MERICS Guest Author Patrick Köllner
In 2017, Australia readjusted its China policy to a more critical and firm position. 2018 New Zealand followed suit, but fear of deteriorating relations has since led Wellington to change to a more conciliatory course. The different sizes of Australia and New Zealand are an important factor in their differing policy outcomes.
Insa Ewert (via Young China Watchers)
In March this year, Italy became the first G7 nation to sign an official MoU with China in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The move by the Italian government has been interpreted as a sign of increasing divisions within Europe over China. But to what extent might the Italian example be an indication of a shift or rift in EU-China relations?
China’s first major defense white paper in four years was published on July 24. While much of its content is familiar from previous white papers, the line taken on the United States and Taiwan is markedly more aggressive, and the political message it sends to both the domestic and the international audience is clear – a strong reminder that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the army of the Communist Party and ideology is key, and that China is a responsible power.
Europe should not shy away from taking a more assertive position if it wants the relationship with China to be a healthy one. Realism is needed in dealing with the increasingly powerful and authoritarian newcomer.
NATO discussions about China are already taking place, but the organization needs a coordinated and comprehensive strategy to deal with an ever-more confident China, argue Helena Legarda and Meia Nouwens.
In Athens, local resistance to investment from China is not so much about opposing China, as resistance to change, says MERICS freelance researcher Jacob Mardell. He is currently travelling countries along the Belt and Road to investigate how the initiative is being implemented on the ground.
In Montenegro and in the rest of the Western Balkans, the European Union is not as attractive as it used to be, and China is giving new hope to the region. Beijing offers a tempting paradigm: no-strings-attached finance and no political interference. Our author Jacob Mardell is currently travelling along China's "New Silk Road."
China’s investments in African infrastructure capture most of the headlines. But the Chinese government has been doing far more than this, both intensifying and broadening its engagement with African regional organizations. These activities may be lower profile, but they are a growing influence on African policy makers, as Europe appears focused on its own problems.
The African continent offers Huawei and other Chinese technology giants rich opportunities. Tom Bayes unpicks the stories of their rise in Africa and warns more is at stake than technology.
Erratic and aggressive in the trade dispute with Beijing, Donald Trump is emboldening China’s military hawks, industrial state-interventionists, and nationalistic cheerleaders.
On his journey along the New Silk Road, Jacob Mardell discovers that Serbians are very happy to overstate China’s influence in the Western Balkans – and says EU leaders should take note.
The British Prime Minister seems determined to forge a “Golden Era” of UK-China relations, in the apparent hope that a free trade agreement with China can make up for the economic consequences of pending Brexit. But the wisdom of Theresa May’s course is being questioned domestically - the UK Parliament’s august Foreign Affairs Committee recently called for a re-think of what it views as Britain’s one-dimensional, trade-driven China policy.
Last week, over 30 heads of state and government attended the second "Belt and Road Forum" in Beijing. China's president Xi Jinping stressed that the Chinese initiative had already opened up new space for global economic growth and produced new platforms for international trade and investment. Our author Jacob Mardell is currently travelling countries that are already involved in the efforts to create a "New Silk Road." In this blogpost, which was first published by Berlin Policy Journal, he reports on the Great Stone industrial park outside Minsk - a place that currently feels like an empty monument to political ambition, but with increased involvement from Chinese investors and Beijing’s backing it still has potential.
Subsidies are boosting rail freight along the New Silk Road, but it’s too soon to say if this expensive investment will pay off in the long run. On his journey along the "Belt and Road", MERICS freelance researcher Jacob Mardell stopped in the Polish village Małaszewicze where the larger part of EU-China rail freight traffic passes through.
The French think tank Institut Montaigne and MERICS jointly organized a Franco-German workshop on "Promoting a European China policy." In this interview, Mathieu Duchâtel, Director of Institut Montaigne’s Asia Program, and Mikko Huotari, Deputy Director of MERICS, discuss differences and similarities of German and French policies towards China. What are the limits of a convergence on China policy, and can this be translated into a more united European approach?
When EU and Chinese leaders meet in Brussels next week at their annual summit, the EU needs to present a united front. That looks like a tall order, and it remains to be seen whether the EU will be able to put its relations with China on a more equal and principled footing.
MERICS expert Jacob Mardell has embarked on a journey to investigate how China’s Belt and Road Initiative is being implemented on the ground. His travels are taking him all the way from Brussels to Beijing.
Lauren A. Johnston
In March, Italy signed an agreement pledging its support for China’s trans-continental Belt and Road Initiative. Rome hopes Chinese companies will invest in the country’s ageing infrastructure, while critics worry about China’s perceived geopolitical ambitions. However, Beijing's push has to be seen in a larger context: an important driver of its outbound ambitions is the interaction of economic and demographic change at home. Faced with an ageing society, China is looking for investment opportunities in countries with younger populations along the BRI.
According to the most recent estimates, China now has the second largest defense budget behind the United States. If Beijing refuses to engage in arms control, it takes a free ride and behaves as irresponsibly as Russia and the United States did by just walking away from the INF treaty.
The historic moon landing of China’s Chang'e 4 marks a symbolic victory for the emerging space power. But lack of transparency along with concerns about dual-use plans and surveillance undermine China’s efforts to persuade the world of its peaceful rise. For Europe, Beijing can be a selective partner on space matters at best.
The China Road Project team plans to traverse the Eurasian supercontinent, from London to Jakarta and back again, investigating the infrastructure projects that make up China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). By gathering data on projects and interviewing stakeholders, the project aims to shine a light on what is a much talked about, but little understood initiative. It also seeks to tell the stories of those whose lives are being transformed by the new roads, railroads, ports, and power stations along the BRI.
China’s efforts to shape global technology standards and norms have been at the heart of its ambitions to achieve technological self-reliance. Now these efforts are yielding results in areas like 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity – and they endanger Europe’s industrial competitiveness.
China’s new EU policy paper reflects the assertiveness of Xi’s China and a more nuanced Chinese assessment of EU capabilities. The result is a more strident set of demands for Brussels – and clear evidence European policymakers must be ready for more frictions in interactions with Chinese counterparts in the future.
Jerome A. Cohen
The normalization of Sino-American relations in 1971 benefited the people on Taiwan and in China, while the Soviet Union and the Chiang Kai-shek government lost out. On various occasions the US decision to normalize relations with China was critized domestically and internationally. In an article first published by ChinaFile, Jerome A. Cohen, professor at New York University School of Law, says that US government decided for the preferable option of uneasy but stable peace amidst worse choices.
Lauren A. Johnston
One country and one region that are each home to more than a billion people – China and Africa – are fundamental to international efforts to combat climate change. Since China is a leading investor in Africa’s infrastructure as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, it is timely to identify lessons – good and bad – from China’s own development experience for African policy makers and interested investors. This can support African countries to adopt a more sustainable industrial path than did China over the last forty years.