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How China Is Taking Advantage Of Europe

Chinese President Xi Jinping's phone calls with top European leaders have become much more frequent than calls with U.S. President Donald Trump, as Beijing spins around a Europe facing pressure from America.

Beijing has increased the frequency of talks with European leaders ahead of a strategic dialogue between the EU and China between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and EU head of foreign policy Josep Borrell.

However, China and the European Union are conducting an annual leadership dialogue on June 10 with major challenges to be solved, such as bilateral unfinished bilateral investment agreements including China's handling of Hong Kong and the recent meeting between Xi and European heads of state.

Last week, Xi made a fourth phone call this year to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on June 2, then the fifth time with French President Emmanuel Macron on June 5.

Xi and Trump have only talked on the phone twice this year, when US-China relations have plunged into a game of mutual blame for the Covid-19 pandemic. Their last phone conversation was on February 7, when Xi said China had taken timely action to stem the outbreak and called on the United States to assess the situation calmly.

Last year, Xi and Trump met once on the sidelines of the Group 20 Summit in Osaka, where the two countries agreed to restart trade talks and shared two phone calls in November, June 6 and December. European nations have felt pressure from Trump, as the US president threatened new tariffs on both China and Europe while visiting American lobster farmers on June 6.

On June 7, Trump approved a plan to withdraw 9,500 American troops from Germany. Commenting on the move, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that decades of cooperation with the US had become a "complicated" issue since Mr. Trump became president.

According to Frans-Paul van der Putten, a graduate student at the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands, said:
“While cooperation between China and the EU can deepen economic or climate change issues, there are important limits, which have tightened in recent months. That includes (the EU) not undermining its own economic competitiveness, internal cohesion or political values.”
The stakes will have a high relationship between China and the EU in the second half of this year, especially after the EU along with the US and the UK clashed with China last month by criticizing Beijing for imposing national security laws for Hong Kong.

Shi Zhiqin, head of China-EU relations at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Global Policy Center in Beijing, said:
"Everyone knows that in the past two years, China and the United States relationship is in a pretty bad shape, especially when two people blame each other on the origin of the virus. Despite some tensions, China's relationship with Europe is far better grounded than the United States and they stand together on the same principles as multilateralism in world affairs. ”
Shi said the relationship with Germany will be particularly high on China's agenda for the rest of 2020. During a phone call last week, Xi and Merkel discussed cooperation on the changes and support for the World Trade Organization, while confirming the postponement of a summit between Xi and EU heads of state due to covid-19, scheduled for mid September in the city of Leipzig Virtue.

Hong Kong was not mentioned in official French or Chinese government statements about the call between Macron and Xi last few weeks, although Reuters later reported that Macron had told Xi that France was monitor the situation closely.

According to Francois Godement, senior fellow at the Montaigne Research Institute in Paris, most EU countries are skeptical about their relationship with Beijing, because China still lacks action after promising to open the market for European companies.

According to him, an exacerbation is that countries judge whether or not to allow Chinese telecom manufacturer Huawei to build their ultrafast 5G internet infrastructure, following allegations that their products pose a security threat by facilitating espionage for the Chinese government.

UK is also one of China's extremely potential partners in Europe, especially after the Brexit event. As Britain promotes trade negotiations with countries, especially outside Europe, China is a lucrative market in those negotiations. However, the British Chamber of Commerce in China said, in an annual article published on June 9.
“The British approach to China must be balanced and informed and unaffected by external political pressure.”
The report that accompanies China-UK tensions is boiling again about the handling of the Covid-19 outbreak, and on the national security laws that Beijing is imposing on Hong Kong, which raises the question on partial autonomy guaranteed for the former British colony when handed over to China in 1997.

However, China is the UK's third largest export market, after the European Union and the United States, and the fifth largest trading partner. Its trade with China increased by 17.6% in 2019 from the previous year to 714 billion yuan or US $ 101 billion, according to British official data.

For Britain to become a truly global trading nation, engagement with China must be a top priority and sustained dialogue will be necessary to strengthen the relationship between the two countries and create opportunities new to businesses in both markets.

After the UK left the EU, the British government identified the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand as the preferred partners to negotiate free trade agreements (FTAs). Questions have been raised among UK businesses, however, why China is not among these priority countries for an FTA, because the bilateral trade flow between the UK and China is far beyond trade. Trade with priority countries, except for the United States.

The British Chamber of Commerce report said:
“A connected world and an open market are important to support growth and create new opportunities, but the past few months have demonstrated the ease with which Populism and protectionism can disrupt international relations and increase business risks. You and China must resist this urge. ”
He is also conducting a security assessment against Chinese telecom manufacturer Huawei, after the US announced new controls on the company's ability to develop products using US technology in May. 

It could lead to a reversal of Johnson's decision in January by allowing Huawei to build up to 35% of the infrastructure for Britain's new 5G data network. China has called on the UK to maintain its independent policy and provide a non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies.

The British Chamber of Commerce also said that China's internet regulation has made foreign businesses worse since China passed the network law in 2017, under which businesses could be closed or taken away, issuing large fines for violations that are considered to threaten national security. 

Ambiguity in law enforcement and data control, has been ranked as the top concern of British companies in China in recent years.

The report recommends easing controls on cross-border data sharing and capital flows to and from China, as well as promoting market reform, including reducing the "negative list" of them, this will remove barriers to Chinese market access for designated foreign companies.

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