European Union Undergoing a Comprehensive Transformation of China Policy

Commentary The European Union (EU) has made substantial changes in China policy, and the European Parliament further outlined a new EU strategy on China on September 16. This new EU strategy on China aims at continuing talks with the Chinese regime about global challenges like climate change and health crises while raising concerns over the regime’s human rights violations. The EU member states have also reached a consensus to resist the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and to sanction the CCP through political, economic, and diplomatic strategies. Moreover, the EU aligns with democracies, such as the United States and Japan that share common values, to counter the threats and challenges posed by the CCP. Upheaval in EU-China Relations In 2020, the Chinese regime and the United States entered a new cold war and the regime wooed the EU with multiple tactics. China became the EU’s largest trading partner for the first time, signed the EU-China Geographical Indications Agreement, established two high-level dialogue mechanisms on environment and climate as well as digital cooperation, and completed EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) negotiations. Despite Beijing’s efforts, the EU has prominently changed its China policy in five aspects since 2021. First, the EU sanctions the CCP for human rights violations. The EU imposed sanctions on four Xinjiang high-ranking officials and one entity on March 22. The sanctions were its first bid to punish the Chinese regime for large-scale human rights abuses since the Tiananmen Square massacre and may symbolize a tactical act to express its stance to the United States. The CCP however imposed tit-for-tat sanctions on eight members of the European Parliament, two scholars, and four entities, including two institutions of the European Parliament. The sanctions war between the two sides escalated. The European Parliament further froze the ratification of the EU-China CAI, which has defeated the CCP’s major economic united front efforts. Second, the EU adopted economic countermeasures. The EU has taken a firmer stand against the CCP. On May 5, the EU announced a plan to reduce dependency on China and other foreign suppliers in six strategic areas, including raw materials, pharmaceutical ingredients, and semiconductors. According to Reuters, the 19-page draft mentioned that Europe relies on Chinese supplies for half of 137 strategically sensitive products. The EU is also working on a regulation to prevent foreign subsidies, which provide their recipients with an unfair advantage, from acquiring EU companies and participating in public procurements in the EU, particularly the unfair competition from the CCP. Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Margrethe Vestager said, “Openness of the Single Market is our biggest asset. But openness requires fairness.” She also said in a statement on the Commission’s proposal,” It’s not fair on European workers and consumers if subsidies drive the best companies from the market. And it has to stop.” Third, the EU confronted China’s “One Belt, One Road.” On July 12, the Brussels meeting of the 27-member EU foreign ministers approved the launch of “A Globally Connected Europe” strategy to build a European-centric global infrastructure construction network. The EU will implement this strategy in 2022, which will boost competitiveness, diversify value chains, and reduce strategic dependencies for the EU. Although the document does not mention China, an EU diplomat who participated in the drafting of the document said that it had “China written all over it,” according to Reuters. Fourth, the EU supported Lithuania against pressure from the CCP. Since the establishment of Lithuania-China diplomatic relations in 1991, the ties between the two sides have steadily developed. Since 2019, however, Lithuania has condemned the CCP regarding the Hong Kong National Security Law, protests of Hong Kong people against the Hong Kong government’s attempts to amend the extradition law, and Xinjiang genocide. On May 22, 2021, Lithuania withdrew from the CCP-led “17+1” platform, which the CCP officially launched in April 2012 to intensify cooperation with 12 European Union members and five Balkan countries. Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, speaks about exchanging representative offices with Lithuania during a press briefing in Taipei, Taiwan, on July 20, 2021. (Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP Video/AP) On July 20, Lithuania announced that it will exchange representative offices with Taiwan. The CCP retaliated by recalling its envoy to Lithuania and forcing Lithuania to recall its ambassador to China. It was the first time that an EU member state recalled an ambassador to China. Lithuania-China relations do go sour. The EU voiced support for Lithuania’s stand-off with China. EU Foreign ministers met on Sept. 3 to discuss the CCP issue for the first time since the sanctions war, and the European Parliament memb

European Union Undergoing a Comprehensive Transformation of China Policy

Commentary

The European Union (EU) has made substantial changes in China policy, and the European Parliament further outlined a new EU strategy on China on September 16.

This new EU strategy on China aims at continuing talks with the Chinese regime about global challenges like climate change and health crises while raising concerns over the regime’s human rights violations. The EU member states have also reached a consensus to resist the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and to sanction the CCP through political, economic, and diplomatic strategies. Moreover, the EU aligns with democracies, such as the United States and Japan that share common values, to counter the threats and challenges posed by the CCP.

Upheaval in EU-China Relations

In 2020, the Chinese regime and the United States entered a new cold war and the regime wooed the EU with multiple tactics. China became the EU’s largest trading partner for the first time, signed the EU-China Geographical Indications Agreement, established two high-level dialogue mechanisms on environment and climate as well as digital cooperation, and completed EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) negotiations.

Despite Beijing’s efforts, the EU has prominently changed its China policy in five aspects since 2021.

First, the EU sanctions the CCP for human rights violations. The EU imposed sanctions on four Xinjiang high-ranking officials and one entity on March 22. The sanctions were its first bid to punish the Chinese regime for large-scale human rights abuses since the Tiananmen Square massacre and may symbolize a tactical act to express its stance to the United States. The CCP however imposed tit-for-tat sanctions on eight members of the European Parliament, two scholars, and four entities, including two institutions of the European Parliament. The sanctions war between the two sides escalated. The European Parliament further froze the ratification of the EU-China CAI, which has defeated the CCP’s major economic united front efforts.

