In Reassessing China, Europe Sharpens Its Approach

A China in the World Podcast

In recent weeks, Beijing has both won victories and suffered defeats during important summits and dialogues with France and Italy, as well as the European Union. Paul Haenle sat down with Tomáš Valášek, Director of Carnegie Europe, and Pierre Vimont, Senior Fellow at Carnegie Europe, to discuss underlying issues driving China-Europe relations, the outlook for China’s engagement with the European Union (EU), and the implications for transatlantic relations.

Valášek says that transatlantic tensions have affected Europe’s relations with and perceptions of China. The Trump administration’s tariffs on the EU led to the realization across Europe that the global environment is becoming more competitive and zero-sum. Additionally, Trump’s tough dealing with China has spurred the EU to use harsher language and take more confrontational actions against Beijing, as evidenced by the recently released European Commission report on China. Vimont argues that French President Emmanuel Macron invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to join his meeting with Chinese President Xi to demonstrate a united European response against Beijing. This sent a message to China, as well as to central and eastern European countries, that Beijing’s attempts to pick off individual EU member states by dealing on a bilateral basis or through its 16+1 forum will not be taken lightly, Valášek says. Just as China requires countries to acknowledge the “One China Policy,” Europe is increasingly requesting that Beijing respect a “One European Union Policy.” Vimont says both the United States and Europe should not be naïve when it comes to China, recognizing that promises Beijing has long said it would come through on have not yet materialized. However, the United States and the EU disagree over certain aspects of their approach to Beijing. The United States prefers a confrontational approach focused on limiting China’s threat to U.S. primacy, whereas European countries prioritize cooperation with China based on mutual cooperation and equality.