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A More Trumpian Europe: China’s Changing Perception in Europe’s Eyes

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One of the defining features of President Trump’s administration is his approach to China. China-policy has always been an important aspect of American foreign policy, but under the Trump administration, this policy has become a rather public spectacle.

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From the tariff and trade deficit battles to Huawei, to the burgeoning new Cold War, one thing has been kept on everyone’s mind since Trump first decided to run for office: “China” (spoken loudly in his distinctive Queen’s borough New York City accent).

Due to the tremendously partisan nature of President Trump’s policies, and the weariness of being stuck in the middle of the growing US-China competition, the President’s China policies have not been quick to catch on in Europe. During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, however, European leaders and the media have started to become decidedly more Trumpian in their approach to China.

Before the pandemic, the President’s administration had failed to even convince close allies such as Britain, France, and Germany to not allow Huawei to provide key components for 5G technology, or for Italy to not join China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Since the pandemic, a new layer of complexity has been added to the West’s relations with China, and some European leaders and media outlets have seized on the opportunity to come somewhat more in line with American policies.

Over the weekend, the controversial and enormously popular German tabloid ‘Bild’ released an article called “What China owes us” (Was China uns jetzt schon schuldet) which outlined a bill worth €149 billion that they claim China owes Germany. The article echoes US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent stern remarks that those who were responsible for the outbreak will be held accountable.

Bild argues that because China hid vital information on the coronavirus for so long and continued to misreport the pandemic as it was unfolding in China, the economic damage that has been caused to Germany is a direct result of the Chinese government.

Bild, therefore, released a detailed bill adding up to a loss of €1,784 per German citizen based on an estimated 4.2% drop in GDP. This includes such losses as €24 billion in lost tourism, €50 billion in lost small business profits, and losses for airline Lufthansa that add up to €1 million per hour of the lockdown.

The Editor-in-Chief of Bild, Julian Reichelt, does not actually believe that the Chinese government will ever pay anything just as “they have never paid for anything, for example, patents, that they have stolen from other countries. China, or the Chinese regime, likes to take whatever they wish and not pay the bill for it.”

The Chinese embassy in Berlin responded angrily to this article by stating “anyone who makes a calculation as you do in BILD newspaper stirs up nationalism, prejudice, xenophobia, and hostility to China.” Though China was furious at the article, Bild clearly made their point and they represented and influenced the views that many Germans now have towards China.

Trumpian articles such as Bild’s have expressed the existing frustration that Germans have on China’s secrecy, and on how they conduct business in Europe and around the world. But this feeling is by no means confined only to Germany.

Britain is another country that seems to have sharply changed their tone when it comes to China. In early April, a British parliamentary committee on foreign relations declared that China “allowed disinformation to spread as quickly as the virus” and emphasized that the government “needs to tackle these lies with a clear and quick response, working with our allies to show a united front in the face of false facts and deadly disinformation.”

In response to China’s actions in regard to the coronavirus, Britain’s 5G partnership with Huawei is also now in doubt. A senior (unnamed) British cabinet minister has stated that “we can’t stand by and allow the Chinese state’s desire for secrecy to ruin the world’s economy and then come back like nothing has happened… We’re allowing companies like Huawei not just into our economy, but to be a crucial part of our infrastructure.”

The criticism of China has been equally strong in France as well. On April 14, the French Foreign Office summoned the Chinese ambassador in order to voice their displeasure over misinformation that was spread by a Chinese diplomat regarding the French handling of the coronavirus.

When responding to a reporter’s question on the Chinese handling of the coronavirus, President Macron fired back at China by suggesting that we not be “naïve” in thinking that China’s response to the pandemic was much better than the West’s. Following his “naïve” statement, Macron further added that “We don’t know – there are clearly things that have happened [in China] that we don’t know about,” hinting at the fact that Chinese data regarding their supposedly quick recovery is not to be trusted.

President Trump has long been vocally calling for businesses to bring supply chains and manufacturing back to the United States, and here too the French are showing signs of Trumpian-economics. The French finance minister has already declared that “we have to decrease our dependence on a couple of large powers, in particular China,” and that “there will be a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ the coronavirus in global economics.”

In past weeks, China has aggressively attempted to distance themselves from the virus, and has even spread false rumors around the world that the virus was created by the US Army, or that it actually originated in Italy. At the same time, China has attempted to capitalize on the pandemic by sending highly publicized shipments of aid to countries across Europe in hopes of boosting their image.

