China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, is all set to pay a visit to Europe from August 25 to September 1, in order to do ‘damage control’ of its own steps towards Hong Kong and of the damage done by the United States.
Recently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Austria, Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland, and Slovenia to persuade the European countries to take a tougher stance and Chinese Communist Party and Chinese companies like Huawei which are being used as a tool for espionage.
Now Chinese foreign minister will visit Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, France and Germany, none of which were visited by Pompeo in his last visit to Europe. The primary agenda for Yi’s visit is to set the agenda for Xi Jinping’s meet with European leaders which is scheduled next month, and ensure that damage in EU-China relations in the last few months does not hinder them from going ahead with the much anticipated ‘investment deal’.
In the last few months, relations between China and the European Union have suffered heavy damage despite efforts of reconciliation by Xi Jinping and Angela Merkel, the de facto leader of European Union.
Most of the European countries criticized the imposition of National Security Law over Hong Kong in very strongly worded statements. And despite Merkel’s personal love for China, the German government was forced to suspend the extradition treaty with Hong Kong.
Huawei, the company whose market participation has become a tool for the US and China to project their power in a particular country, has been already banned by France, the United Kingdom, and Telecom Italia, the largest telecommunication player in Italy- which indirectly means that these countries and companies value the relationship with the US more than that with China.
Huawei’s participation in 5G rollout is among the major points on which Wang Yi and European leaders would hold a talk. China is hopeful about the telecom giant’s participation in German market despite the rising call in Germany’s political discussion to ban the Chinese players.
Also, Yi would hold talks with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and possibly Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte over the future of Huawei in Italy’s 5G rollout as the country is considering whether to allow the Chinese giants in 5G infrastructure or not.
“Wang will be nervous to see whether Beijing can still count on Rome, and particularly … Di Maio for unquestioned support as US-China tensions escalate and as the EU strives to pursue a more robust policy towards China,” said Lucrezia Poggetti, an expert on EU-China relations at the Mercator Institute for China Studies, according to whom Yi’s visit to Europe is “damage control exercise”. “He might end up disappointed,” he added.
With the poll pundits predicting the win of Biden in the upcoming US Presidential elections, Beijing fears creation of a transatlantic alliance against China and its companies. Biden has already said that he would bring the like-minded nations together to craft an alliance against Chinese Communist party. “Beijing’s main goal is to prevent the creation of a united transatlantic front against China, particularly on 5G,” said Poggettti.
The relations between China and the European Union are not on a good trajectory despite enormous efforts by Xi Jinping and Angela Merkel. Almost all the other big leaders of Europe like Marcon, Johnson have taken an anti-China stance. Merkel is set to retire in the first half of next year as she announced herself, and two of the top three contenders are anti-China. So, the future of EU-China relations looks bleak and it will be interesting to see what foreign minister Wang Yi through this visit and President Jinping though the meet in mid-September can achieve.