lørdag 9. mai 2020

How China Is Losing Europe

If 2019 was the year when Europeans began having serious doubts about Beijing’s geopolitical intentions, 2020 may go down in history as the moment they turned against China in defiance. That’s not because they blame the Chinese for originating Covid-19, as U.S. President Donald Trump and his secretary of state seem obsessed with doing. It’s because China, by trying to capitalize on the pandemic with a stunningly unsophisticated propaganda campaign, inadvertently showed Europeans its cynicism.

The motivation behind the Chinese propaganda is obvious enough: With the U.S. flailing under Trump, Beijing sees an opening to finally rise to the status of a second superpower. The biggest geopolitical prize in this contest is the European Union, formerly anchored securely in the transatlantic camp but in recent years increasingly nervous about Trump and open to Chinese trade, investment and influence.

As the pandemic’s epicenter moved from Wuhan to European countries such as Italy and Spain, China initially had the right idea. Starting in mid-March, it sent Europe big shipments of face masks and other medical equipment, adorned with Chinese flags. Some of this gear turned out to be shoddy, but people saw it as a nice gesture. China could have stopped at “mask diplomacy” and come out ahead.