With Trump fading, the European Union and the United States find common cause in confronting China


On October 23, a new transatlantic coordination mechanism appeared, namely The EU-US Dialogue on China It was officially launched. The European Union and the United States worked for four months to establish it afterward making sure Preparing for each other at the end of June.

The process was complicated by the tough transatlantic relations and the many disagreements that had built up between the EU and the United States under the Trump administration. While relations between Brussels and Washington have not been easy at all over the past four years, a new dialogue has finally arrived. When it comes to China, at least, both sides of the Atlantic have recognized the importance of coordination and cooperation between them.

The Twisted Triangle: The European Union and the United States in the Trump Era and Xi in China

As for relations between Washington and Beijing, this set of bilateral relations has deteriorated Mid 2017. The Trump administration has designated the Xi Party state as ‘Strategic competitor’ In the national security strategy, phrases such as the United States and China ‘Trade war’, ‘Technology war’ And even ‘New Cold War’ It often made headlines and analytics.

A shift in the strategic thinking of the European Union has occurred in recent years. In March 2019, High Representative of the European Commission and European Union Security Policy Shown China is not only a “cooperative or negotiating partner”, but also a “economic competitor” and a “systemic competitor”. The COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened the European Union and its Union Member States Realize Ambition of China in the era of Xi Jinping on which they are overly dependent.

Read more:
Covid-19: Lessons from China’s Public Diplomacy in the European Union

In October this year, 27 heads of state or government of the European Union formally charged Supported Beijing strategy outlined in March 2019.

Thus, the triangle between the European Union, the United States, and China is complicated by the apparent rivalry between the United States and China, the rugged transatlantic relations, and the awakened European Union, which has found itself with naive or even An inaccurate understanding of China Over the past decades.

The future direction of the European Union: independent but closer to Washington

In response to the dilemma, Joseph Borrell of the European Union announced She expressed That the European Union chose to be its leader – driven by the values ​​and interests of the Union – and move forward together After the EU-China strategic dialogue in mid-June.

In September, some expressions appeared from European Union side On the tripartite relations between the European Union, the United States and China for the first time. These include:

  • In fact, China’s support for “multilateralism” is selective and incoherent.

  • It was a mistake to assume that a political opening in China would naturally follow economic opening.

  • The Chinese Communist Party effectively controls the country as evidenced by the end of “a high degree of autonomy” in Hong Kong And ongoing issues Human rights violations.

The last two coincided Speeches Often times made by the United States in the Trump era in relation to China Xi.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell
The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, during a video conference on the Tenth Strategic Dialogue between the European Union and China, at the European Commission in Brussels on June 9, 2020.
Kenzo Tripuillard / AFP

A key element that has not been discussed much in the media or analyzes in the past three months is that Josep Borrell Make it very clear: Even if neither side chooses, the European Union is still closer to Washington than it is to Beijing. With this short and direct sentence, you provide light at the end of the tunnel. The European Union is still clear in its mind that the United States, albeit an impolite partner or even an arrogant competitor, under the Trump administration Leaders In Brussels and some national capitals, Washington is not at least a systemic competitor promoting an alternative governance model.

On the Chinese side, the “united front” tactic was in the blood of the state’s ruling body – the Al Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – ever since It was Mao. One of the core principles and spirit of such a tactic is building an alliance – including working with the secondary enemy – for Fight the primary enemy. Iconography Example The cooperation of the Chinese Communist Party with the Nationalist Party (The Kuomintang) During the War of Resistance against Japan before the Chinese Communist Party turns to fight The Kuomintang And later against the Taiwan government until now.

In the Trump era, it is not difficult to see China’s bid to join the European Union Mentionsed The “common” aspiration of both sides towards multilateralism and the creation of a “win-win” style for the comprehensive strategic partnership. Leaders of both sides of the Atlantic will Do not want to Fall into Beijing’s tactic. The key is to look at Beijing’s real actions – especially an honor Commitments – instead of the displayed interface or words presented.

The partnership between the European Union and the United States remains critical to engaging Beijing

A critical distinction must be made in interpretation when understanding the goal of the European Union at Follow his own way Between the rivalry between Washington and Beijing. It may be understandable that the European Union is deciding not to fully align with the United States in its approach to interacting with China – even in light of Biden Administration.

There are voices calling for the European Union and the United States ‘Renewed cooperation’ Led by Washington from Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. At the same time, some other established European capitals have set their sights on a more “European approach”. For example, the French President Macron recently repeat Urging the European Union to pursue its sovereignty in the contemporary context of the international political arena. In addition to, Berlin And the Paris They also began their systematic and constructive exchanges on setting up a modern EU policy as a whole on China that emphasizes the need to work with the United States while preserving the strategic independence of the European Union.

Observers in Washington Expect The Biden administration will continue its hard-line strategy toward Beijing, but will step up and intensify efforts to work with allies on issues related to Beijing. Biden’s appointment of Anthony Blinken as Secretary of State may be a good reason to anticipate such a scenario. Blinken has it Already confirmed The importance of the United States viewing Europe as a “vital partner” in facing global challenges and working as a team with allies to link common values ​​- in competition with Beijing – with strategy toward China.

Meanwhile, two EU documents were under implementation mentioned To call for the reunification of the transatlantic alliance to meet global challenges, including Beijing. Moreover, other News sources It also covered the EU side’s call for President-elect Biden for live talks in the first six months of 2021.

Therefore, this does not mean that coordination and cooperation between the European Union and the United States on issues related to China will not work or be successful. In fact, Brussels has national capitals and so does Washington Need each other More than ever to face China Xi ‘Firmer, expansionist, and authoritarian’.

United in Privacy: Partners with unmatched interests or resources

The two sides of the Atlantic may not take quite identical approaches to interacting with Beijing because they both possess Heterogeneous interests or resources. However, it also means that the European Union and the United States have their own comparative advantages, which, if coordination increases, could lead to a more powerful influence on China.

Fair trade and mutual investment practices, geographical strategy in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, capacities and standards related to advanced technologies, and commitments to work together in combating the Coronavirus pandemic, as well as protecting planet Earth, and strengthening the Alliance for Democratic Governance, all Key examples in need of a joint transatlantic effort when engaging Beijing.

Regardless of whether Trump has been in the White House for the past four years or the next Biden presidency, on issues related to China under Xi, it is still crucial that the European Union and the United States unite “in privacy” as a force for good, with others. Like-minded partners In the Indian and Pacific Oceans and beyond.

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