The latest spat with China which the EU initiated just days ago by imposing sanctions on a handful of Chinese officials and institutions over the alleged violation of human rights in the PRC’s treatment of its Uighur minority is yet another demonstration of how and why the Old Continent is doomed, above and beyond its flagrant failures in managing the Covid pandemic.
There can be no doubt that the decision to publicly denounce and shame China has been closely coordinated with the United States so as to align behind the Biden Administration and their ‘get tough’ posture vis-à-vis the Chinese.
An American delegation headed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with their counterparts from the PRC in Anchorage, Alaska last week at a summit that the Secretary opened with the recitation of a litany of Chinese wrong-doing. In his words, the Chinese are not only violating principles of universal human rights by their treatment of their Uighur minority but putting in jeopardy the ‘rules based international order’ decreed and operated by the USA and its allies.
The Europeans seem not to have taken notice of how that remarkable summit played out. In fact, during the more than half hour televised exchange of opening remarks, the Chinese flung back in his face all of his accusations, remarking that the days were long past when imperial powers can dictate to the People’s Republic. In what was otherwise Cold War vintage soap box oratory from the Americans, the Chinese responded in the other fixed part of such scenarios, namely with “what about-ism,” telling the Americans to go fix their own egregious human rights abuses in treatment of Blacks before they dare to preach to others.
One might say that for decades we have not heard such boldness and repudiation of American tutelage from the Chinese side. Had they perked up their ears and paid better attention, the European Institutions might have taken more time to consider their options in dealing with the PRC – options which are, in fact, very, very few. Given the strength of the Chinese economy today and the likelihood it will bypass the GDP of the United States within the coming decade, the EU can ill afford to alienate the Chinese, still less to lose their respect.
However, the EU’s decision to inflict a verbal lashing on the Chinese over their alleged abuses and to couple that with sanctions that are absolutely insignificant translates into what the Chinese have for decades going back to Mao described as ‘paper tiger’ status.
Let us remember that major media in Europe routinely give the microphone to loudmouth spokesmen of NGOs who speak of the Chinese “re-education” program for Uighurs in Xinjiang province as “genocide.” Very emotive language, to be sure. If those charges have any substance, then the sanctions just imposed by the EU as punishment are ludicrous. And if it is the substance of the charges that is overblown, then the public denunciations should be quashed at the source.
In short, the EU has opted for the worst of all possible ways of dealing with both China and with the United States. Biden and Blinken are practitioners of a shop-worn, utterly ineffectual Cold War vintage foreign policy.
The only net effect of the latest demarche by the EU has been to put in jeopardy the ratification of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment that was seven years in negotiation, was signed off at the end of last year, ahead of the installation of the Biden presidency, and is said to provide substantial benefits to the EU in its trade relations with the PRC.
Meanwhile, the American verbal assault on the PRC led immediately to further close embrace between Moscow and Beijing. Two days ago Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in the Chinese capital for consultations over mutual self-protection against the Collective West. One of the key topics on their agenda was to further develop their mechanism for global bank transfers outside of the US-dominated SWIFT – this to preclude possible expulsion from SWIFT as the ultimate Western sanction on them both.
Let us be very clear. The United States has its own specific reasons to be tough on China, namely to enforce a policy of containment aimed at preventing the country from overtaking it economically and militarily in the foreseeable future. The United States has its own military hegemony in Southeast Asia to defend against China’s rise and pursuit of regional hegemony. Europe has nothing of the kind to justify making the PRC its adversary.
Henry Kissinger said decades ago that the only thing more dangerous than being an enemy of the United States is being its friend. The EU is unfortunately proving the wisdom of that judgment by its present, American-dictated policy on China.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2021