søndag 13. september 2020

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

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. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that instead of a red-carpet welcome from Germany, the other 26 EU member states and Brussels' top figures, Chinese President Xi Jinping will instead have to settle for a video conference with Merkel and the Presidents of the EU Commission and Council. "Obviously having a video call with just three leaders is a pretty lame consolation prize for China. We don't even know if there will be a final communiqué," said Steven Blockmans, acting director of the Centre for European Policy Studies.

Most long-term observers of EU-China relations agree that 2020 has been a bit of a disaster in that sphere. 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.