EU faces dilemma of following US’ China policy

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By Ai Jun Source:Global Times

Photo: IC

For a long time, the EU has been facing a puzzle in its China policy – following US suit or pursuing independence. The pressing choice came into sight once again due to an EU report on disinformation on COVID-19. Days after the report was published on Friday, some Western media outlets and politicians are still hyping up that the bloc was “caving in” to Beijing because a passage portraying the Chinese “global disinformation” campaign was reportedly removed.

An article entitled “Pressured by China, EU softened its report on COVID-19 disinformation” said that the EU was “bowing to heavy pressure from Beijing” and was “self-censoring to appease the Chinese Communist Party.” Certain politicians also asserted on Twitter that the bloc was being “weak” toward China.

Those who claimed so are coaxing Brussels to take Washington’s side in the latter’s blame game against Beijing and to adopt a confrontational stance against Beijing.

The EU had been adjusting its China policy before the pandemic occurred, given the latter’s rapid development and the change in the US’ China strategy. After the US labeled China a “strategic competitor,” Brussels came to see Beijing as a “systemic competitor.”

How to treat China’s rise was already a difficult task for the bloc. After the pandemic broke out, the West, including the EU, finds itself confronted with another challenge, namely whether to acknowledge that China has a capacity Western countries aren’t equipped with – the capability to resolve problems in a crisis.

Despite that, the Western world is reluctant to admit the fact that China has tamped the epidemic down. Meanwhile, the novel coronavirus is still raging across the US, with its reported cases reaching nearly 1 million – one-third of the global tally. In terms of the EU, it is not sure for now whether the worst has passed.

As a result, the EU, like the rest of the West, is trying to persuade itself – Western democracy does face huge difficulties, but it is still superior to the Chinese model.

The EU did not pin its focus on the blame game during the pandemic, unlike in the US. Fortunately, there are level-headed politicians in the bloc who are well aware it is not time to create an enemy, but a time to seek cooperation. After all, the blame game in the US was less about the tracing of how the pandemic occurred, but more about finding a convenient scapegoat and the upcoming presidential election.

EU’s China policy is at a crucial crossroads. The pandemic is already political. How the global order would develop in the post-coronavirus era has been heatedly debated for some time now. Washington is accelerating its pace of decoupling with Beijing. After the outbreak is contained, will there be a post-pandemic cold war between China and the US, and will the EU be tied up to the US chariot?

Peter Stano, a spokesman for the European Commission, clarified on Monday, “I refute and dispute any claims that in our reporting we are bowing to external pressure.” But the statement hardly calmed media hype, with the Deutsche Welle saying an information war over the pandemic is just about to begin.

But at least Stano made one thing clear, that is the EU’s report was not about being “weak” or “caving in” to any country. In other words, it knows the need to drop the blame game and to help its people outweigh ideological attacks. Solidarity is needed at this point, and a precondition is to learn to accept China’s model and China’s way.

The relationship between China and the EU is strategic, which involves numerous fields. Cooperation between the two in the midst of the pandemic is only a tiny part. Be it now or in the future, should the EU follow the US or pursue independence? It is time for the EU to think it through.

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