The story of president Xi Jinping choosing Kazakhstan as the first location for presenting his revolutionary foreign policy plan – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – has now become a common tale of China’s international relations. However, it is a story worth retelling, as it marks the starting-point of a new era in China-Central Asia relations.
Europe has shown little interest to get involved in the global power struggles between Beijing and Washington. Most European governments take a more nuanced view of the China challenge. They share US concerns about the direction of the Middle Kingdom under President Xi Jinping, including domestic market access and unfair competition from state-owned and backed Chinese companies in China and globally.
Germany is China’s most important economic partner in the EU and China is Germany’s most important economic partner in Asia. Germany therefore has relied on a negotiation- and discussion-based approach in its relations with China following the principle “change through trade” (Wandel durch Handel). While other western powers, such as the United States, already took a tougher stance vis-à-vis China on past occasions, Germany regarded it more as a partner than a competitor. However, things have changed in recent years.
Relations between China and the European Union have been changing dramatically. As China’s presence in Europe increased, Brussels took a more assertive stance against bilateral agreements between Beijing and EU member states, advocating in favor of a multilateral approach and EU standards.
At present, China and Europe are facing similar global challenges: protectionism, populism, separatism, terrorism, and unilateralism. Global stability and the international order are suffering from the greatest threats since World War II. If we can maintain our national interests despite instability and continue world peace, China and Europe could play an indispensable international role.
Under the common global threat, both China and Europe have common interests and demands.
The EU-China Summit to be held in Brussels this week comes at a crucial and unprecedented juncture in EU-China relations.
When China’s President Xi Jinping launched his flagship project on the “Silk Road Economic Belt” in Astana in the fall of 2013, followed by the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” in Jakarta a month later, few people in France took notice, except perhaps for a few experts in academic circles or research institutions focusing on China.
If there is one thing that the Chinese leadership hates, it is not being in control of something crucially important. In the context of its authoritarian political system, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) remains in power with no need to compete with another political party. However, regime security remains its number one concern (or core interest) and, more than anything else, it relies on the fact that the party is seen as legitimate ruler.