In many cases, the Chinese aid has been much needed and warmly received. However, in recent weeks countries such as Spain, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic have rejected and recalled faulty Chinese facemasks and test-kits, and other nations have grown increasingly skeptical of China’s supposed good-will.

China’s attempt at being shown in a good light during this pandemic – even paying to set up propaganda posters in places like Serbia – has angered many people across Europe.

China’s current influencing campaign may prove to do more harm to their image than good in Europe and may lead to a further rise in Trump-like policies and rhetoric across the continent.

The Tipping Point, Not the Start

The pandemic should not be seen as the start of Europe’s potential drift towards more Trumpian policies in regard to China but as the tipping point. For a long time now, countries like Germany and its neighbors to the east have chosen to remain open to China while at the same time being keenly aware of the risks.

Germany has allowed Huawei to supply 5G technology, yet at the same time was a leader in pushing the European Union into naming China a “systemic rival”. In recent years, Germany has also rewritten laws on foreign investments in order to reduce the threshold needed to intervene and block acquisitions of German companies after important businesses were bought by Chinese firms.

China’s ‘17+1 Initiative’ – which includes China (the +1) as well as 12 EU states in eastern Europe (and Greece) and 5 non-EU Balkan nations – is a platform created in 2012 to increase cooperation and investment between China and eastern Europe.

Western European nations – and even some of the 17 Initiative member states – are wary of China’s growing economic and soft power influence in the region, and the potential undermining of the EU. Nations such as Lithuania, have taken issue to the huge trade imbalances that have arisen over the years between themselves and China (€189 vs €855 million respectively in 2018), while others, such as Montenegro, are concerned about skyrocketing debt due to Chinese infrastructure projects.

Other major events in eastern Europe that have upset relations between Europe and China have been the 2020 accusations of foreign influence campaign by the Chinese government that directly linked the pro-Chinese Czech President and the January 2019 arrest of two Huawei workers in Poland – one a Chinese national and the other a former employee of Poland’s intelligence agency – on spying charges. Many see these two cases as further examples that China is actively engaged in massive spy and influence operations in Europe, and often use supposedly private companies to carry out these deeds.

The examples given here – such as the Bild article or Britain and France’s various responses to the ongoing situation – are just a few of the many ways in which the European public and the policy leaders have been changing their soft views on China and moving towards a more Trumpian approach (except maybe with a more eloquent tone).

What will be interesting to watch is how exactly Europe handles their post-pandemic relations with China. If Europe decides to further adopt the tactics and rhetoric that President Trump has been using on China in relation to trade deficits, investments, and supply chains, as well as on China’s foreign policy abroad and in the South China Sea, then we might see a strong rapprochement between the United States and the EU. A more Trumpian Europe is the last thing that China wants, and could be a huge gamechanger when it comes to the geopolitics of the wider Eurasian region.

Michael Belafi is a Political-Military Analyst based in Brussels.

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Despite Chest Thumping, India Could Take Years To Reduce Economic Dependence On China – US Experts

Bilateral trade between India and China was estimated at $88 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year, but India recorded a massive $53.5 billion deficit with China — the biggest trade deficit India has with any nation.

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Anti-China sentiments in India are at an all-time high. Recently India banned 59 Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, while Chinese firms are being obstructed from participating in highway and other major tenders and projects. 

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The Indian hotel industry group also issued a blanket ban on Chinese tourists. “In view of the nefarious activities of China, it has been decided that no Chinese will be accommodated in Delhi’s hotels and guest houses from now onwards,” the Delhi Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association said in a statement in late June.

Reports suggest that goods from China are being delayed at Indian ports, and the Indian government are planning to impose higher tariffs and rigorous quality controls on shipments.

“Trade frictions, even symbolic ones, are obviously bad for business,” Pravin Krishna, professor of International Economics and Business at Johns Hopkins University, told DW. “As of now, it is not quite clear which goods are being held up at the ports and what the extent of the delay is.

The exact impact on businesses will clearly depend on their inventory positions and so on and this will vary quite widely across sectors and firms,” he said. “I imagine most businesses can manage delays, but perhaps not complete blockades.”

Bilateral trade between India and China was estimated at $88 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year, but India recorded a massive $53.5 billion deficit with China — the biggest trade deficit India has with any nation.

China is also India’s biggest source of imports and exports more than 3,000 products to India at very competitive prices. Moreover, India has become a major destination for Chinese investment with key Indian startups like Zomato, Paytm having received millions of dollars’ worth of funding from China.

The total planned and current Chinese investments in India are estimated to be about $26 billion, according to the US think tank Brookings. Experts say – there is no easy pathway for India to reduce its current dependence on China and decoupling from China will be a slow, gradual process.

