The American View
The European Dilemma (as seen by RT)Europe can’t stay neutral in US-China stand-off
BY MICHAEL SCHUMAN
https://www.politico.eu/article/europe- ... stand-off/
HONG KONG — Europe may not want to choose sides between the United States and China. But like it or not, its leaders will eventually have to, and the choice will be stark: Stand by the U.S., or become an international sideshow.
This isn’t what Europeans want to hear. Some political and business leaders continue to insist that Washington’s confrontational approach is the wrong response to China’s rise and prefer to stay above the fray.
“A situation to join all together against China, this is a scenario of the highest possible conflictuality,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in February, adding that he believed it would be “counterproductive.”
To be sure, Europeans have good reasons to tiptoe on the fence. They derive invaluable benefits from friendly relations with both major powers: The long-standing security arrangements with the U.S. provide stability and protection against persistent threats, such as Vladimir Putin’s Russia, while China’s economic expansion offers European companies a treasure trove of opportunities for growth they could not possibly find at home.
Europe may be able to sustain this balancing act for a while. But it will likely become increasingly untenable. Even with the combative former U.S. President Donald Trump consigned to the golf course, positions on both sides of the Pacific seem to be hardening.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration signaled in its first days that it fully intends to keep up the pressure on Beijing, stating that the Chinese government’s horrific treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang amounts to “genocide” and that the U.S. must be “prepared to act, as well as impose costs” on China for its crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and heightened intimidation of Taiwan as well.
Meanwhile, in a belligerent speech in early February, Yang Jiechi, a member of the almighty Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), lectured that “strategic misjudgment” in Washington has caused tensions between the two nations and threatened that key issues — including Taiwan, Hong Kong and policy toward the Uighurs — “constitute a red line that must not be crossed.”
With rapprochement nowhere in sight, both China and the U.S. are poised to woo Europe ever more aggressively.
Biden has openly stated he intends to rejuvenate Washington’s traditional alliances to stand against China. Chinese President Xi Jinping may rail against this “us-versus-them” approach, calling it a “Cold War mentality,” but he’s equally guilty of it: His government’s decision in December to finalize an investment pact with the European Union was an overt attempt to draw the Europeans closer only days before Biden’s inauguration.
On the face of it, choosing the U.S. or China seems an impossible decision: between Europeans’ historic commitment to the U.S. and the democratic values that have cemented it, and the lure of new riches from a rising economic powerhouse, albeit an authoritarian one, that could ensure their economic future. In other words, it’s a choice between principles and profits.
But this is a false distinction. The choice is really between long and short-term interests.
The reality is that China aims to create a world that is not safe for Europe — strategically, economically or ideologically.
Xi is actively striving to undermine the stature of democracies in the global order. In his January speech to the World Economic Forum, he made the case that the true evil in today’s global society was the promotion of basic human rights, not the brutal suppression of them. If European leaders think they can continue to preach democratic values and conduct normal business with China, they aren’t reading the newspapers.
The more power China amasses, the less tolerant it will become with any government that won’t toe its line. “We treat our friends with fine wine,” China’s ambassador to Sweden said during a recent diplomatic dispute, “but for our enemies we got shotguns.”
China also represents a long-term economic threat to Europe — not merely because it is an advancing competitor in a global market economy, but because Beijing’s policies are designed to use and abuse that open world economy to eventually dominate it.
Beijing’s leadership makes no secret of its goal to foster high-tech industries and national champions to overtake its established Western rivals, fueled by untold billions of state aid.
By one estimate, the Chinese government has lavished more than $100 billion on its electric vehicle sector, in the form of subsidies for buyers, research and development support and other aid. Another $49 billion has been committed to create a Chinese competitor to Airbus.
Partnerships with European companies are vital to the success of China’s agenda. Beijing sees joint ventures and other corporate cooperation with foreign companies as a way to extract the advanced technology and know-how required for China to catch up to, and then leapfrog over, the Western world.
