By António dos Santos Queirós, professor and researcher. University of Lisbon
Chinese President Xi Jinping met on December 7th in Beijing with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Úrsula von der Leyen, in a meeting that should outline new perspectives for relations between the EU and China.
What does China expect from this meeting? Whether it is solving the problems facing Europe or facing global challenges, China is a reliable and indispensable partner for the EU and an integral part of a broad alliance for peace and the common future of humanity. Properly resolving disputes through dialogue and consultation has benefited China-EU relations over the years and is the purpose of this summit.
China is willing to enhance dialogue and cooperation on human rights through building a new global peace architecture, the essential pillar of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, through the Global Security Initiative and the Principle of Indivisible Security, recently applied to China's proposals to end the conflict in Ukraine and Palestine. No country should seek its security at the expense of the security of its neighboring countries or aggressive pacts and actions, whether military intervention or economic sanctions, that violate the principles of the United Nations and violate international law and its resolutions.
China is willing to promote economic democracy, an integral part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by deepening the rights of citizens of nations included in the new Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative), as it has already proven capable of in its own country, through the innovative “targeted strategy” of poverty reduction, which combines not only humanitarian aid, according to the Western model, but also sustainable development, which creates jobs and increases the income of the poor. It is also associated with government intervention that ensures sufficient income, the two guarantees of adequate food and clothing – and the three rights, housing, health, and education. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “Every time I visit China, I am surprised by the speed of change and progress. It created one of the most dynamic economies in the world while helping more than 800 million people escape poverty – the greatest anti-poverty achievement in history (United Nations Press, 26 September 2019). A decade before the goal set by the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, on a trajectory that dates back to 1949, China's contribution to reducing humanity's poverty represents 70% of this poverty reduction, which, however, continues to spread across the world and knocking on the doors of the EU, while also growing within it.
The “new” and “old Europe”
The geostrategic confrontation between Russia and the USA has worsened in Eurasia, far from the understanding of European citizens and the scrutiny of the media. The US adopted a dual strategy: it continued to put pressure on the dominant EU countries, using the United Kingdom as a pivot, but at the same time it supported, using different sources of financing, the rise to power in Eastern Europe of nationalist and authoritarian parties. They were doubly successful: the EU found itself weakened by Brexit, especially on a military level, with the departure of the United Kingdom. In Eastern Europe, particularly in the Baltic States and Poland, governments emerged completely aligned with American interests.
The strategy of alliance with the “new Europe”, when necessary, against “old Europe”, which the then United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, theorized in the context of the US decision to invade Iraq, even without the approval of the United Nations, and was consolidated with the war in Ukraine.
The US government's Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in line with the 2017 United States National Security Strategy (NSS) and the 2020 United States Strategic Approach to China, released the “Strategic Action Plan to Combat the Threat Posed by the People's Republic of China”, given its rise on the world stage; The European Parliament then approved the “New Strategy for China”, which follows the aims and political line of confrontation with China, advocated by the US government.
The EU's New Strategy towards China is a sinister document, which contains the most infamous and implausible accusations and lies about China. It is not based on any serious study of reality, nor does it correspond to the political position of the business sector, nor the aspirations and feelings of European nations and peoples.
Where do the threats to the stability and progress of the European economy come from?
Let us not lose our memory. American government envoys came to Europe to try to prevent the deployment of 5G technology, pressuring and threatening their governments. But not using Huawei's network would mean a delay of "at least 2 years" for Europe, protested the CEOs of the Telecommunications sector! At the same time, they tried to block the construction of the new Torrente Norte-2 pipeline, which would supply Germany and the rest of Europe with cheap Russian gas, which had since been destroyed in the context of the Ukrainian war. They took advantage of this conflict to encourage a total boycott of the Russian Federation, depriving both countries of a trade flow of 260,000 million (26 billion) euros. At the initiative and political pressure of the USA, the European Parliament boycotted the implementation of the Global Investment Agreement, capable of avoiding the fall of the European economy, shaken by the pandemic and the first signs of a crisis of overproduction and financing...
Let us note that European GDP largely depends on exports. Take the case of its largest economies: Germany, 38.71% (2019), France, 21.04% (2019), Italy, 26.62%, Spain, 23.94%, but not the United Kingdom, 16.61% (2019). As a result: Germany, the locomotive of the European economy, had a stagnant or negative GDP already in 2019. Currently, and after Germany, it was France that entered negative territory in the third quarter of 2023. The French economy contracted by 0. 1% in the summer months. Italy, the third largest, stagnated.
China authorized visa-free entry for travelers from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia from December 1, in a sign of goodwill and greater openness.
China is important for the EU in many areas: containing inflation, promoting economic recovery, ecological transition, digital transformation, and defending multilateralism, which the president of the European Union called, in the aforementioned speech, “islands of cooperation”, but continuing to strategically classify China as a “systemic rival”. With this political vision, the flow of peace and progress that the Chinese nation sows throughout the world will flow to other continents. To prevent this from happening, the EU needs to adopt an independent and sovereign policy towards the USA, for the benefit of all countries, strengthening the democratic forces that resist American and European democracy, which are threatened today, and in support of the peaceful transition of imperialist globalization for the new Era of Multilateralism.