China’s Diplomatic Gambit Amid Economic Downturn and Geopolitical Challenges

CommentaryChinese leader Xi Jinping completed a high-profile visit to Europe on May 9, visiting France, Serbia, and Hungary. Given China’s current economic downturn and diplomatic challenges, seeking diplomatic breakthroughs is crucial to overcome these obstacles. On May 11, panelists on NTD’s Chinese-language program “Pinnacle View” analyzed the purpose and goals of Xi’s visit.A United EUAccording to Du Wen, a Chinese legal scholar living in Belgium, China’s strategy towards the EU has been to bypass it and establish closer political and economic ties with key member states. The goal is to break the current deadlock between China and the EU. If Xi could make significant political concessions in France, it would help Xi achieve his goal of dividing the EU and pursuing his multipolar vision.“However, France did not fall for this strategy,” he said. “President Emmanuel Macron invited EU President Ursula von der Leyen to meet Xi Jinping before their meeting, turning France’s diplomatic victory into an EU-wide one. Macron clarified that France would not bypass the EU to reach any major diplomatic agreements with China, refusing to sacrifice EU unity.”Guo Jun, editor-in-chief of the Epoch Times Hong Kong edition, believes that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has designated the United States as an enemy since former CCP leader Jiang Zemin’s era. The CCP’s goal has been to align with Russia, court Japan, Canada, and Australia, and divide Europe to counter the United States. While China has achieved alignment with Russia, its attempts to court Japan, Canada, and the UK have failed. Now, its only remaining option is to divide Europe.Ms. Guo said that the CCP’s strategy towards the EU has three potential outcomes. First, the CCP wishes to rupture EU-U.S. relations and gain global support for China, which is unlikely to succeed. Second, it seeks for the EU to remain neutral, not supporting either the U.S. or China, which is also improbable. Third, the CCP seeks to divide Europe and exploit differences among EU member states. If China can gain support from a few countries, it could hinder unified strategic decision-making within the EU. Given the EU’s unanimity principle, even one dissenting state can block resolutions and bills.Choosing Between Russia and the EU MarketMr. Du believes that China’s support for Russia and its dumping of excess capacity into the EU are core components of its competitive tactics. Mr. Macron, representing the EU, emphasized the EU’s strong and clear demands, which are economic benefits, values preservation, and security assurance. This contradicts with the CCP’s support for Russia and its unethical trade practices.He explained that Xi did refrain from directly supporting Russia’s military industry but remained silent on the issue of dumping goods. His primary motive for compromising on support for Russia lies in maintaining China’s ability to export excess capacity to the West. This export strategy sustains China’s economy and fundamentally weakens the West. Xi understands that supporting Russia further in the war is likely a lost cause. His compromise on issues related to the EU’s security is intended to preserve China’s position in the European market.Related Stories“The most significant conflict between China and the EU lies in value differences, especially regarding human rights,” Mr. Du said. “The differences encompass democratic principles versus authoritarianism and human rights violations such as persecution of dissenters, repression of religious freedom, and mistreatment of minorities like Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Mongolians. The EU advocates for China’s compliance with international treaties and obligations and emphasizes mutual economic cooperation alongside upholding values. However, China insists that human rights and domestic affairs are unrelated to economic matters. As a result, the EU faces significant pressure in its economic cooperation with China, leading to the rejection of the EU-China investment deal by the European Parliament.”Mr. Du criticized Xi’s attitude as lacking self-reflection and self-awareness, pointing out his insistence on China’s “absolute wisdom and greatness.” He perceives himself as guiding the entire world and completely lacks the ability to fit in global diplomatic settings.He said that China’s current tactic is to blame the United States for its wrongdoings and push the idea of “Western imperialism.” China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, had pursued diplomacy with Western countries without aligning with their values, making all dialogue with China appear deceptive.“China now resorts to a combination of public assertiveness, private compromise, active rhetoric, sluggish action, and even inconsistency to support Russia and confront the West. The Communist Party views this approach as wisdom. Therefore, genuine understanding and cooperation between China and France, or the EU at large, seem unlikely,” said Mr. Du.China’s Strategic DilemmaMs. Guo highligh

China’s Diplomatic Gambit Amid Economic Downturn and Geopolitical Challenges

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Commentary

Chinese leader Xi Jinping completed a high-profile visit to Europe on May 9, visiting France, Serbia, and Hungary. Given China’s current economic downturn and diplomatic challenges, seeking diplomatic breakthroughs is crucial to overcome these obstacles. On May 11, panelists on NTD’s Chinese-language program “Pinnacle View” analyzed the purpose and goals of Xi’s visit.

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A United EU

According to Du Wen, a Chinese legal scholar living in Belgium, China’s strategy towards the EU has been to bypass it and establish closer political and economic ties with key member states. The goal is to break the current deadlock between China and the EU. If Xi could make significant political concessions in France, it would help Xi achieve his goal of dividing the EU and pursuing his multipolar vision.

