Special Advisor and Resident Senior Fellow - Asia and America at Institute Montaigne
It is time for the EU to take concrete steps in its China policy. Neither engagement nor calls for reciprocity have had much result with China, even if both remain necessary. Deals are there for companies of technological interest to Beijing, and meetings as well, even more so with member states. Overall, from China’s leaning towards Russia to its mercantilist policies, as well as its abhorrent human rights practices and looming risks across the Taiwan Strait, facts deny the good words that China has issued to partners it deems reserved towards the United States. At the same time, European hard power capacities in the Indo-Pacific are limited, and the test of Ukraine is Europe’s primary concern today.
Our policy recommendations are simple: reinforce the implementation of EU defensive measures, in terms of coordination or delegation, speed and depth. On the broad issues where the EU has significant weight, if not a fully realized strategic capacity, focus on liaising and coordinating with reasonably like-minded partners – such as the United States, Japan, India and Korea. This will require concessions. We do not see eye to eye with the US on some digital issues. We do not endorse wholesale all of India’s domestic politics. We would wish for a more proactive role of Japan in defense.
These differences, and many others, pale in comparison to the gap that has opened with China (and Russia, of course). A rules-based Europe must become more geopolitical and pragmatic in its actions. Persuading the so-called “Global South” requires attention to their interests. EU autonomy in practice will not happen through self-sufficiency or splendid isolation, but by deepening joint policies with those of our partners who are not systemic rivals.