Relations between China and Europe are deteriorating, and the European Union (EU) took a decision on May 20 to freeze the ratification of the EU-China (CAI) Comprehensive Investment Agreement, in response to China’s sanctions against EU politicians. What is foreseeable is that in the future, the Xi government will make appropriate adjustments to its policy towards Europe. At present, Beijing is unwilling or unwilling to allow the EU to become another rival alongside the United States.
The recent series of actions by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) show that Xi Jinping, the main leader of the CCP, has repeatedly misjudged Europe, which is one of the reasons why the relationship between China and Europe came to this point.
Beijing believes the EU will remain silent on China’s human rights violations in exchange for economic benefits.
On the evening of 30 December 2020, China and Europe in principle concluded the negotiations for the CAI, which caused the CCP’s official media to erupt in loud cheers.
The CCP has been dealing with Europe and the United States for many years through economic benefits in exchange for less or no criticism of the CCP’s human rights problems. This tactic has worked repeatedly over the past decade or so.
On 7 December last year, the EU adopted a decision and a regulation establishing a ‘global sanctions regime for human rights’. The EU announced in a statement: ‘For the first time, the EU is equipping itself with a framework that allows it to target individuals, entities and bodies – including state and non-state actors – responsible for, involved at or associated with serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide, regardless of where it occurred. ”
For that, the EU’s human rights dialogue with China was held behind closed doors 37 times at the request of Beijing. Europe now generally realizes that this dialogue has had little impact on the fact that the CCP has improved its human rights record.
When the EU adopted a new human rights sanction regime and entered into talks with Beijing on an economic agreement similar to the first phase of the US and Chinese economic and trade agreement, Xi made the first mistake by assuming that it was only a higher offer was from the EU in terms of recognizing economic benefits from China, the EU would not turn entirely to the United States, and would remain silent on the CCP’s human rights issues as before.
This was actually the case until the end of last year – the CAI is indeed based on Beijing’s unilateral market opening for the EU.
Beijing does not realize that the EU’s orientation towards the CCP has changed.
In 2003, China and Europe had a comprehensive strategic partnership and the two sides participated in significant economic cooperation and trade. In 2013, after Xi came to power, the two parties even published the ‘Strategic Agenda for EU-China 2020 Cooperation’. But since then, the CCP’s conflict of interest with the EU has increased in many political and economic areas. In 2019, during the trade war between America and China, the EU’s orientation towards the CCP changed dramatically.
In March 2019, the EU published “EU-China – a strategic outlook,“What characterized the CCP as a ‘partner’, ‘an’ economic competitor ‘and’ ‘a systemic competitor’. This positioning is similar to the position of the Biden government on the CCP today – namely that the EU will work with the CCP on international issues such as climate change, compete economically with the CCP and fight back when the CCP threatens its own security.
The Xi administration has clearly misjudged this new position of China and EU relations. After the EU imposed sanctions on the CCP in March this year over the Xinjiang human rights violations, Beijing was furious with shame. This is reflected in the remarks of Wang Yi, the CCP’s foreign minister.
“We never imagined that the EU would impose sanctions on us,” Wang said at the Munich Security Conference on May 25. According to European media, he questions “how a strategic partner can take such action.”
Wang acknowledged that “Beijing was shocked when Brussels imposed sanctions on Chinese officials,” Reuters reported.
Wang also said the sanctions reminded the CCP of “the days when they were bullied by European imperialists.”
Beijing underestimates the effects of sanctions on Europe, as many sanctioned European lawmakers are fighting back.
Another sign of Beijing’s anger is the lack of reciprocity in the sanctions imposed by China and Europe. The CCP approved 10 people and 4 entities from the EU, while the EU approved only 4 people and 1 entity in China.
The sanctions imposed by the CCP against the EU have had serious consequences. The Xi administration misjudged or underestimated the consequences.
The most immediate consequence of this was that the EU Parliament froze the ratification of the CAI on 20 May. In addition, the sanctions of the CCP have caused various consequences.
Samuel Cogolati, a member of the Belgian parliament and one of the Europeans approved by the CCP, for example, claims that Alibaba (Chinese giant for e-commerce) was a ‘nest of spies’ for the CCP.
