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The sum and substance of the EU’s China dilemma

Why in news?

European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, publicly proclaimed that “China is without doubt one of the key global players and its crucial for EU to engage with CHINA.

He added that, Foreign actors and certain third countries, in particular Russia and China, have engaged in targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns around COVID­19 in the EU

Present state of European Union

  • The European Union, in any case, is a divided because of Brexit and economic distress
  • Several of the southern European countries are in a very weak economic position, and these countries are trying to attract Chinese investments including Italy and Germany
  • China settled all their boundary problems with all their Central Asian states because they were able to give them a lot of good money and setup infrastructure linkages, gas pipelines, etc.
  • Chinese are trying to become the number one power in the world by 2050. The Europeans have now lost their clout in world affairs. America is not willing to pay more for NATO’s security any longer, thus the European countries are now being made to pay more for their own security.

China – EU cooperation

  • According to the global Office of the International Comparison Program at the World Bank,

China and the European Union (EU) jointly account for nearly 35% of global GDP in PPP terms

  • Europe championed China’s case for World Trade Organization (WTO) membership and China supported the ‘European Project’.
  • In March 2019, the EU Commission published “A Strategic Outlook”, describing China as, simultaneously, a cooperative partner,  an economic competitor and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance.
  • The EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, after the virtual Summit with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on June 22, 2020, said that Europe’s relations with China are “simultaneously one of the most strategically important and one of the most challenging that we have
  • The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China in its  Business Confidence Survey 2020, that most European businesses are chiefly “in China, for China”. European companies still hope that China’s President Xi Jinping will use this pandemic to make fundamental reforms to promote engagement.
  • pandemic has also triggered calls for diversifying European businesses away from an overreliance on any single market

Cause for disappointment

  • China’s efforts to cultivate separate European ­ groupings like the 16+1 Format with the Central and Eastern European States, and meetings with the Nordics and the Southern Europeans angered EU.
  • The sailing of the PLA Navy into the Baltic Sea for joint exercises with Russia in 2017
  • Cross ­sectoral hybrid threats including information operations in European countries
  • Chinese behaviour in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean
  • its targeted acquisition of key high technology companies such as Kuka in Germany or key ports like Piraeus in Greece, began to raise red flags In Europe.
  • China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea, on the Line of Actual Control with India, and in Hong Kong, among others, have also caused disappointment

What is expected out of China

  • One would expect Chinese to be more responsible.
  • The Chinese are a permanent member of the UNSC. World would like to particularly like them to control the behaviour of the Pakistani state and make them work against the terrorist elements that are operating from Pakistani soil


  • stealing of IPR, and China’s assertive approach to the security, resilience and stability of digital networks.
  • The retreat of the U.S. from global leadership is providing the Chinese with the means to take
  • advantage, even when they no longer deem it in their strategic interest
  • The United States, Europe and Japan have common interests in curbing China, but China, Europe and Japan also have much to gain in tapping the potential of their relations

India’s role

  • Political conditions are favourable especially after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom. The Europeans recognise India’s role in helping provide peace and prosperity in the Indo­ Pacific.
  • Great potential in working together on technologies and issues of the future.
  • Broad ­based Trade and Investment Agreement should be put back on track
December 2023