The EU ministers advised a harder course on China

The EU must toughen its stance on China, viewing the country as a full-fledged competitor with limited areas of potential engagement, bloc ministers have been advised ahead of talks on recalibrating Brussels’ strategy towards Beijing.

The EU should work more closely with the US, strengthen its defenses against cyber and hybrid threats, diversify its supply chains away from China and deepen ties with other Indo-Pacific powers, says a paper the bloc’s foreign service is preparing for member states Has.

“China has become an even stronger global competitor for the EU, the US and other like-minded partners,” the paper reads. “Thus, it is important to assess how best to respond to current and foreseeable challenges.” These, the paper says, are likely to “widen the divergence between China’s and our own policy choices and positions.”

The assessment “acknowledges that China will not change,” said a senior EU official. “In short, the transition to a logic of total competition, economically but also politically.”

The paper underscores the significant deterioration in EU-China relations since the agreement on existing policy towards Beijing in 2019, a decline marked by trade disputes, sanctions against each other and a series of failed efforts to find areas of mutual agreement .

China’s support for Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, its threats to Taiwan, its stance on human rights in Hong Kong and its dealings with the Uyghur minority are all major developments since the EU formulated its existing policy, officials said, warranting a rethink .

“This is the moment for an assessment. . . And see if our policy is the right one,” said a second senior EU official. “We must take into account the serious events of the past year.”

On Sunday, Chinese President Xi Jinping used his speech to the Communist Party Congress – where he will cement his position as the country’s most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong – to rail against “foreign interference” and “protectionism and bullying” by other countries.

The EU paper, which will be discussed by foreign ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday to prepare for a debate on China by the bloc’s 27 leaders at a summit starting on Thursday, suggests that the EU’s existing policy , China as “partner-competitor-systemic competitor” is obsolete.

Upon his arrival on Monday, Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said: “The dialogue with China is becoming more and more realistic. We are leaving naivety behind.” Josep Borrell, the bloc’s chief diplomat, said that “a new discussion of China with a new analysis is very timely”.

The EU’s discussions this week on its policy towards Beijing come after the US warned that China was its “most momentous geopolitical challenge” and released a national security strategy warning Beijing that “the intent and increasingly the… inherent ability to transform the international order”. ”

“We will prioritize maintaining a lasting competitive advantage over the PRC,” the US strategy reads.

For the EU, China’s deepening ties with Russia, particularly since the invasion of Ukraine, are “a worrying development . . .[that] cannot be ignored,” the minister’s paper said, adding that Beijing’s support for Moscow “has led China to fight western democracies more directly.”

The five-page document includes just one paragraph on areas of limited potential cooperation with China – including climate change, environment and health – in stark contrast to existing policy, which describes Beijing as “a strategic partner for the EU in tackling global problems and international challenges.” “.

The EU’s dependence on China for semiconductors and certain rare-earth metals is described as a “strategic vulnerability” in the paper, which calls for greater domestic production, diversified supply chains and other initiatives such as better recycling within the bloc.

The EU should also recognize that China’s “activities and positions in multilateral organizations exemplify its determination to systematically promote an alternative vision of the world order in which individual human rights are subordinate to national sovereignty and economic and social development take precedence over political and civil rights.” has,” says the discussion paper.

“The EU and Member States have also seen increasing instances of economic coercion by China, tougher competition in key enabling technologies, cyber and hybrid threats and information manipulation, and more assertive policies in the Indo-Pacific,” she continues, calling on the EU to “make a better offer.” ‘ for third countries cooperating with Beijing. The EU ministers advised a harder course on China

Adam Bradshaw

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