China-EU relations hit rock bottom eight years after Xi Jinping's visit
Brussels/Beijing, July 23: When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Europe in 2014, his visit was heralded as the beginning of a new era. Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament at the time, said, "Jinping's visit is proof of the strong partnership between the European Union and China." However, eight years after that visit, in 2022, the scenario has changed a lot.
According to analysts, the warming of Sino-EU relations has reached a rock bottom at present. China's global ambitions, European countries' concerns about the country's human rights situation, US-China tensions, reciprocal sanctions and China's role in the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war have affected China-EU relations.
The matter has been observed quite prominently in the last month itself. Both the G7 and NATO organizations, along with the United States, have imposed economic and military strictures on China.
Europe has shown Beijing that the United States is its only ally in the world today. Beijing did not pay much attention to this move away from Europe. In hindsight, Beijing has deliberately paid the price of losing an ally like Europe.
However, addressing EU leaders at a summit last April, Xi Jinping said China and the European Union should act as two major forces to maintain world peace. At the time, he criticized EU leaders for 'insured' behavior and urged them to abandon such attitudes. However, Europe did not listen to this call.
Over the past few decades, China has expanded its influence in Europe with care and caution. It has held annual summits with Central and Eastern European countries, and in 2019 G7 member Italy even supported China's activities. In a very short period of time, this relationship between China and the EU has been frowned upon by the United States.
At one time, European countries themselves were noticing that China was growing increasingly assertive in its foreign policy; As an ally of the US which is never acceptable to them.
Analysts say allegations of massive human rights abuses in China's northwestern Xinjiang region and the destabilization of Hong Kong's democratic society have also contributed to changing European perceptions of China.
However, Chinese authorities have called allegations that more than a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are being held in detention camps in Xinjiang as "fabricated" and that discussions about these issues are "interference" in China's internal affairs. After that, Europe started to change its perception about China.
China was the third largest export market for European goods and the largest source of goods allowed into Europe until last year. But the deterioration of economic relations between the EU and Beijing has also affected the commercial sector.
Lithuania pressed the EU to file a case against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) earlier this year, accusing Beijing of discriminatory practices in the trade sector. But the biggest financial blow was the collapse of the long-awaited trade deal between the EU and China. EU sanctions four Chinese officials accused of crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. In retaliation, China also imposed sanctions on EU officials. As a result, the China-EU trade deal never saw the light of day.
According to Henry Gao, a professor at Singapore Management University's Yong Pung How School of Law, China's strategy towards Europe has been ineffective due to over-reactive sanctions and coercive diplomacy. The reverse pushed Europe toward the United States.