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Europe turns on China

Once skeptical of America’s increasingly hostile stance toward China, the EU and its own member states are adopting a cascade of new measures that bring their policies closer consistent with those of america.

Why it matters: Beijing’s push for Europe to look at “strategic autonomy” from america in the hope the EU would maintain warmer ties with China now appears like a moot point.

What’s happening: The other day, the European Commission unveiled a proposed ban on products made out of forced labor, after intense pressure from lawmakers and human rights activists worried about forced labor in Xinjiang.

  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also criticized Chinese funding of European research institutions and announced a fresh “Defense of Democracy” package designed to scrutinize foreign funding of European academic institutions to be able to “bring covert foreign influence and shady funding to light.”
  • The U.S. implemented an import ban on all products manufactured in Xinjiang earlier this season, and the Trump administration placed greater scrutiny on foreign funding in U.S. universities.

Zoom in: Germany is really a key benchmark. Berlin was once a stalwart supporter of close trade ties with China, and therefore it tended in order to avoid tension with Beijing. But Berlin now appears to have turned a significant corner on issues from trade to human rights to direct military engagement in the Indo-Pacific.

  • The other day, Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck pledged “forget about naivety” in Germany’s trade with China. Habeck announced his team was focusing on a fresh economic policy to lessen reliance on China across key industries and closely scrutinize inbound investment from China, saying, “We can not allow ourselves to be blackmailed.”
  • The German Foreign Ministry also announced it had been appointing a particular representative to Pacific nations, where China’s expanding influence has alarmed Australia and america.
  • In late August, Germany joined Exercise Pitch Black as a complete participant for the first-time. The group of military drills is held almost every other year off Australia’s northern coast with air forces from as much as 17 countries, like the U.S., the U.K., France, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. The exercise’s recent expansion has prompted questions about its potential role as a counter to China in your community.
  • The Chinese Communist Party-affiliated tabloid Global Times reported that some German media warned the united states against joining an “anti-China alliance” in the Indo-Pacific.

Flashback: European nations were largely skeptical of the Trump administration’s sharp rhetoric against China.

  • In December 2020, europe agreed to an investment cope with China that ignored concerns about forced labor in China’s economy and could have strengthened economic ties between your bloc and China. That same year, in comparison, the Trump administration took a lot more than 200 public actions to rebel against Beijing and delink certain sectors of the U.S. and Chinese economies.
  • But a significant turning point in the EU-China relationship occurred in March 2021. The EU levied sanctions on some Chinese officials for abuses in Xinjiang. Beijing retaliated by sanctioning EU members of parliament among others, and in-may 2021, the European Parliament voted to freeze the investment deal.

The Europe-China relationship has plummeted since that time.

  • China’s “dependable” support for Russia during its invasion of Ukraine soured the attitude of several Europeans toward Beijing.
  • Beijing’s ongoing crackdown on Hong Kong in addition has stunned many in Europe.
  • A US report published in late August warning of “serious human rights violations” and possible “crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang sparked harsh criticism from European leaders.

Yes, but: Trade ties between Europe and China remain strong, and the EU has emphasized that cooperation on climate change with China is vital.

What things to watch: Taipei is urging the EU to look at sanctions that could deter China from invading Taiwan, Reuters reports.

  • China, meanwhile, is forging economic and security relationships at Europe’s periphery. Xi and Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko just announced an upgraded partnership, and Hungary’s Viktor Orbn has deepened ties with China.

Go deeper: France navigates tricky China challenges

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