China’s unprecedented economic coercion against Lithuania and multinationals, and Beijing’s political endorsement of Russia’s assault on Ukraine together provide justification for scrapping the EU’s multifaceted, tripartite approach towards China.
What we’re observing now is an ongoing process by China and Russia to attempt to demolish the economic, security and normative order in Europe and beyond. This leads to the conclusion that China is neither a partner nor an economic competitor. War in Ukraine is a global issue challenging international norms, while the punitive actions against Lithuania are illicit and have nothing to do with competition. China’s authoritarianism and its alignment with totalitarian Russia, a country which has launched a full-scale war and is committing atrocities, clearly epitomizes the PRC as a systemic rival.
In short, European security and the EU’s credibility is at stake.
My intention is not to criticize EU’s multifaceted policy. When the concept was adopted, there were reasonable arguments for it. Unfortunately, China went further than we expected. Now, to continue to call China a partner and competitor would imply “business as usual”, but we all know this is not the case. The EU did a very good job at the latest summit with China clearly communicating its stance. It should go a step further.
It is high time we gave up the illusion that China is in any major respect different from Russia. China’s playbook is different, but its goals are convergent with Russia’s. The EU should treat China as a rival and, if Beijing supports Moscow materially, as a threat. The bloc should continue its work on effective defensive measures and prepare a detailed list of sanctions to be promptly imposed on China if it provides Russia with support. And it should cooperate with the United States in tracking Beijing’s potential behind-the-scenes assistance to Moscow while commencing the real work needed to reduce the EU’s dependence on China.