This kind of reaction to Beijing’s sanctions surprised the Chinese regime. In addition, the challenges for human rights violations, which were originally limited to Xinjiang, gradually began to spread to other areas due to the sanctions imposed by the CCP against European officials.
Action by Lithuania has had the greatest impact on the CCP’s diplomacy. On May 20, the Lithuanian parliament claims that the CCP is committing ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang. According to Reuters, a resolution sponsored by Dovile Sakaliene, an MP who was blacklisted by the CCP, was ‘supported by three-fifths of Lithuania’s parliamentarians’. The non-binding resolution called for a “UN inquiry into internment camps and to ask the European Commission to review relations with Beijing.”
On 22 May, Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis expressed in a statement Lithuania’s decision to withdraw from the Beijing “17 + 1” initiative, a move that embarrassed the CCP. .
The “17 + 1” platform, which became “16 + 1”, was launched by the CCP in 2012, initially to strengthen Beijing’s cooperation with 11 EU member states and five Balkan countries. In 2019, Greece joined the initiative, which was then ’17 + 1 ‘.
In the future, for the sake of saving face (avoid humiliation), the CCP can include other European countries in the initiative and maintain the “17 + 1” number. However, the CCP could face additional problems if there are any conflicts of interest between the newly joined parties and the original Central and Eastern European countries.
Another European country that stands up against the CCP is the United Kingdom.
On April 22, the British parliament declared Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang a ‘genocide’.
According to a statement from the Interparliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), the UK’s move is ‘the latest in a series of coordinated actions by IPAC members.’ The IPAC (Interparliamentary Alliance on China) ‘is an international group of legislators working to reform the way democracies approach China.’
Miriam Lexmann, the Slovak member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, was also placed on the CCP’s blacklist of sanctions in March, and she is also a member of IPAC.
Other European members of IPAC who supported the UK’s declaration of the CCP’s genocide in Xinjiang include Italian IPAC member Andrea Delmastro Delle Vedove, Belgian IPAC member Samuel Cogolati, and IPAC members Margarete Bause and Gyde Jensen of Germany in.
Beijing imposes heavy sanctions on the political and security committee of the European Council.
Another misjudgment is the announcement by the CCP Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 22 that the Political and Security Committee (PSC) of the European Council is a sanctioned entity.
The European Council ‘sets the EU’s policy agenda’ according to its official website and ‘the members of the European Council are the Heads of State or Government of the 27 EU Member States, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission. “The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also participates in meetings of the European Council when foreign affairs are discussed.”
The PSC is’ responsible for the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CSFP) and the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) ‘, and is’ composed of ambassadors from member states based in Brussels and chaired by representatives of the European External Action Service. ” Its roles include: monitoring the international situation, recommending strategic approaches and policy options to the Council; provide guidance to the Military Committee, the Political-Military Group, and the Committee on Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management, and to ensure political control and strategic direction of crisis management operations.
By imposing sanctions on this body, the Central Ministry sanctions the decision-makers of the EU’s common foreign and security policy. In future, the PSC will continue to draw up EU policies related to the CCP, whether the CCP likes it or not. In the current political climate, the PSC is unlikely to be the first to withdraw from the CCP.
More seriously, if the CCP announced that it would ban diplomats in this organization from entering China, it would end up in an awkward situation in its relations with Europe because of the importance of these individuals in the country’s diplomatic system, ‘ a situation that can be described as devastating to China-Europe relations.
It is predictable that Beijing will make appropriate adjustments to its future European policy, otherwise relations between China and Europe will decline rapidly. The CCP is not prepared or willing to let the EU become another competitor with the United States. To this end, the CCP has indicated that it is mitigating.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) of April 29 reported a cooling off on the sanctions.
“But there is still little indication of how the Chinese restrictions apply,” the SCMP reported. “According to diplomatic sources, Chinese officials have tried to downplay the importance of its sanctions and prove that the policy is less effective than it appears.”
Some European diplomatic insiders know this well.
“We stopped inquiring because it would force the Chinese side to define it,” a source told SCMP.
Linyi Li is a senior editor and commentator at the Chinese Epoch Times focusing on China and international affairs. Previously, he was a journalist in Ottawa, Canada, and focused on Parliament Hill news.
Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.