Since the conflict in Ukraine began, there has been a concerted effort to try and establish greater ‘transatlantic’ control over Western Europe’s foreign policy, or to speak more explicitly, to put it in line with that of the United States.
America’s foreign influence operations on the continent are huge, ranging from an army of funded think tanks, to allied journalists, to of course politicians. It is little surprise that the situation with Russia has weaved into the longstanding effort to get Europe to also conform to America’s preferences on China, also, and dismantle the ‘Merkel legacy’ of engagement with Beijing .
This makes the China-EU summit, on Friday, such a critical juncture. It is inevitable that newspapers such as the Financial Times have sought to frame this event in solely negative narratives for Beijing, running a story titled: ‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forges new unity of EU purpose on China’ and forecasting that a tougher stance on China which will attempt to ‘pressure’ it to disavow Moscow.
But this posturing is far from reality. What the EU says and what the EU does are often two separate things, seeking to project the appearance of unity no matter what. In practice, the Brussels does not in fact have the political will, unity, or means anymore to comprehensively force Beijing to do anything, especially after it has reaffirmed that its strategic partnership with Russia continues to be of “no limits.”
Not only, for that matter, is the EU’s apparent unity on Russia, which the Financial Times piece attempts to frame as “surprising” for Beijing, significantly exaggerated, but it seems even less plausible that the bloc has the political resolve to endure the pain of a head-on collision against a much stronger economic partner such as China, which is now larger than the entire EU in terms of nominal GDP.
Either way, it seems clear that the pathway of aligning with American foreign policy interests is going to make Western Europe weaker, poorer, and less relevant than ever before – typical of the self-sabotage it has often imposed on itself at the behest of Washington.