The much talked about EU-China summit was held on Monday, and as it turns out, the hype around the same was not matched by what transpired in the “short” video-conference between CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, and those representing the European Union, namely – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel. Originally, the September EU-China summit was supposed to be a grand spectacle, however, owing to heightened differences, even tensions between the two sides if you may, and also the Coronavirus pandemic, the in-person summit at Leipzig in Germany was cancelled.
China has, on the eve of Monday’s summit with the EU, banned all pork imports from Germany, which is the third biggest supplier of the same to the paper dragon. Interestingly, Chinese purchases of German pork were more than double in the first four months of the current year from a year earlier. German pork exports to China totalled €835m in the first half of this year, compared with €1.2bn for all of 2019. The move was aimed at strong-arming Germany– the current chair of the European Union– to not keep any surprises up its sleeves for the summit with Xi Jinping. Evidently, China’s aims of forcing Germany to toe its line during the meeting have not gone down well for them.
The European Union leaders did very well hammer China’s Xi Jinping on a multiplicity of issues which the CCP General Secretary would ideally want no conversation around. While climate change and the environment were issues meant to warm up the Chinese President for what was about to come, the EU’s straightforward denial of going forward with any deal in which they are not the main player might have served as a brutal shock to Jinping. What was served as the main course to Xi by the EU, however, is bound to haunt him for quite some time.
Human rights abuses in Xinjiang, China’s repression of ethnic minorities and its brutal imposition of the draconian national security law were taken up for discussion with Xi Jinping too, who, cornered from all sides, is said to have offered the opportunity to the EU’s ambassadors to visit Xinjiang. However, neither was a consensus on such issues reached during the meeting, nor were the EU representatives convinced with Xi’s explanations, with Angela Merkel going as far as saying, subsequent to revealing Jinping’s proposal, “That does not mean that there was agreement about these issues.”
Reuters reported that the European Union representatives told Xi Jinping on Monday, in no uncertain terms, to open up markets, respect minorities and step back from a crackdown in Hong Kong, also asserting that Europe would no longer be taken advantage of in trade.”Europe is a player, not a playing field,” European Council President Charles Michel, who chaired the video summit, told reporters in a press conference after the meeting was concluded.
Essentially, the meeting ended up being an inquisition of Xi Jinping and his rogue-red party’s excesses in China. The European Union, for its part, is adamant that a trade deal with China will only be reached if Chinese state-owned enterprises behave themselves and if China opens up its markets to European players in an equal proportion which it enjoys across Europe. Further, the European Union is adamant that, respect for intellectual property, ending of obligations to transfer technology and a significant reduction in subsidies for Chinese public enterprises are pre-conditions for any deal to be reached between the two sides. An investment treaty with China, espoused by the EU to make available to its market players of a level playing field in China is a prerequisite, which the Union is not willing to budge on even by an inch.
EU representatives also pushed Xi Jinping to allow an independent international probe into the origins of the pandemic, further showing how the CCP’s pressure tactics against Germany and other EU countries prior to the summit had failed to reap any benefits. The EU, thanks to China’s foolishly rogue behaviour, is realising that siding with the US and other democratic powers like India, Australia and Japan is far more reasonable. As such, only recently, Germany had unveiled its new Indo-Pacific strategy, which is explicitly pro-India.
“More than 90 per cent of the world’s foreign trade is conducted by sea, a large part of which via the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Up to 25 per cent of the world’s maritime trade passes through the Strait of Malacca. More than 2000 ships per day transport goods between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea via this bottleneck. A disruption to these maritime trade routes and thus to the supply chains to and from Europe would have serious consequences for the prosperity and supply of our population,” the India-centric strategy had stated.
The EU has effectively dumped China and is classically delaying a trade deal with China to finally walk out of the negotiations since the demands put up by it are just too magnanimous for China to fulfil. Moreover, China giving the EU what it wants will set a precedent for other countries, that they can strongarm the paper dragon into submission. Such a risk, Xi Jinping will not be willing to take. As such, fallout between the two powers is more than imminent.