost exclusively viewed in a commercial context and to a limited degree under a human rights perspective. But now China is increasingly perceived as a growing challenge to security and democratic values. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is no longer considered only as a vehicle for more economic cooperation, but as an attempt to spread China’s global influence, to create dependence, and to undermine the unity of the EU by separately reaching out to East European members of the Union. For these reasons, the EU as a group did not join the Belt and Road Initiative (though some individual members did) and took a firm common stand on complaints concerning Chinese violations of fair trade rules during the last summit with China.

In a world in which the American-Chinese rivalry is becoming the central defining relationship, even a country as powerful as the US needs allies with which it shares interests and values, as does Europe. If one takes a long-term view, America and Europe will continue to need each other to uphold the norms of international law, to maintain an open world trading system, and to help democracy survive the challenge from authoritarian regimes.

  – Via the original publication source.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kaiser, Karl.“New Battleground? China-Europe vs. America-Europe.” METRO U.N., May 15, 2019.

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