The ever increasing US-China scuffle offers the European Union (EU) a fantastic opportunity to strengthen EU-China ties and focus on the development of a new world order, writes Zhang Ji for the Global Times.
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The EU finds itself in a tough spot amidst the US-China rivalry. EU faces a series of major strategic challenges, one of which is how it should respond to increased strategic competition between an evolving China and a stagnant United States.
The US is a staunch ally of the Europen nations. Indeed, the political, security, ideological, and economic foundations that maintain the US-Europe alliance system still exist. However, the impact of the “America First” doctrine has created widening cracks within this alliance, writes Zhang.
According to the author, the US government has adopted an increasingly demanding foreign policy toward Europe. It has been pressing hard on a series of issues concerning the vital interests of Europe, include tariffs, NATO spending sharing, climate change, and the Iranian nuclear issue.
The US government has been strengthening its diplomatic control over its allies. In fact, it is requiring its European allies to be in tune with it in diplomatic and strategic spheres. This can be seen from the UK’s and some other European countries’ back-and-forth on Huawei.
It is in this context, Zhang writes, that French President Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly raised the issue of European strategic autonomy and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has noted that Germany will rethink its trans-Atlantic relations if the US is unwilling to assume the responsibilities of global power.
Regardless of the cracks, the EU and the US do agree that China has not changed much since politically and socially. But this has not put China off EU’s radar. The bloc is still eager to gain access to China’s humongous markets. Simultaneously, in the field of diplomacy and global governance, the EU also has an urgent desire to develop a multilateral partnership with China.
Therefore for the EU, “China is simultaneously a cooperation partner, a negotiation partner, an economic competitor and a systemic rival.” But different countries’ distinct policies toward China also show the bloc’s dilemma with China-EU relations.
Zhang maintains that China’s position on China-EU relations is very clear. Beijing has repeatedly pointed out that China is an opportunity, not a threat, and a partner, not an adversary. China and Europe are not institutional competitors, but long-term strategic partners.
The assistant to the dean of the School of International Relations and Public Affairs, Fudan University, Zhang also suggests that China and Europe should be two major forces for global peace and stability, two major markets for global development and prosperity, and two major civilizations for upholding multilateralism and improving global governance.
The author hopes Germany will bring major agendas and strong leadership to the EU and that formulate a strategy for its external relations.
To conclude, the author says that if the EU wants to become a pivot in the world order, it needs to transcend the scope of bilateral relations and the old system. It should grasp the major changes in the international pattern, focus on the construction of the new order, and find an appropriate position among them.