Home » The G7 Anti-China Façade Shows Cracks in Europe
Featured Global News News Politics

The G7 Anti-China Façade Shows Cracks in Europe

The Group of Seven’s apparent united front against China at last month’s Hiroshima summit has given way to a new round of diplomacy with Beijing.

Chinese analysts draw a bright line between, on the one hand, the United States and Japan, which are committed to containing China, and, on the other hand, the leading European countries, which are open to economic incentives.

China’s number two official Li Qiang will visit Berlin and Paris later this month, attending a June 22 conference on support for poor countries (grandly titled “A new world financial pact”). The conference is the project of French President Macron; its significance lies in the fact China as of March exported more to the Global South than to the whole of the developed world.

In the short term, countries like France with longstanding interests in the Global South must find a modus vivendi with China. In the medium term, China’s enormous economic commitment to Africa – an estimated US$155 billion of investment during the last twenty years – represents Europe’s best hope of forestalling an uncontrollable wave of immigration from Africa.

En route to Paris, Premier Li will meet German Chancellor Gerhard Scholz in Berlin. The head of Scholz’s Social-Democratic Party, Lars Klingbeil, met Premier Li in Beijing this week.

Li declared that “Beijing stands ready to propel its strategic partnership with Berlin to new heights,” adding, “China attaches great importance to its relations and cooperation with Germany, and it is important for the two major influential countries to stay true to their original aspiration of cooperation, and strengthen dialogue and coordination to bring more stability and certainty into the world.”

Klingbeil also met with Wang Huning, perhaps China’s most visible political strategist, and the author of the tract “America Against America,” a critique of American cultural and economic decline.

One of the most important currents in the SPD, the Seeheimer Circle, last month issued a white paper calling for a “multidimensional policy” towards China, by way of riposte to Washington’s efforts to isolate China. “An abrupt end to trade relations with China would be an economic disaster,” the Seeheimer paper warns. “We are responsible for the security of domestic employment. In that regard, a coherent China strategy should not be an anti-China strategy that pursues the objection of decoupling Germany from China.”

Party-to-party diplomacy may be more important for German-Chinese relations than government-to-government discussions. During the past year, the most visibly pro-American German party, the Greens, have fallen from 22% to just 14% in the polls, while the hard-right, anti-NATO Alternative für Deutschland has jumped from 14% to 19%. The German coalition has effectively broken down, and the parties are pursuing their policy goals separately.

Hungary provides an important directional indicator for European policy. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban appears to have moved far afield from the European mainstream. He declared May 23 that Russia could not be beaten military in Ukraine, and his foreign minister announced that Budapest would veto additional EU aide to Kiev. Hungary’s relations with China are strong, and developing rapidly.

Orban’s government has sought more rather than less Chinese high-tech investment, including the East-West intermodal freight hub, the first rail transport facility using 5G broadband and artificial intelligence for container transshipments, an important project for China’s Huawei. That contrasts with the rumbling (reported on June 7 in the Financial Times) of an EU-wide ban on Huawei infrastructure.

Then-Chinese premier Li Keqiang, left, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban address a press conference in the parliament in Budapest in November 2017 after official talks. Photo: Asia Times files / AFP / Attila Kisbenedek

Orban is less isolated than he appears. It is unlikely that he would take outlier positions unless he had the tacit support of other European political forces. The Hungarian leader is likely to set the pace for the next round of EU-China discussions.

China sees opportunity in Europe. Countries in the G7 “have different degrees of intensity in dealing with China, and China can adopt a strategy of dividing them,” wrote the influential commentator Yang Feng in a May 23 online analysis that likely reflects the thinking of the Chinese government.

“The difference in the level” of opposition to China, Yang wrote, “means that China has different options for responding to the positions of the seven countries. What Japan has adopted is industrial substitution, which is direct competition [with China]. But in the case of France, Germany and Italy, China can offer a policy of attraction, opening up its domestic economy and trade, as well as opening up investment. Where the UK is concerned, China will cooperate if wants to cooperate and pull back if it does not want to cooperate. It is up to the UK to choose.”

The Chinese commentator noted, “Regardless of how loudly the Group of Seven is shouting, the only countries that China really has to deal with are the United States and Japan.” He added: “After Biden took office, in terms of economic and trade policies, only Japan has cooperated with the US policy and imposed blockades and sanctions on China. Most of the other countries have stayed at the level of talk.”

Yang Feng added that China will “continue to work toward de-dollarization in the non-American world. Even US allies such as the European Union countries are also interested in getting rid of their dependence on the US dollar.”

Source : Asiatimes