Despite China’s hold on the European Union, some sort of an alliance against Beijing is taking shape in the West, as 18 Western lawmakers have formed the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (Ipac), a coalition to “adopt a tougher stance on the Chinese Communist Party” to take tougher stance against China.
The 18 high-profile lawmakers are critical of Beijing, and also includes the European Parliament’s Reinhard Bütikofer and Iain Duncan Smith, and also includes Norway and Sweden. There is also a member representing Germany, Michael Brand who is interestingly the human rights spokesperson of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party. This coalition is therefore in stark contradiction to the European Union’s official stance that happens to tilt towards Beijing.
Nine lawmaking bodies, including the European Parliament, are represented in this anti-China bloc and US lawmakers- Senators Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio, who are also known as China hawks, are also a part of this newly formed coalition.
“How we respond to the People’s Republic of China and the Communist Party’s attempt to reshape the globe is the defining foreign policy question of our time,” Rubio said. The coalition is going to focus on five areas as part of China-centric policymaking- safeguarding international rules-based order, upholding human rights, promoting trade fairness, developing complementary security strategies, and protecting national sovereignty and integrity.
With members from EU countries and the European Parliament joining the anti-China coalition, individual countries have given a message to the European Union that they don’t care for its close ties with China.
At a time when China is facing backlash around the world, it had found an ally in the European Union which used to go soft on China every now and then. First, the EU officials watered down a report that criticised China for its disinformation campaign, then it allowed the Chinese State media to censor a “friendship letter” co-authored and co-signed by all European Union Ambassadors to China, to remove references of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Then the EU drafted a resolution regarding the handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the 73rd World Health Assembly. Australia too backed it, but the EU again supported the Dragon by not mentioning China or Wuhan in the entire draft.
The EU has no clear-cut China policy and it is also a divided bloc, which allows China to exploit the intergovernmental organisation. European Union’s Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell himself agrees that the EU has been ‘naive’ about China.
He even said, “Developing a joint EU approach to superpowers is never easy, as each member state has its own viewpoints and sensitivities,” and added, “the China case is no exception. What’s more, China is not shy about sometimes playing on these differences.”
The European Union is ‘naive’ and divided, and its officials stand with China, but the European Continent does not stand with China. The EU officials might continue supporting China but individual EU members have stood up to Chinese aggression time and again.
Sweden, a prominent EU member, for example, has been at loggerheads with Beijing, and the Chinese Ambassador to Sweden, Gui Congyou has been openly offensive like any other Chinese diplomat- issuing threats and using extremely aggressive language. Sweden has also stood up to Chinese aggression.
Estonia, another EU member, recently released an intelligence report warning about growing Chinese influence, following which it has been facing pressure from Beijing to amend the report.
France and China also share a good deal of acrimony, as the Chinese Embassy in France has been constantly ridiculing the country’s response to COVID-19 Pandemic by spreading rumours and speculations, clearly meddling into France’s internal affairs.
They have also sparred over France’s defense deal with Taiwan. Germany might have shied away from criticising China, but the fact remains that Germany, along with Italy and Spain, was one of the first European countries to tighten its FDI norms in order to avoid a hostile Chinese takeover.
Within Germany, there is an anti-China sentiment even though the German Chancellor Angela Merkel might be seen as playing into the hands of Beijing. It is also well represented in a spokesperson of Merkel’s party joining the anti-China coalition of lawmakers.
Czech Republic too has been involved in a feud with China, with the Czech Prime Minister even demanding that the Chinese Ambassador be replaced after the latter wrote a threatening letter to Czech authorities. EU has failed to stand up for the cause of European countries, therefore they are taking a stand for themselves.
This is also the reason why EU members within the Group of 7 (G-7), viz. Italy, Germany, and France did not object when Trump decided to expand the G-7 inviting India, Australia, Russia, and South Korea. China was not included in the expansion on purpose. The expanded G-7 is anti-China yet Germany, France, and Italy did not object.
They also didn’t object when the UK proposed D10- an alliance of democratic countries to take on Chinese tech giant Huawei’s 5G technology. Thus, many EU members are clear in their approach, that is, they want to insulate themselves from China’s nefarious actions even if the EU itself plays into the Dragon’s hands.