“However, France did not fall for this strategy,” he said. “President Emmanuel Macron invited EU President Ursula von der Leyen to meet Xi Jinping before their meeting, turning France’s diplomatic victory into an EU-wide one. Macron clarified that France would not bypass the EU to reach any major diplomatic agreements with China, refusing to sacrifice EU unity.”

Guo Jun, editor-in-chief of the Epoch Times Hong Kong edition, believes that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has designated the United States as an enemy since former CCP leader Jiang Zemin’s era. The CCP’s goal has been to align with Russia, court Japan, Canada, and Australia, and divide Europe to counter the United States. While China has achieved alignment with Russia, its attempts to court Japan, Canada, and the UK have failed. Now, its only remaining option is to divide Europe.

Ms. Guo said that the CCP’s strategy towards the EU has three potential outcomes. First, the CCP wishes to rupture EU-U.S. relations and gain global support for China, which is unlikely to succeed. Second, it seeks for the EU to remain neutral, not supporting either the U.S. or China, which is also improbable. Third, the CCP seeks to divide Europe and exploit differences among EU member states. If China can gain support from a few countries, it could hinder unified strategic decision-making within the EU. Given the EU’s unanimity principle, even one dissenting state can block resolutions and bills.

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Choosing Between Russia and the EU Market

Mr. Du believes that China’s support for Russia and its dumping of excess capacity into the EU are core components of its competitive tactics. Mr. Macron, representing the EU, emphasized the EU’s strong and clear demands, which are economic benefits, values preservation, and security assurance. This contradicts with the CCP’s support for Russia and its unethical trade practices.

He explained that Xi did refrain from directly supporting Russia’s military industry but remained silent on the issue of dumping goods. His primary motive for compromising on support for Russia lies in maintaining China’s ability to export excess capacity to the West. This export strategy sustains China’s economy and fundamentally weakens the West. Xi understands that supporting Russia further in the war is likely a lost cause. His compromise on issues related to the EU’s security is intended to preserve China’s position in the European market.

“The most significant conflict between China and the EU lies in value differences, especially regarding human rights,” Mr. Du said. “The differences encompass democratic principles versus authoritarianism and human rights violations such as persecution of dissenters, repression of religious freedom, and mistreatment of minorities like Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Mongolians. The EU advocates for China’s compliance with international treaties and obligations and emphasizes mutual economic cooperation alongside upholding values. However, China insists that human rights and domestic affairs are unrelated to economic matters. As a result, the EU faces significant pressure in its economic cooperation with China, leading to the rejection of the EU-China investment deal by the European Parliament.”

Mr. Du criticized Xi’s attitude as lacking self-reflection and self-awareness, pointing out his insistence on China’s “absolute wisdom and greatness.” He perceives himself as guiding the entire world and completely lacks the ability to fit in global diplomatic settings.

He said that China’s current tactic is to blame the United States for its wrongdoings and push the idea of “Western imperialism.” China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, had pursued diplomacy with Western countries without aligning with their values, making all dialogue with China appear deceptive.

“China now resorts to a combination of public assertiveness, private compromise, active rhetoric, sluggish action, and even inconsistency to support Russia and confront the West. The Communist Party views this approach as wisdom. Therefore, genuine understanding and cooperation between China and France, or the EU at large, seem unlikely,” said Mr. Du.

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China’s Strategic Dilemma

Ms. Guo highlighted Chinese state media’s strong promotion of Europe’s so-called “strategic autonomy” during Xi’s visit as part of China’s strategy towards Europe.

Strategic autonomy has long been a dream of European politicians. Since World War II, Europe has struggled to achieve genuine autonomy. France, in particular, has been adamant about this pursuit. After returning to France, former President Charles de Gaulle immediately distanced himself from the United States and the UK, aiming for strategic autonomy.

Ms. Guo noted France’s unique role in NATO. Although it rejoined NATO twice, it maintains an independent military presence and does not accept direct military commands from NATO. This shows that the issue of European strategic autonomy has persisted over the years. The United States provides security for Europe at its expense, with many European countries still spending less than 2 percent of their GDP on defense. If Europe wants strategic autonomy, it must first achieve defense autonomy, a goal that seems distant. While discussions on strategic autonomy may have been reasonable five years ago, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shifted priorities. This urgency explains France’s strong stance against Russia and its eagerness to resolve the Russia-Ukraine conflict promptly.

She further pointed out an interesting paradox. China’s continued support for Russia prolongs the Russia-Ukraine War, preventing the EU from achieving strategic autonomy. This makes China’s strategy to court individual EU countries against the United States unworkable. Conversely, if China withdraws support from Russia, Europe can move closer to achieving strategic autonomy and distancing itself from the United States. However, China’s reliance on Russia would become unstable.

“This situation isn’t new,” Ms. Guo said. “During the Cold War, China betrayed the Soviet bloc once. [Now] overall, China’s grand strategy has become an almost impossible task.”

Michael Zhuang contributed to this report.

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

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