Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) policy is at the centre of Tokyo’s economic and security strategy in the Indo-Pacific Region. Although Japanese policymakers do not admit to that in public, the FOIP is not only aimed at enabling Tokyo to economically compete with China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) but is also – and indeed equally importantly – ‘about China’, so to speak. Next to what is referred to as ‘Quality Infrastructure’, i.e.
The expansion of Tokyo’s security and defence ties in East, Southeast and South Asia inspired Washington – together with India and Australia – to get on board Tokyo’s strategy to deter or indeed contain China. Japanese policymakers and the pro-defence government led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe continue to invest enormous political capital and resources into seeking to keep China’s economic, territorial and security ambitions in the region in check.
Ever since the foundation of the 16+1 cooperation platform with Eastern European countries, China has become one of the most influential players in the Balkans too.
China’s Increasing economic presence in the region has led many analysts to focus on the effects of rising Chinese influence. While this is a sound observation, it must necessarily be followed by two questions – to what end is China building its influence in the region and why are Balkan leaders so keen to accept Chinese propositions?
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concluded at the end of March between China and Italy drove the global community into a frenzy of excitement. Indeed, Italy was the first amongst the Group of Seven industrialized nations (G7) and the founders of the European Union (EU) to commit to China’s infrastructure projects in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
It has often been stated in the past that with the EU, China likes to divide and rule. But in the new, complex period we are all moving into, for once the case may be that the tables have turned, and now for relations with Europe, China is being divided and ruled.
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.