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There are low ties between Europe and China

In 2014, Chinese leader Xi Jinping set out to herald a new era of cooperation in a multi-country tour, which the European Parliament President at the time called “a welcome signal of the importance t



For the first time, Chinese President Xi Jinping made an official visit to Europe in 2014, and in doing so, he set out to inaugurate an era of greater cooperation between the two countries, which the European Parliament President at the time called “a welcome signal.”

It’s been eight years now, and analysts say the Sino-EU partnership has hit its lowest point in recent decades.

There has been a decline in China-EU ties as a result of European concerns about China’s global ambitions as well as its human rights record as a result of U.S.-China tensions, sanctions, and, most recently, Russia’s war in Ukraine.

That was made clear during two European summits last month. European views on China have become more in line with those in the United States, as demonstrated by the G7 and NATO hardening their positions on China.


Beijing may have underestimated the extent to which it was pushing Europe away at times, but it also appeared prepared to pay the price for that distance.

But Beijing’s ideal vision of a Europe with strong ties to China that serves as a counterbalance to American power and posture has been dealt a significant blow.

Ahead of an April summit with EU leaders, Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “China and the EU should act as two major forces upholding world peace and offsetting uncertainties in the international landscape.”

The European side, on the other hand, seemed to have no interest in hearing those words, and instead focused on putting pressure on China to help broker peace in Ukraine. Nothing could be further from the truth. In any case, Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat for foreign affairs, described the meeting as “a dialogue of the deaf.”


For decades, Beijing had carefully crafted its European relations, creating an annual summit with Central and Eastern European countries, as well as seeking inroads for its Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, which gained support from one G7 member when Italy signed on in 2019.

Europeans shared American apprehensions about the dangers of working with China. China’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea and toward Taiwan, as well as the targeting of companies or countries that crossed the Chinese government’s red line on hot-button issues, were all things European nations were witnessing under Xi Jinping’s leadership.

Analysts believe that China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang and the dismantling of Hong Kong’s civil society contributed to a shift in European perceptions. Many Uyghur and other Muslim minorities have been accused of being imprisoned in Xinjiang, but Chinese officials have dismissed these claims as fabrications and denounced any discussion of them as “interference” in their internal affairs.

The European Union declared China a “systemic rival” in 2019 and relations have since deteriorated.


According to SOAS China Institute Director Steve Tsang, “China now demands that the rest of the world pay it due respect and recognize the positions China takes without much regard to what the others may think.”

As a result of these policies, Western democracies “abandoned the decades-long policy of helping China to modernize and rise with a hope that greater economic integration will encourage China to become a responsible stake holder in world affairs,” Tsang said, according to Reuters.

The advantage in terms of money.

An EU complaint to the World Trade Organization was prompted by a dispute between China and Lithuania earlier this year. Due to what Beijing considers to be a violation of its “One China” principle, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as its sovereign territory, the Baltic state accused Beijing of “discriminatory trade practices against Lithuania.”


The EU-China trade deal, which had been in the works for a long time, was the biggest financial casualty of last year’s sanctions exchange. After the EU imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials for alleged abuses in Xinjiang, Beijing imposed penalties on EU lawmakers and bodies, European think tanks, and independent scholars.

However, the damage was far more extensive than the deal itself.

A senior research associate at the Netherlands-based think tank Clingendael, Ingrid d’Hooghe, said that Beijing’s overreaction was ill-advised.

In the end, China’s diplomatic goals were undermined by its overly reactive sanctions and coercive diplomacy, and its strategy toward Europe was in disarray.” “At the same time, it has brought Europe closer to the United States.”


Henry Gao, a law professor at Singapore Management University’s Yong Pung How School of Law, says that while these actions may have shifted European thinking with clear economic consequences, they added up for Beijing’s Foreign Ministry.

In order to make political points, “the cold relationship is a necessary price,” he said.

Is there a gap in my vision?

Sino-European relations may be jeopardized by its most recent assessments of how China should respond to Russia’s war in Ukraine


Instead of condemning Ukraine’s war, China bolstered its relationship with Russia and joined the Kremlin in pointing fingers at NATO and Western powers.

One of China’s most prominent policy analysts, Li Mingjiang of Nanyang Technology University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, says that leading policy analysts in China were aware of the negative consequences that China’s position would have on its European ties. Li, on the other hand, believes that decision-makers may have “underestimated” this assessment.

He went on to say that the strategic importance of China’s relationship with Russia, as well as Xi’s personal friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, likely played a role.

They couldn’t afford to have any major negative consequences on the China-Russia strategic partnership as a result of this dilemma.” Li asserted, “That imperative really prevailed. “.


Scholars on China’s mainland have acknowledged the country’s blindness to the dangers of war in Ukraine. Chen Dingding, director of the Guangzhou-based Intellisia Institute think tank, wrote in a co-authored article for The Diplomat that Chinese officials and academics had failed to recognize the “shock” that death and destruction in Ukraine would bring to Europeans. Chen Dingding:

As a result of the war, European attitudes toward common security, economic dependency, and national sovereignty will change for the foreseeable future, according to Chen and his international group of coauthors.

According to d’Hooghe, however, there are still strong voices in many countries that advocate for a balanced approach to China. A recalibrating of Europe’s approach to working with China while keeping an eye on security and balance may be in the works for the future, she said.

As she put it, “but at the moment – and this is also true with the European relationship with Russia – normative considerations appear to weigh heavier than economic interests,”


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