European Parliament President David Sassoli Photo: AFP
Regardless of their actual impact, the sanctions imposed by China on some EU politicians and entities must be viewed as “insulting” by some European elites. In the time that international politics has been dominated by Western powers, a sanction was a political weapon exclusive to them. It carries a strong sense of superiority.
European Parliament President David Sassoli told Politico on Tuesday, China “must not think that we are a punching bag.” He said the EU “is a great worldwide actor, a great market. We [the EU] are an area of freedom … and there is no intimidation we can accept.”
Intimidation? The EU’s sanctions on relevant Chinese individuals and entity on Monday are based on nothing but lies and disinformation. This move disregards and distorts facts, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs. China’s countermeasures against EU’s sanctions are rational and justified. The EU has underlined reciprocity in dealing with China, particularly on trade. But Sassoli labeled China’s countermeasures against the EU’s sanctions as “intimidation.” This reflects that some EU politicians are not prepared for true reciprocity, let alone equality.
Michael Gahler, one European parliamentarian sanctioned by China, told Deutsche Welle that the EU must maintain its general policy approach to “cooperate when possible, compete when needed and confront when necessary.” This is one page from the US geopolitical playbook. Following Washington’s footsteps to sanction China, it’s more suitable to say the EU is a punching bag of the US.
Verbal exchanges between China and the US at the Alaska meeting last week was heated and tit-for-tat. It also sends a signal to US allies including the EU that China now view the world with a mind-set of equality.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is still in Brussels and engaging with the EU leaders as of press time. The US may intend to display its solidarity with European allies and partners. But there are many divergences between the two sides. Wang Yiwei, director of the Center for European Studies at Renmin University of China, on Wednesday told the Global Times that they disguise their strategic differences on many agenda by speaking with the same voice on some China-related issues, such as the so-called human rights abuse in Xinjiang.
In the trans-atlantic alliance, the EU does not have an equal status as the US. And the EU has been sanctioned by the US before. As a result, it will be difficult for the two sides to form a firm united front to contain China.
China and the EU completed negotiations over their bilateral investment treaty at the end of 2020, which is of significance to the EU. China has surpassed the US in 2020 as the EU’s largest trading partner. Cooperating with China can bring massive profits to European enterprises, and the Chinese market cannot be replaced by any other country or region in the world.
China has already become EU’s largest trading partner. No matter how loud the EU clamors, it cannot leave China. Its set of ways to deal with China won’t be tolerated by the latter. Worse, such deeds are not welcome worldwide.