When China, under President Xi Jinping, realized that the US was weakened, had no appetite for new military conflict, and was in a mode of retreat, it had begun to set stricter conditions for engagement with American allies and partners in Europe and Asia. With Biden’s election and his call for a united front for the US and its allies against China, the tables have turned.
30th. November 2020
06:29 am (ACTUAL)
4 hours ago
CHECKMATE: Biden’s presidency would open new debates on how best to deal with China together.
China was concerned about the enthusiastic response from European Union (EU) countries like Germany and France in the election of US President-elect Joe Biden. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas recently remarked: “Transatlantic friendship is essential in order to meet the great challenges of our time, including China. ”
China had pulled an immense lever from the hard blows of President Trump on the transatlantic unity, which NATO described as « brain dead », certain German and French exports to the USA were subject to tariffs and the EU countries were publicly reprimanded, more so spending their collective defense and making important decisions like withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear and Paris climate agreements without consulting them.
When China realized that the US was severely weakened, had no appetite for new military conflict, and was in a mode of retreat, it had begun, under President Xi Jinping, tougher terms for engagement with US allies and partners Europe and Asia set. Backed by its Belt and Road and other economic initiatives, the EU was divided by the creation of a group of 17 plus 1 countries, led by Hungary and others, to support China’s interests.
With the election of Biden and his call for a « united front of the US, its allies and partners to counter China’s abusive behavior », the tables suddenly turned. China is finding a different EU with more stubborn leaders and a considerable tightening of cooperation with China.
EU leaders are now demanding more market access from China, the elimination of subsidies to China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs), fair trade conditions and restrictions on the SOEs to take over assets in EU markets. The US had made this request; They told her that a full investment deal would depend on China making stronger offers. China hopes that the EU countries will not follow the direction of the US to start a new « Cold War », economic decoupling and the exclusion of Huawei from their 5G networks.
The new undercurrents can be felt in several EU countries. Slovakia, along with the other Eastern European countries, signed declarations with the United States in October to reduce Chinese influence on 5G telecommunications infrastructure. The Netherlands is reluctant to renew an export license to sell critical microchip technology to China. Even indebted Italy is now trying to reconcile its economic ties with China with the need to send a « friendly » message to Washington.
What annoys China is that the EU countries are now calling on them to respect the human rights of their minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, guarantee freedoms to Hong Kong, and release Canadian nationals Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor (arrested by China) the release of Huawei boss Meng Wanzhou) and Chinese dissidents like Gui Minhai. When Xi Jinping told EU leaders that China would not accept their lectures on human rights and that the EU should take care of its own human rights record, EU leaders pushed him back, saying that China’s human rights abuses are « systemic ». .
Xi, who has cultivated the image of a strong man, has little scope for compromising on market access, government subsidies or human rights issues. There were previous plans to invite the Chinese President to meet with members of the European Council (EC) next year. These have been dropped for the time being. Instead, the EC invites the US President to discuss common priorities.
In Asia, too, the leading Chinese politicians are working on new whirlpools that are being stirred up by the resumption of transatlantic unity. Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently visited Tokyo to repair fences over the recurring dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands. Wang told Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that Xi wanted to establish good working relationships with him and that the Senkaku dispute shouldn’t get in the way.
The two sides agreed to resume business trips and set up a hotline to resolve their maritime disputes. Japan’s dispute with China is relatively minor and Prime Minister Suga is securing himself to improve relations with China and other countries while maintaining close ties with the United States.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is considering a visit to South Korea after the coronavirus situation has stabilized. However, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is already under considerable domestic pressure due to his China-friendly approach given the escalating sentiment against China in the country.
Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang held a video summit with leaders of ASEAN countries in mid-November, calling on them to “take a flexible approach to expedite negotiations on a code of conduct to demonstrate to the international community that she and China have the wisdom to control the situation in the South China Sea « in order to avoid external disturbances (read the USA).
China’s stance on Australia has been more tenacious, urging Canberra to stop criticizing China, be it for Covid-19, its human rights record and domestic interference. Similarly, China has been truculent in its stance on India, arguing that the latter in its rivalry with that country has migrated towards the US, which India has denied. China is putting immense pressure on both India and Australia to change course, but those countries have resolutely opposed Beijing’s defeats.
The restoration of transatlantic unity has violated the considerable leverage China had begun to enjoy in pursuing a Hawkian foreign policy. A Biden presidency would open new debates on new parameters among US allies and partners about how best to deal with an emerging and aggressive China. The Chinese hope their swift diplomatic moves with US allies and partners can help hold some of them back and stand up for the US completely.
As the US, its allies and partners in Europe and Asia begin to work together to roll back China’s unfair economic policies and abusive behavior, the terms of engagement previously set by Beijing would undoubtedly change. The Chinese leadership is doing its best not to lose too much in the new political orientation.
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