EU’s differences with China over trade, human rights and democracy make it shift towards Indo-Pacific region
European Union’s ties with China has grown cold over the last few years, particularly since 2018 when the communist nation cracked down on pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong. The nations part of the union chose to drift away over their difference of opinion with China especially over democracy, human rights, non-transparent terms of trade and economic policy. To sum up the current state of ties between the two, Yu Jie, senior research fellow at Chatam House told CNBC, “Trust is very thin”.
Things grew worse with China’s imposition of new security law in Hong Kong, which the communist regime passed in June, just after the European officials met their Chinese counterparts and raised concern over China’s handling of pro-democracy protests. Along with Hong Kong situation, Europe also openly opposed China’s muscle flexing over Taiwan and its treatment of muslim minority community of Uighur.
“We have to recognise that we do not share the same values, political systems, or approach to multilateralism,” Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said in June after a call with the Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“We want to help shape (the future global order) so that it is based on rules and international cooperation, not on the law of the strong. That is why we have intensified cooperation with those countries that share our democratic and liberal values,”
German foreign minister Heiko Maas
Besides, EU’s frustration over trade with China rose over the latter’s indirect tactics to keep its market closed. The EU has argued that European companies working in China do not experience same levels of transparency and fair competition as provided to Chinese firms in the European market. However, the analyst believed that the two might not be able to formalise an effective trade agreement as they had earlier planned to achieve by the end of the year.
“I don’t think we will hear any significant progress,” Janka Oertel, Asia director at foreign policy think-tank the European Council on Foreign Relations, told CNBC.
The European bloc has started to explore new trade relations beyond China, which directly puts Asian-Pacific countries in limelight. EU, specifically Germany, which has been one of the largest trading partner of China in the entire continent has adopted India-Pacific strategy over China’s political, economic and human rights issues. Besides, Germany had been growing concerned over its increasing dependence over China. “We want to help shape (the future global order) so that it is based on rules and international cooperation, not on the law of the strong. That is why we have intensified cooperation with those countries that share our democratic and liberal values,” German foreign minister Heiko Maas said on September 2.