China-EU Honeymoon Sours over Ukraine War
China and Europe may not have been in the Cold War. However, bilateral relations are becoming increasingly cold. The attitude of China, which did not condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is seen as an existential threat to European security. This is the latest and most significant challenge to Beijing’s rule-of-law order, which the EU insists on.
Reflecting on economic-oriented bilateral relations, Europe often resolves its differences with China’s leading trading partner. However, the country’s support for Russia changed European calculations.
The sense of need to protect Europe from severe threats was not as strong as it is now. China abstained from voting at the UN, condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. At a virtual summit with EU leaders on April 1, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman blamed the United States for the conflict. According to the speaker, Washington is the culprit and the leading instigator of the Ukraine crisis.
Such claims do not resonate in Europe, where the US plays a crucial role in security. European views on China became more clear in the early days of the pandemic; when Beijing stockpiled medical supplies, even denying the severity of the spread in Wuhan. Sent Chinese-made defective test kits and faced masks to Europe and refused to cooperate.
When Beijing doubles its partnership with Moscow, Europe is awakened by some states that are not goodwill actors and do not follow the rules. Accordingly, attitudes towards this region should reduce.
Although European expectations were low at the recent EU-China summit, Beijing still managed to lower them. China refused to cut off military or economic support from Russia. This is the leading European goal of the summit.
At the EU-China summit, China did not want to touch on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It focused on “positive” issues while there was a war on European soil. This is another sign that you do not understand the seriousness of the situation in Europe.
The goals of the Beijing Summit were vague. Xi has been busy with household chores as he works for an unprecedented third term at the National Congress of the Communist Party of China in the second half of the year. Although no joint statement was made at the summit, Chinese state media still assessed it positively. In addition to this rosy view, Beijing still realizes that its relationship with Europe is becoming increasingly problematic. Last week, it sent a delegation of diplomats to Central and Eastern Europe. China’s diplomatic base in the region is primarily based on the “17 + 1” platform, established in 2012.
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