Second, the EU adopted economic countermeasures. The EU has taken a firmer stand against the CCP. On May 5, the EU announced a plan to reduce dependency on China and other foreign suppliers in six strategic areas, including raw materials, pharmaceutical ingredients, and semiconductors. According to Reuters, the 19-page draft mentioned that Europe relies on Chinese supplies for half of 137 strategically sensitive products.

The EU is also working on a regulation to prevent foreign subsidies, which provide their recipients with an unfair advantage, from acquiring EU companies and participating in public procurements in the EU, particularly the unfair competition from the CCP.

Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Margrethe Vestager said, “Openness of the Single Market is our biggest asset. But openness requires fairness.” She also said in a statement on the Commission’s proposal,” It’s not fair on European workers and consumers if subsidies drive the best companies from the market. And it has to stop.”

Third, the EU confronted China’s “One Belt, One Road.” On July 12, the Brussels meeting of the 27-member EU foreign ministers approved the launch of “A Globally Connected Europe” strategy to build a European-centric global infrastructure construction network. The EU will implement this strategy in 2022, which will boost competitiveness, diversify value chains, and reduce strategic dependencies for the EU.

Although the document does not mention China, an EU diplomat who participated in the drafting of the document said that it had “China written all over it,” according to Reuters.

Fourth, the EU supported Lithuania against pressure from the CCP. Since the establishment of Lithuania-China diplomatic relations in 1991, the ties between the two sides have steadily developed. Since 2019, however, Lithuania has condemned the CCP regarding the Hong Kong National Security Law, protests of Hong Kong people against the Hong Kong government’s attempts to amend the extradition law, and Xinjiang genocide. On May 22, 2021, Lithuania withdrew from the CCP-led “17+1” platform, which the CCP officially launched in April 2012 to intensify cooperation with 12 European Union members and five Balkan countries.

Epoch Times Photo
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, speaks about exchanging representative offices with Lithuania during a press briefing in Taipei, Taiwan, on July 20, 2021. (Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP Video/AP)

On July 20, Lithuania announced that it will exchange representative offices with Taiwan. The CCP retaliated by recalling its envoy to Lithuania and forcing Lithuania to recall its ambassador to China.

It was the first time that an EU member state recalled an ambassador to China. Lithuania-China relations do go sour.

The EU voiced support for Lithuania’s stand-off with China. EU Foreign ministers met on Sept. 3 to discuss the CCP issue for the first time since the sanctions war, and the European Parliament members wrote an open letter on the same day, expressing their solidarity with Lithuania against the CCP.

Fifth, the EU enhanced EU-Taiwan ties. On Sept.1, the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs passed the first report on “EU-Taiwan political relations and cooperation,” calling on the EU to “upgrade EU-Taiwan political relations” and recommending that the EU “changes the name of the European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan to ‘European Union Office in Taipei.’” It also “strongly advocates for Taiwan’s full participation as an observer in meetings, mechanisms, and activities of international bodies.”

Europe, US, and Japan Coordinate to Counter the CCP

The EU, or some of its member states, have also coordinated with the United States and Japan to address the CCP threats.

On March 24, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell. Blinken and Borrell also issued a joint statement after the meeting, announcing the launch of the EU-U.S. dialogue on China to discuss the full range of related challenges and opportunities.

On March 30, a group of 14 nations, including some EU member states, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, Japan, and South Korea, voiced shared concerns over the latest World Health Organization (WHO) report on the origin of the CCP virus (also known as novel coronavirus).

On July 19, the United States joined by the EU, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and a representative of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) accused the Chinese regime of global cyberattacks, including breaching Microsoft email systems in March. It was the first time that the 30-nation NATO alliance condemned the Chinese regime for cyberattacks.

The EU and allies curbed the CCP’s ambitions in the Taiwan Strait and the CCP’s systematic security challenges to the West via signing the G7 (Group of Seven) Leaders’ Summit Communiqué, NATO Summit Communiqué, and EU-U.S. Summit statement. The EU also launched a high-level EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council (TTC) and Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative—a values-driven, high-standard, and transparent infrastructure partnership led by major democracies to help narrow the $40 plus trillion infrastructure needed in the developing world.

In terms of military cooperation, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and NATO allies sent warships to the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific region to conduct “freedom of navigation” operations amid Beijing’s growing territorial ambitions.

Epoch Times Photo
The HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, which will head to the Indo-Pacific region for her first operational deployment, leaves Portsmouth Naval Base on the south coast of England, on May 1, 2021, (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The UK announced a permanent deployment of two warships in the Asia-Pacific region. On September 6, the strike group of the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier arrived in Japan.

France is stepping up its display of military force in the Asia-Pacific. For example, France carried out a three-day joint naval drill in the Indian Ocean with the United States, Japan, India, and Australia. Afterward, France held joint maneuvers with India and the United Arab Emirates in the Western Indian Ocean. On the evening of August 11, a French FS Provence frigate berthed in waters off the west coast of Taiwan’s Changhua County.

This summer, Germany sent a warship to Asia for the first time in two decades. The frigate Bayern set off for Indo-Pacific regions to participate in joint training and surveillance activities in waters near Japan and the Korean Peninsula.

The EU has substantially changed its China policy. The EU member states have reached a consensus to confront the CCP. Moreover, the EU, the United States, Japan, and other nations with shared values form the democracies coalition to jointly address the intimidation and challenges posed by the CCP.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Wang He has master’s degrees in law and history, and has studied the international communist movement. He was a university lecturer and an executive of a large private firm in China. Wang now lives in North America and has published commentaries on China’s current affairs and politics since 2017.