Observers believe that a trade conflict will likely be costly for both sides, especially given the timing of the current tensions. Both India and China have already been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created massive challenges for both the governments.

Their economies are undergoing a sharp devaluation. In India’s case, the rigorous lockdown has resulted in severe economic losses and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) now expects India’s GDP to shrink 4.5% this year.

To counter the economic collapse, Indian PM Narendra Modi launched “Atmanirbhar Bharat,” a campaign for a self-reliant India that aids businesses to make products in the country instead of relying on imports. This is in addition to the “Make in India” initiative.

Sumit Ganguly, professor of Political Science at the Indiana University Bloomington told DW – “Frankly, I think it amounts to foolish, anachronistic and pointless sloganeering,” adding that this is a “populist cry” and “will amount to little or nothing.” “The initial emphasis on self-reliance was coupled with rampant protectionism and had terrible consequences for Indian industry not to mention the hapless consumer,” he argued.

After India gained independence, import substitution industrialization, a policy centring on displacing imported goods with domestically produced ones, was the guiding principle of economic experts in the country.

Successive Indian governments from 1947 to 1991 followed this inward-looking model of economic development, but it chained private organizations and eventually proved disastrous in turning India into an industrial and economic power.

As a balance of payments crisis in 1991 pushed New Delhi on the verge of bankruptcy and the Indian government was compelled to introduce significant reforms and liberalize the economy.

If ‘self-reliance’ is merely an appeal to organizations to become more resourceful — that is fine,” Krishna said. On the other hand, if it is an appeal for import substitution, I would be worried: India’s experience with this in the past has been calamitous.

“Regarding the dispute with China, I sincerely hope it is not used as a pretext for a generalized return to protectionism.”

Via: DW May Not Reflect The Views Of The EurAsian Times

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Asia Pacific

Ladakh Now, Kashmir Next: Why India-China War Is An Attractive Option For Many In India?

I now believe that a big event is needed for the resolution of the Kashmir issue, and the India-China war could be that big thing – J&K resident 

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As India-China border standoff continues in Ladakh, people living in the Kashmir Valley see war as an attractive option. Kashmiris living in Jammu and Kashmir are rejoicing at the prospect of a war between India and China and expect something positive from the border clashes.  

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Kashmiris have taken to social media to share computer-generated images sarcastically reminding India about its inability to halt Chinese aggression. The pictures shared in Kashmir are completely in contrast to the anti-China images being shared in other parts of India.

Images shared include Chinese President Xi Jinping wearing a traditional Kashmiri garb preparing a traditional wazwan meal while another image shows Xi’s face superimposed over a local bus driver who is calling out to commuters that the bus is headed to Ladakh – the place where Indian and Chinese troops clashed.

Apart from the trolling on social media platforms, Kashmiris are also discussing the possibility of Chinese military occupying the disputed region. “Ladakh Kheow Chenan (Ladakh has been taken over by China)” is the most discussed topic these days. During a demonstration on June 21 in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir’s largest city, protesters mocked the police by chanting “Cheen aya Cheen aya (China is coming)” slogans.

According to experts at EurAsian Times, discontent and gloom amongst Kashmiris have been on the rise since the abrogation of Article 370. The scrapping of Article 370 took away the special status enjoyed by the Kashmir and divided the state into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Most importantly, the abrogation of Article 370 by PM Narendra Modi led Indian government quashed the possibility of an independent Kashmir, a dream envisaged by many Kashmiris.

Following the historic decision, Kashmiris living in the union territory have complained about increased military presence, detention of people on arbitrary grounds and, lack of internet services and lockdowns.

Speaking to Nikkei Asian Review, Waqas Ahmad from Srinagar said that abrogation of Article 370 was the last nail in the coffin and it broke the back of every Kashmiri and the fear of settlement of outsiders seems a reality to all Kashmiris.

So far, the Indian government has granted 25,000 domicile certificates to non-locals which allows them to get a residency certificate for education, employment and buying land.

For Kashmiris, China Brings Hope

While Chinese aggression has been condemned by Indians across the length and breadth of the country, Kashmiris have endorsed China’s aggressive move. For them, the introduction of China spells ‘hope’.

Younis Ali, a political science student in Pulwama, explains the logic behind supporting the Chinese. He says that Kashmiris have tried everything to forward their cause including peaceful protests and militancy, but neither has yielded any results.

”I now believe that a big event is needed for the resolution of the Kashmir issue, and the India-China war could be that big thing,” Ali says.