An October report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies argues that the Chinese are targeting key sectors of the German economy — including industrial equipment and electronics — with the aim of pillaging them. China’s economic relations with Germany are “a template for the CCP strategy to dominate the 21st-century economy and set the rules for the modern world,” the report contends.
In other words, by continuing to engage with China, Germany is gaining today, but paving the way to its doom tomorrow.
There’s little chance European politicians can talk China into a better relationship.
After seven years of negotiations, the EU’s recent investment agreement with China “amounts to so little,” lamented Brussels-based think tank Bruegel in a January analysis. Littered with vague pledges and lacking methods of enforcement, Bruegel noted that even on market access, the agreement’s primary focus, “only a few concessions have been made bilaterally and all of them are limited.”
Simply hoping the Chinese will play fair is naïve. While Beijing threatens and blusters that Europeans must keep their markets open to 5G gear from Huawei, the Chinese are sidelining European telecom firms in the China market.
Ultimately, China is simply not a true partner for Europe. The longer Europeans fail to grasp this, the weaker their position will become. China will continue to exploit the divisions between democracies to advance its interests. European politicians will strain relations with the U.S. by cynically reaping economic benefits from China while Washington does all the fighting.
By the time Europe realizes it needs America’s help, it could discover Washington has found other, more reliable friends.
Ultimately, the choice between the U.S. and China should be determined by what Europeans want their role in the world to be.
They could defend the liberal order they helped create and continue to participate in global leadership. Or they could sit back and watch authoritarian China knock away the pillars of the current order, and the sources of European influence with them. Is the choice really that hard?
Hopefully Europe will - albeit slowly - slide towards a good relationship with China, which means ignoring any attempts by the US to weaken China. Which makes a lot of sense, particularly since China has become Europe's most important trade partner. It will be only natural for Europe to do the same in respect of Russia, leaving the US increasingly isolated and forcing it to drop any remaining imperial illusions. Let's see whether the US can accept it without trying to reimpose its will through wars with China and Russia.The Great Atlantic Schism is here: Between US and China, Europe will choose its own path
by Tom Fowdy
https://www.rt.com/op-ed/515813-great-a ... na-europe/
The US used to hold almost absolute sway over the EU’s global politics. Now, on the issue of China, Europe is slipping from Washington’s grasp as it realizes it’s better off building that relationship on its own terms.
Over 70 years ago, the United States forged the beginning of a new transatlantic order through the initiation of first, the Marshall Plan to rebuild the war-torn economies of Europe, and then secondly, the NATO alliance, framed as a protection from the perceived threat of the Soviet Union. Depicting themselves as the saviors of Europe, America has nonetheless treated this alliance structure as an extension of its own power and interests as opposed to being a true partnership of merits, evident by the push to swell its membership even long after the Cold War had ended, and an expectation that its participants exist primarily to serve Washington’s bidding.
Never has that been more marked than on the issue of China. As the global strategic environment has morphed into a new set of tensions between Beijing and Washington, the United States has long and repeatedly insisted on its allies in doing its bidding, irrespective of what individual interests the states of the continent might be. As soon as the Biden administration won, it immediately started thumping the rhetoric of trans-Atlanticism squared at Beijing. Yet, things are not quite going as planned. The signing of the Europe-China investment came as a shock to Washington and its think tank communities, and further statements from Merkel and Macron since that time have only made it clearer Europe is not interested in confrontation with Beijing.
But there have been more developments too. China has now surpassed the United States to become the largest trading partner of the European Union, a monumental milestone which reveals the stakes at hand. Not surprisingly, America’s dissatisfaction with the EU has been brazen. 'Europe can’t stay neutral in US-China stand-off' argues one op-ed, pushing the line common amongst American neo-cold warriors that Beijing seeks to challenge the global order and “aims to create a world that is not safe for Europe – strategically, economically or ideologically”– therefore Europe has to take a side. As the spectacle of Brexit has passed, it is increasingly evident that its former member, the United Kingdom, certainly has, but the continent itself?
