Powerful China: what role should Europe play?
China's growing influence is increasingly shaping the world order. Beijing's ambivalent stance vis-à-vis Russia's invasion of Ukraine poses a challenge to the EU, as do the tensions between the US and China over Taiwan. The press debates how Europe should position itself internationally.
Putin and Xi's hopes of driving a wedge between Europe and the US have not been realised, Eastern Europe expert Ivan Krastev and the director of the think tank European Council on Foreign Relations Mark Leonard explain in Postimees:
“Vladimir Putin - and perhaps also Xi Jinping, who allegedly knew of Moscow's plans - was not being irrational when he gambled on the disintegration of EU unity within days of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Given the experiences of the Iraq War, the euro crisis and the refugee crisis, there was a precedent for division. ... While the war posed an existential threat to Poland and Estonia, it was merely a distant conflict for the people of Portugal and Spain. ... A year later it turns out that expectations of a split were misguided.”
Russia would be delighted
If the West adopts a united stance against China, it will work in Russia's favour, writes Radio Kommersant FM:
“The G7 meetings under Japan's presidency and especially the Hiroshima summit in May should answer the question of whose stance will prevail and whether the Europeans are willing to go along with the US-Japan anti-China agenda. As paradoxical as it may seem, it would be better for the Kremlin if the US-Japanese stance prevailed. This is because the more the collective West fights China, the fewer forces, energy and resources it will have left for confronting Moscow in Ukraine, on sanctions and on many other fronts.”
Europe has a mission
La Repubblica calls for an autonomous role for Europe:
“It is its task to enter into dialogue with the Global South. Not by arbitrarily going to Beijing's court but by developing its own roadmap while at the same time presenting an autonomous vision. ... A Europe with its own precise identity, with an autonomous capacity for strategic dialogue and intervention in crisis scenarios (what happened to all the solemn commitments to European defence, by the way?). A Europe strong in an indissoluble strategic partnership with the US: acting together to construct a just and lasting peace and establish a new world order.”
EU should revise its Asia trade policy
Economist Mathilde Lemoine argues in Les Echos that the EU should follow the US in turning away from China and diversifying its trade relations in the Asian region:
“But on the contrary, the Europeans have strengthened their dependence on China in the last five years, which is a weakness that Xi Jinping can easily exploit. ... The EU's strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, adopted by the EU Council in 2022, doesn't go far enough and does not rule out the option of an EU trade policy as an axis for influence, autonomy and promotion of business development in Asia.”
Rising East a dwarf economically
The West needn't worry that its decline is imminent, historian Iván T. Berend writes in Népszava:
“In the autocratic countries of Central and Eastern Europe, anti-Western attitudes and the so-called dilapidation and decline of the West have become the central political theme. Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orbán talk about it almost daily. ... What do the facts show? ... The 'rising East' - if we add up the three biggest powers, China, India and Russia - generated a per capita income of around 10,500 US dollars in 2022. By comparison the per capita income of the 'declining West' - Western Europe and the US together - was 70,400 US dollars.”