Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president

China’s top diplomat conducted his first European tour last week in an effort to pull the EU from Washington’s orbit by stressing how these countries would be badly damaged economically if they take the U.S.’s zero-sum game approach to diplomatic relations with Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang did not identify the U.S. by name but blasted countries that are intent on waging a new “Cold War” through economy-killing sanctions.

“These are the real risks that need to be taken seriously. If this new ‘Cold War’ is fought, not only the interests of China will be harmed, but Europe’s interests will also be sacrificed,” he said.

He also addressed a crowd in Berlin and took issue with European countries that are following the U.S. blindly and are attempting to “get rid of China” in their effort to de-risk—or what Qin referred to as an attempt to “de-China.”

He said these countries risk losing out on stability and development if they take an extreme approach to China. Tensions have increased between China and much of the West over Beijing’s refusal to condemn Russia over the Ukraine invasion and trade issues. These countries also accuse China of escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, sent out a paper to member states that Europe faces challenges over Beijing’s effort to reshape the world order, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“The EU needs to be prepared for scenarios in which tensions increase significantly. The EU must engage with China—and the U.S.—in maintaining the status quo and de-escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait,” Borrell said in the letter, according to the paper.

The paper called on countries to de-risk and reduce overdependence on China to “ensure predictability and transparency in our economic and trade relations, while promoting a secure, rules-based approach.”

Borrell said some of his concerns pertaining to China are the “hardening of U.S.-China competition,” the rise of “nationalism and ideology” in the country, and China’s rise as a key regional and global player.

The paper, which was called an External Action Service document, noted that Borrell’s warning came shortly after Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said Beijing aims to “position itself at the center of a new world order.”

Indeed, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in April and solidified plans to work more closely in the future and “expand trade and balance in world geopolitics,” which was seen as the Global South’s latest rejection of U.S. hegemony. 

TRENDPOST: The Trends Journal has reported extensively on China’s effort to outmaneuver the U.S. on the world stage. (See “THE BOTTOM LINE: FRANCE’S MACRON’S PUSHING CLOSER TO CHINA AND AWAY FROM U.S.” 18 Apr 2023, “CHINA’S CEASEFIRE PITCH IN UKRAINE DENOUNCED BY THE WEST AS PRO-RUSSIAN SABOTAGE” 28 Feb 2023, and “BYE, BYE USA: SAUDI’S SHIFTING EAST” 4 Apr 2023.)

The Biden administration is pushing for European countries to take a more assertive stance against China amid tensions between Beijing and Taiwan. Washington has been providing intelligence with European countries warning that China is considering providing Russia with arms in its war with Ukraine, Politico reported.  

The Bottom Line

But there has been a clear divide in the bloc, with France and Germany striking a more pragmatic approach to Beijing. 

“The Europeans have already experienced deep economic trauma because of cutting off Russia. They cannot imagine cutting off China,” Heather Conley, a former State Department official overseeing European and Eurasian Affairs in the George W. Bush administration, told Politico. 

French President Emmanuel Macron sent shockwaves through Washington when he announced last month that France was not a “vassal” of the U.S.

Macron essentially repeated China’s pitch and said it is dangerous for Europe to be used as a chess piece between two superpowers. 

France is one of the largest exporters of luxury retail items and China is buying up a third of the luxury goods (prior to the COVID War).

Macron and much of the world know that the Chinese market of 1.4 billion people is a “must” to sell to. Therefore, it is not about war or peace, vassal or no vassal with Macron. It is about shoring up and building up the export to China foundation.

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, has been vague on his policy vis-à-vis China. 

“Rivalry and competition on China’s part have increased without a doubt,” he said last week. “The EU is aware of this development and is reacting accordingly. I agree with Ursula von der Leyen: We should not aim for a decoupling, but a smart de-risking.”

Scholz’s comments were similar to Borrell’s paper that read, “Coordination with the United States will remain essential. However, the EU should not subscribe to an idea of a zero-sum game whereby there can only be one winner, in a binary contest between the U.S. and China.”

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