Thus, the 24th “China-EU Summit” was held in Beijing on 7 December of this year, although two weeks earlier there was no absolute certainty that it would be held at all. Particularly, there was no sign of any work on a draft of a joint document, which is usually adopted at the end of such events. This reflects the increasing complexity of all aspects of China–European Union relations in recent years.
Therefore, we should note at once that the fact of holding this event is practically its only positive result. Coincidentally, the same was said in the NEO regarding the results of the US-China summit held three weeks earlier in San Francisco.
However, we would like to emphasize once again that given the present unsettling times, keeping the lines of communication between the main participants in the “Big World Game” functioning can already be regarded as a considerable positive.
We should also note again that Europeans have their own problems in relations with the PRC, mostly unrelated to the fact of the American presence on the continent. Or “occupation”, in the words of particularly exuberant propagandists.
Other “poles” that are emerging before our eyes have their own difficulties in relations with the Second World Power. Such as India or Japan, for example. The fact that some of these problems are similar in form and content in relation to the PRC is not necessarily due to the notorious “occupation”.
However one cannot completely deny the certain significance of the persisting (but already sunsetting) U.S. dominance on the world stage, in general, and in relations with allies, in particular. As a matter of fact, there are doubts about the accuracy of the frequent claims that a “multipolar” world order would be “better and just”. The two categories themselves are totally unclear.
As an example demonstrating the negative impact of the “U.S. factor” on China-Europe relations, let us refer to the mishap three years earlier with the bilateral Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI). Brussels decided to sign this (extremely favourable for both sides) document, as they call it, “without fanfare” of internal tough struggles that were taking place in the territory of the “big brother” in connection with the just completed general elections.
But Washington quickly came to its senses and, having looked around, discovered that just at that time the European ally had managed to sign a certain bilateral document with China. The reaction was as expected: “We, without regard to our own life, are fighting against the common main enemy, and you are flirting with him”. Therefore, six months after the signing of the CAI, Brussels had to put it on hold and urgently concern itself with the fate of the Uyghurs “forced by the Beijing Communists to work on cotton plantations”. It should be noted that this was mainly to the benefit of the former.
However, there are more and more signs that in Europe there is growing dissatisfaction with the “overreaching” Brussels bureaucracy. Recently, the auto giant Volkswagen, which has long had a branch in XUAR (where the above-mentioned Uyghurs work), “sent” it a number of letters from the German alphabet. This can be seen as a kind of response to the above-mentioned claims of Brussels.
Coincidentally, it is not only the Europeans who are engaged in maneuvers behind the back of the “big brother”, but also a key Asian ally, Japan. NEO recently recalled Tokyo’s attempts to establish (also “stealthily”) relations with the DPRK ten years ago. During that time, the government of the late Shinzo Abe spent almost two years “dragging its feet” (under various pretexts) in joining anti-Russian sanctions in connection with the developing “Ukrainian crisis”.
In this regard, the Obama administration not-so-subtly hinted that the U.S. did not need to be involved in a potential conflict between Japan and China “over some” Senkaku islands. Trump, who succeeded him, sent a message to the key Asian ally that if you behave badly (primarily in trade with the United States), we will stop “occupying” you altogether. And this was just a “punch in the stomach” that discouraged Tokyo (however, not for a very long time) from being very quick to sneak around behind its “big brother’s” back.
So don’t portray Washington’s main allies as simple-minded innocent sheep “under American oppression and occupation”. They’re a bunch of crooks. Moreover, they are much more experienced than Washington’s.
It should be noted that the author does not in any case estimate these or those events in the camp of the RF’s current opponents in the categories of “good-bad” and is only trying to understand what and why it is happening there. All the more so because, in addition to the factor of uncertainty of the above categories (no less than the two previously mentioned), it is pointless to do this at all in a country that still lacks any clear, specifically formulated goal-setting of its state functioning.
If this problem is taken seriously, it cannot be ruled out that in the end, some of the current “quite obvious” goal-setting will end up as “idiots’ dreams”. For instance, the popular perspective of “the collapse of the United States” or “winning the war” with this country. Which incidentally, the RF is still in a state of (more or less) normal diplomatic relations. Let us also recall the 1:15 ratio of economic potential.
As for the difficulties in China-European relations, as the NEO previously noted, the main one is in the sphere of bilateral trade and economic relations. First of all, we are talking about the deficit of the EU’s trade balance with the PRC, which is increasing year by year and at a rapid pace. According to the data of the Statistical Office of the EU, in the period 2018-2022, it increased from €155 billion to a simply astronomical amount of €400 billion. It should be noted that these figures are one and a half times higher (to the worse for the EU) than the data of the Chinese Customs Administration, which were used by Bloomberg in an analytical article on the current state of China-European relations.
In other words, the EU’s trade deficit with China has already exceeded even the (recently hard-to-imagine) trade deficit of the U.S. with China. Therefore, we would like to note once again that the “trade and economic” factor in general has long (and mainly) been at the heart of the difficulties in US-China relations. It is rather overlaid with political turmoil caused by Washington’s scaremongering about the “Chinese threat”. This, in turn, appears as one of the arguments for imposing various kinds of restrictions on the same sphere of trade and economic relations with China.
Not in such a harsh form, but the same factor of the need to “ensure security” (in particular, by “reducing risks”) when building similar relations with Beijing has recently appeared in Brussels’ rhetoric. Although in the past, other bad words, such as “shopping” (“buying up” by China of European advanced production facilities) and “dumping” were most often used to characterize China’s behaviour on international markets.
As far as one can understand, this last word was implicitly present at the negotiations discussed in Beijing between top Brussels officials Charles Michel and Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen and the Chinese leadership, represented by its leader Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang. In particular, the comments of this meeting mention the alleged claims of the former to the latter regarding the situation in trade in such Chinese goods as solar panels, electric cars and batteries for them, as well as some others.
The validity of such claims requires a professional and expert opinion. Here, based on the most general ideas, we will only point out the presence of the high competitiveness problem of Chinese goods of such an objective factor as cheaper labour, some types of “raw materials” and electricity in the PRC. So “malicious actions of the Chinese Communists” have nothing to do with it.
But most importantly, Beijing is willing to solve the problems that arise in its relations with all three main elements of the notorious “West,” namely Washington, Brussels (as well as the main European capitals), and Tokyo. Within the framework of the general strategy of “openness to the outside world,” almost everything possible is being done to facilitate the presence of all of Beijing’s current geopolitical opponents in the Chinese economy. Among them, of course, a special role is given to relations with Europe, which was once again emphasized by a representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on the occasion of the summit just held in Beijing.
The response of the Europeans can be described by the well-known proverb “Honey is sweet, but the bee stings”. In this regard, the fact of “non-renewal”, meaning Italy’s withdrawal from the key Chinese project Belt and Road Initiative, where Rome was an exception among other G7 members, was representative. The said procedure was accomplished somehow shamefully and imperceptibly, in other words, more in a “British” than in an “Italian” manner.
It seems that for a long time, Europeans’ policy on China will be in line with the above-mentioned proverb.
Vladimir Terekhov, an expert on the problems of the Asia-Pacific region, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.