Europe / Western countries

What Does the Coronavirus Mean for EU-China Relations?

In a the medium term—and I don’t think anybody can authoritatively say what will happen in the long run—a lot will depend on two factors. First, we need to see whether the EU will come out of the COVID-19 calamity weaker or stronger. A less united EU—and there’s plenty of room for further deterioration—will be more susceptible to China’s pressure or guile. But then again, the EU has come a long way through multiple crises. Second, the outcome of the American presidential race next November will also weigh in, as the U.S. inevitably looms large in EU-China relations. While there seems to be a rare consensus vis-à-vis China on both sides of the aisle in America, the personality and worldview of the man sitting in the Oval Office matters. Europeans’ problem with Donald Trump is not that much what he says about China, but his manners. As Oscar Wilde famously said once, “in matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.”

he EU’s approach to China has been on a downward trajectory for several years. By 2019, the European Commission had officially labeled the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) a “strategic rival.” Brussels continues to worry about Beijing’s efforts to carve out a sub-regional grouping known as the 17+1, a land-sea corridor stretching from Greece to the Baltic Sea.

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