Certainly not. The Great Atlantic Schism is underway, slowly, but steadily. On China, launched by the Trump administration is the defining foreign policy challenge of the 21st century, Europe and the United States are taking different paths. There of course might be some areas of overlap and common interest, but ultimately the geopolitical tide is shifting and the legacy of the previous White House has initiated an earthquake which has left an enormous compound fracture. The divergence between the two runs across a host of issues, and economics is one thing, but it is frivolous, if not illogical, for Washington to expect Europe to be committed to building its approach towards a high-stake Oceanic region of which it is not a part of (the Pacific) on the merits of an alliance structure built for the Atlantic.
The Donald Trump presidency in many ways represented the demise of an old world order, one which Biden is attempting to salvage, but one that is almost certainly dead. That is, a single, comprehensive and interconnected world order – better styled ‘Pax Americana’, globalization sustained by American hegemony. That system ended decisively in 2016 with the election of the Trump administration who denounced “universalism” in favour of an insular interpretation of national interest (America First) and great power competition, reflecting a United States which was no longer confident that a “global” orientated system would work in its favor anymore. In the process, Trump also picked fights with Europe and put dents in the age-old alliance, yet paradoxically demanded its compliance on China.
American liberals widely made the mistake of believing that once Trump was gone, things would “revert back to normal” and it would be in their “value” interest for the European Union to automatically start following the US on China, and therefore Biden began beating the drums of transatlanticism. Yet, there’s been no return to compliance and it doesn’t look like there will be. The consequence of the last few years is that firstly, the European Union now also defines its “interest” in more direct and cohesive terms, and sees itself as a geopolitical pole in its own right. It is not a mere follower. This means even if there are areas of overlap and familiarity with US foreign policy, it understands that America does not blankly serve all of Europe’s interests, but is a potentially competing force with its own agenda. One might observe the growing tension between the EU and the US behind the scenes on the matter of semiconductors, with the Europeans wanting to better develop their own industries and capabilities. What has caused this? The answer: America’s own aggressive politicization of the semiconductor industry for unilateral ends, against China, which has had consequences for Europe.
The temptation to opt for idealism frequently blinds the broader interests at play. It isn’t as simple as “taking a side” for Europe, the continent finds itself squeezed in a geopolitical rift and confrontation it did not create and does not want. It sees Washington treading on its toes just as much as Beijing, it has things to lose in all directions. The mantra of an old alliance system is rapidly losing relevance in Europe’s struggle to define its place in a new world. But as touched upon, geography matters too. The United States has based the bedrock of its China strategy on a mantle it describes as ‘the Indo-Pacific’. No matter how many times they say it, Europe isn’t in the ‘Indo-Pacific’.
Europe is in the Atlantic, and one cannot transplant an Atlantic-based alliance system into a region of the world where it does not belong, nor can this account for the fact that even though China is far apart from Europe, it is increasingly connected to it via the landmass of Eurasia. The boom in China-Europe trade is not a fluke or a coincidence, it is the product of newly configured railways which span the continent and make the transit of goods faster, cheaper and more effective than ever before, cutting away logistically awkward shipping routes. Given this, it is no wonder that Europe has chosen to try and resolve its differences with China through diplomacy and dealing, as opposed to decoupling and destruction.
The United States is in for a rude awakening. Its strategy to engage Europe on China is flawed on multiple accounts, firstly on being floated on a history of Cold War triumphalism and the glories of days long gone such as the Marshall Plan and formulation of NATO, but secondly because the geography is different, the parties involved are different and most strikingly, the world is different. Joe Biden is a liberal idealist president attempting to configure an Obama vision in a Trumpian world. The former president was disastrous on many, many counts, but we cannot say that he didn’t know what national interest was, or that he didn’t understand that obsolete alliances increasingly lacked relevance for America’s goals.