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China has spent 2020 losing friends. But Brussels can't afford to make an enemy of the world's next hyperpower

September 13, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

This year has left the European Union very confused over what to do about China. At the start of the year, the two parties hoped to formalize their economic and strategic partnership at a landmark summit in Leipzig, hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, marking a historic breakthrough in China-EU relations.

It hasn't just been China's initial poor handling of a pandemic that began in its borders that have damaged ties; Europe's most senior politicians have been forced to "think carefully about what kind of geopolitical actor China is trying to become," said an EU source.

"In our view, China has used the fact that so much of the world is distracted by the virus to accelerate its objectives in places like Hong Kong with the security law, its crackdown on the Uyghurs and international provocation," said the source.

In a piece published Wednesday by the Global Times, a state-backed tabloid with strong links to the Chinese military, Europe analyst Xin Hua argued that "China and Europe need each other. "

He believes the EU's "hesitance is partly down member states not agreeing on how to handle China and partly the significance of its economic power" -- while it's also not in the EU's nature to make enemies.

The EU diplomat, to some extent, agrees: "At the moment there is little to no unity on what type of relationship we ultimately want with China, so our priority needs to be building bridges between member states so we are able to act as one. " They also point out the difficulties of having Germany and Merkel driving the China initiative, saying that "German foreign policy is to make no enemies and make as many friends as possible.

The EU recognizes that with the US becoming increasingly hostile to Beijing, there is a vacancy for a superpower that can develop a strategy enabling it to wield influence over China.

If the EU is unable to find a way to balance relations between the US and China, before long it will be hard to resist calls to side with its long-standing Atlantic ally on the global stage.

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