The year 2020 is going to be a busy one for Europe-China relations. Beijing will play host to an EU-China summit and a 17+1 meeting with central and eastern European leaders this spring. Then in September, President Xi Jinping is expected in Leipzig for a summit with all 27 EU leaders during Germany’s presidency of the EU. European governments face an increasingly delicate balancing act: they must defend their political values against an increasingly assertive China, while at the same time safeguarding lucrative economic cooperation.
Will Europe and China be able to deliver on their ambitious goals this year? And which new trends will define Sino-European relations going forward? To get some answers, MERICS conducted a survey of some 150 China experts and practitioners from think tanks, government, industry and civil society in Europe. The results will be presented today at the MERICS China Forecast 2020 event in Berlin and discussed by leading China specialists.
“Hot economics, cold politics” – the defining contradiction in relations in 2020?
According to the MERICS survey, 59 percent of respondents expect political relations between Europe and China to worsen in 2020 (17% say they will deteriorate, 42% say they will slightly deteriorate). Respondents believe the number one factor behind growing tensions will be politically motivated retaliation by Beijing against European governments or companies. This ranked above other factors, such as restricted access to the Chinese market or human rights violations. Surprisingly, only 4% of the respondents expect Europe-Chinese relations to improve in 2020. On the economic front however, 53 percent of the experts surveyed said relations would remain stable while 13 percent predicted improvement.