Following the European Council’s Working Party meeting, Josep Borrell, the High Representative, offered insights into the EU’s plan towards the Indo-Pacific region and what it could mean for relations with China. The EU will publish an official document outlining its “common vision” for future Indo-Pacific engagement in the coming months.
What you need to know
- The EU plans to rebalance its relations in Asia. This involves taking a step back from China and developing closer ties with like-minded Asian partners. In the process the bloc hopes to support an open and rules-based order and engage partners in sustainable connectivity. That means seeking synergy with Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”, ASEAN’s “Masterplan on Connectivity” and launching an EU-India Connectivity Partnership during the EU27-India summit in May.
- The Global Times, a Chinese party-state media outlet, criticized Borrell’s blog post in an opinion piece that cast doubt on the EU’s ability to develop substantive strategic presence in the Indo-Pacific. It highlighted the bloc’s limited military capabilities in the region and its supposed unwillingness to jeopardize ties with China.
If the EU and member states move from rhetoric to action, connectivity may become a key arena for EU-China competition. The upcoming Indo-Pacific strategy, echoing the EU Strategy for Connecting Europe and Asia, proposes sustainable connectivity and a multilateral, rules-based approach. It is a thinly veiled challenge to Chinese connectivity initiatives and in Borrell’s words part of “battle of standards.”