Specialists on Kashmir also agree with what locals say. Gowhar Geelani, an experienced journalist Kashmir, says that people are of the view that a new geopolitical situation could be to their advantage in terms of ending the political uncertainty in Kashmir. He also noted that Pakistan’s weak economy and military “has also led some to pin their hopes on a stronger China.”

Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, explains that Kashmiri joy stems from seeing their oppressor bogged down by an emboldened, aspiring superpower that is a bitter rival of New Delhi and a close friend of Islamabad.

Speaking about human rights violation in the region, Ashok Swain a professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, says that Kashmiris are excited about the Ladakh clash because of the perception that China has become a party to the Kashmir conflict, after experiencing hopelessness and despair with “the near silence of the international community over serious human rights violation.

According to a report on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir that covers the first six months of this year, at least 229 killings in different instances of violence have taken place in the region.

The report cites “extrajudicial executions of at least 32 civilians in J&K, besides killings of 143 militants and 54 armed forces personnel.” It was put out by the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a prominent human rights group.

Swain adds that with the introduction of China into the Kashmir conflict, India has lost the military and diplomatic advantage it enjoyed over Pakistan.  China’s open opposition Article 370 as well as the strength it showed in the border clash have revived the hope of Kashmiris of an open alliance between Pakistan and China on the Kashmir issue.

At present, New Delhi and Beijing are looking for a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ladakh. Today PM Narendra Modi flew to Leh, Ladakh to take stock of the situation, boost the morale of troops and send a covert message to Beijing.

China was quick to announce its displeasure over Modi’s surprise visit to Ladakh and warned Indian from taking any action that may escalate the situation.

New Delhi and Beijing have been at each other’s throats since the first week of June. Both countries have engaged in the rapid military infrastructure development, troop buildup, air patrols, weapon deployment and even fistfights, which ended with casualties on both sides.

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EurAsian Region

China On Its Side, Pakistan Going All Out To Woo Russia; Counter India-US Alliance

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Pakistan Foreign Minister SM Qureshi in conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov expressed Islamabad’s desire to have a long and multidimensional relationship with Moscow. Can the growing closeness between Pakistan and Russia change the political and diplomatic relationship between New Delhi and Moscow?

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The Russians are seeking the development of ties with Pakistan to limit the US influence in Asia,” wrote Farzad Bonesh, a researcher and analyst of international affairs. “But it should be noted that one of the most important goals of Russia’s foreign policy is to increase its international influence and advance its economic growth,” he added.

In recent years, the United States has had stronger ties with India than with Pakistan. With Washington’s strong stance against Islamabad’s inadequate response to the allegations of sheltering terrorists have led to weakened ties between the two nations.

“Pakistan is trying to use Russia to balance its foreign policies regarding India and the United States,” stated Bonesh. He further wrote that Pakistan is also trying to use its connections with Russia to gain advantages over the US by considering the regional and international confrontations and rivalries.

Russia and Pakistan plan to enhance their economic trade which was mere $800 million in 2018 but is expected to grow in the future. “So far, the two countries have been simplifying procedures and encouraging trade by establishing an intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation,” observed Bonesh.

He further wrote that unlike the trade relations between Russia and India, which amount to $10 billion a year, the volume of trade is inconsistent with its real potential. “In fact, the current volume of trade between the two countries compared with the overall volume of Russia’s foreign trade is very small,” stated the author.

Till 2014, Russia had a policy of not supplying any weapons to Pakistan. According to the author, the continued cooperation between the US and India in a series of important agreements in the field of defence has resulted in Russia and Pakistan going forward with more defence cooperation and weapons trade.

Pakistan has shown support for Russia’s “intention to cooperate” with the Taliban. Bonesh believes that the security interests of Russia and Pakistan are also influenced by the security and political stability of Afghanistan.

“A significant number of ISIS forces moved to Syria from Russia’s Muslim republics and some of them have further moved from Syria into areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan”

The reason between the closeness between Russia and Pakistan can be due to “limiting the US’s influence”. However, the author believes that the cooperation and relations between Russia and Pakistan cannot create the conditions and basis for a strategic, lasting and interdependent alliance in the fields of security, politics and strategy, because, for Russia, India is still an important country in South Asia. Thus, Moscow is taking careful steps with Islamabad to continue having healthy relations with India.

He concluded with explaining Moscow’s concern that the expansion of its relations with Islamabad will force India to move closer to the United States. “India’s market is larger than Pakistan’s. The arms trade between India and Russia still has great potential, while the deals signed between Moscow and Islamabad so far have not been very important,” he concludes.

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