America Needs a New Transatlantic Script to Deal with China

Co-authored by Shada Islam

Battered relentlessly by former President Donald Trump over four difficult years, relations between the United States and the European Union are back on track, with China providing an important spur for the renewed warmth. Expect no automatic and complete U.S.-EU alignment of views on China, however. As it gets underway, the transatlantic conversation will spotlight both convergences and divergences in the United States and EU approaches towards Beijing. For all their enthusiasm for President Joe Biden’s interest in working with allies, EU leaders have no appetite for a China policy based on confrontational zero-sum games, starting another calamitous cold war or a discussion dominated by hard security and references to preserving U.S. primacy in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Biden was the online “guest of honor” at the virtual summit of European Union leaders held on March 25. Only hours earlier, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for foreign and security policy, relaunched the U.S.-EU dialogue on China. Having started hesitatingly and reluctantly with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Borrell has now promised regular consultations with the United States at the senior official and expert level to discuss the “full range of challenges and opportunities” posed by China.

Fresh from his blistering encounter with Chinese counterparts in Anchorage, Blinken’s message to the EU and later to NATO allies was predictably straightforward: Europe and the United States must join hands to fend off China’s “coercive behavior” and attempts to undercut the rules of the international system. 

Europe-China relations have reached a new low 

In some ways, Blinken was preaching to the converted. Attitudes towards China are hardening in most European countries. Relations with Beijing have reached a new low following acrimonious tit-for-tat sanctions following an EU decision to ban travel and freeze the assets of four regional and party representatives held responsible for the mistreatment of Uighurs. China’s reciprocal decision to impose similar restrictions on several members of the European Parliament but also on a number of European academics and policy institutions for allegedly engaging in “malicious lies and disinformation” has been described as unacceptable, immature and disproportionate by many EU policymakers, prompting speculation that the EU-China investment deal agreed last December will not be able to secure parliamentary approval. 

Read the full article in The National Interest.