What do the Chinese think of France?
China, Germany and Europe : The nice years are finally over
It will be uncomfortable for China, Germany and Europe. The brusque tone of Foreign Minister Wang Yi's trip to Europe was a foretaste. He wanted to make good weather for the EU-China summit on Monday. But his imperious demeanor caused consternation.
Everyone has to learn how to deal openly with conflicts. They treated their relationship as a sunshine relationship for decades. Everyone benefited from growing trade. If there were problems - with human rights or with China's state economy, which disadvantages foreign companies - improvement was promised.
We are still a developing country, asked Beijing for its understanding. The Europeans promised more patience, the Germans leading the way. They focus on “change through rapprochement”. If you cooperate, China will open up. China became Germany's largest trading partner, ahead of the USA and France. And the EU as China's largest trading partner.
China has become stronger and no longer wants to subordinate itself
"Partner" is no longer the appropriate word for the relationship. China has become a rival, politically and economically. The Federation of German Industries (BDI) calls the country a "systemic competitor". The European umbrella organization Business Europe complains about "market distortions". The EU must fix and enforce fair competition in a treaty.
How did it get there? First, China has gotten stronger. It is now the largest economy in the world, economically on par with the EU or the USA. Beijing no longer sees any reason to adapt. It confidently lives out its otherness. Second, the decision was made in Beijing not to open up any further, but to consolidate the monopoly of power, both internally and externally. Some cite the party congress 2017 as the turning point, others already the decision for Xi Jinping as president in 2013.
Xi Jinping is pursuing an offensive "China First" policy
Under President Xi, “China First” applies. The country claims dominance, both economically and politically. Beijing is militarily threatening its neighbors, suppressing Uyghurs and Tibetans, and crushing the democracy movement in Hong Kong. It denies transparency about the origin of the coronavirus and puts pressure on democracies that demand clarification. It breaks international treaties protecting Hong Kong's autonomy.
Europe is listening carefully, also out of self-interest. It wanted the state-affiliated company Huawei to participate in the European 5G digital networks. But can you trust Huawei with the data of millions of Europeans if China breaks treaties?
For the German economy, China is no longer an easy partner. Many German companies do good business. But their numbers are falling and complaints of disadvantage are increasing.
All over Europe there is growing pressure to rethink China policy. And with it the pressure on Germany, Beijing's most important partner. An effective EU policy on China can only succeed if all EU states pull together.
The course change comes, at the latest with black-green
However, the EU is not acting as one. Some like France, Great Britain, the Czech Republic, Slovenia tend to be more harsh. Not the same as “decoupling”, the dismantling of interdependence, as Donald Trump calls for. But robust advocacy for Western interests, preferably together with the USA and the democracies in Asia: Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand.
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Others like Greece and Hungary are on the way to becoming Beijing's veto powers in the EU. They are considerate of China's investments in their countries.
Germany must correct its course: no more priority for economic interests at the expense of freedom and multilateralism, openly address human rights, review Huawei's role in 5G, demand more help from China, the biggest polluter, with global climate protection and the same free market access that Chinese companies here enjoy. A new balance comes at the latest when black and green rule.
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