Italy-China relations have experienced significant shifts since the beginning of President Xi Jinping’s mandate, partly following the differing “Chinese views” of governing coalitions over those years, and a widespread outdated perception of the need to adapt bilaterally to the so-called “China’s rise”. Those swings have resulted in a very confused perception of Italy’s “China policy” on the part of both China itself and Italy’s European partners.
When Covid-19 hit the Balkans, it was too soon to foresee that besides local health systems the pandemic would impact regional geopolitics too. In the longstanding instability also caused by stagnation in the EU integration process for Balkan countries, China exploited the situation to increase its influence in the region.
Tracing the outline of British-Chinese relations as we enter 2021 is akin to surveying the landscape after an earthquake. The global geopolitical topography remains uncertain, but the triple trauma of Brexit ambiguity, a Trump presidency, and the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, all appear to be on the way out. In late 2017, amid what remained of the Sino-British golden era’s afterglow, I was asked to write an article discussing the year ahead.
Since establishing diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1973, Spain has seen itself as an honest broker, maintaining a position of friendship with the PRC (above all through a scrupulous policy of “non-interference in internal affairs” vital to the PRC such as Taiwan or human rights) but never managing to establish a true partnership.
2020 has been a challenging year for the world economy. Although the magnitude of the shock triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic differed widely from one country to another, no economy was left unscathed.
Germany got its way. Well, German business with business interests in China did. The German EU Council Presidency ended with a big bang on December 30, when the EU and China signed their long-awaited bilateral trade and investment agreement, the “Comprehensive Agreement on Investment” (CAI). The agreement had been negotiated since 2014 and its adoption at the very end of last year came as a surprise.
The EU priorities for trade and investment relations with China are defined by the March 2019 Communication ‘EU-China – A strategic outlook’. In such Communication, the EU openly recognised China as a ‘strategic rival’ and ‘economic competitor’, while reiterating its importance as a “cooperation partner”.
Relations between China and Europe have undoubtedly been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic impact. The Comprehensive Agreement on Investment signed at the end of 2020, for example, marks a change of pace in the pursuit of the Union's economic interests towards Beijing.
New digital monies issued by the private sector and novel payment systems are rapidly spreading worldwide as technological change and financial innovation are ripe. The Covid-19 pandemic exposed their convenience amid social distancing policies and a mighty expansion of e-commerce. Benign neglect is no longer a (reasonable) option for central bankers. Denial was due, perhaps, when Bitcoin mining began in January 2009. Strong criticism had a reason when Bitcoin was proposed later as a superior alternative monetary regime to sovereign fiat currencies.
As President-elect Joe Biden is busy with cherry-picking candidates for his team, it becomes clear that the new administration will be more cooperative on some issues while it will also retain Donald Trump’s antagonistic China policy on the others.