China invites the EU to a joint endeavor for free trade and order in the world

Li Keqiang, the Chinese Prime Minister (on the right) received in Beijing Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs. Date: 18/04/2017. Location: Beijing – Zhongnanhai. © European Union, 2017/Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Olli Geibel.

The European Union and China are to hold a summit this June, which is expected to shape their joint answer to the American protectionist and other threats. Last weekend, those threats prevented the Spring Meeting of the IMF to renew its commitment to free trade. The US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin alone blocked it. Before him, President Donald Trump himself has openly accused China and Germany, the countries which run the largest trade surpluses with the US, of having purposely devalued their moneys in order to penetrate the American markets.

Last month, Trump, while hosting the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, didn’t hesitate in public to ask her to pay compensations of hundreds of billions to NATO and the US, for having been cheating on her defense spending obligations. It’s not clear if ten days ago Trump has said something equally offensive in private to his other guest the Chinese President Xi Jinping, because even Trump wouldn’t dare offend Xi in public. As it turned out though, Trump didn’t hesitate to offer Xi a hideous exchange, involving China’s help to punish North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, in return for US…clemency in the field of trade. Trump thought that China would…shiver before his protectionist treat and thus succumb to the American demands. The opposite is true, China has sidesteppet the Trump threats and clarified that if Washington imposes new import tariffs, Beijing will do the same.

EU-China Summit

If all those American insults remain unanswered during June’s EU-China Summit in Brussels, then the two giants would have thrown in the towel, without even having fought a round. Surely, there is plenty to sour the relations between the EU and China, the two largest trading partners. Still, they are obliged to articulate a reaction to the American impertinency; otherwise there will be no end to Washington’s aggressiveness.

In order to look to this crucial matter, the top European Diplomat, Federica Mogherini, the high representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, traveled last week to Beijing and met with her Chinese counterpart State Councilor Yang Jiechi. The meeting was in the context of the Seventh EU-China Strategic Dialogue, but it was consumed by the latest developments, related to the US aggression, concerning both free trade and North Korea.

The North Korean factor

The latest American hostilities against Pyongyang are surely related to trade issues, since Trump himself hideously interconnected these two issues. However, the American challenge with a concentration of armaments and a war armada in and around the Korean peninsula was effectively met by armed forces movements in this region by both China and Russia. As a result, it seems that the US has lowered the rhetoric against North Korea, after realizing that the other guys have guns too.

In such a hot geopolitical environment, the visit of Mongherini to Beijing was turned into an opportunity for EU and China, to reassure the whole world that the American challenges will not remain unanswered. On Tuesday 18 April, the EU high Representative met Prime Minister Li Keqiang . Both of them didn’t miss this opportunity to shape a joint Chino-European response to the US aggressiveness. Actually, Keqiang felt obliged to say “that the international community was looking at how China and the EU would work together to tackle challenges”. No need to explain what those challenges are.

Joint efforts

In short, this was an open invitation to the EU to join China in defending the way the world has been functioning during the last decades. The Chinese Premier concluded that he was confident Europe understands the challenges, so their bilateral talks will focus on “a stable China-EU relationship, with the consistency of our two sides toward multilateralism and free trade, and with our joint commitment to improving the international governance structure.” Again, no need to elaborate which ‘international governance structure’ he meant. Evidently, it’s the Americans who defy the global order.

Mongherini reminded her interlocutor that the Chinese President Xi Jinping has recently delivered a speech proclaiming China the champion of free trade, stability and criticizing protectionism. Then, she said that Xi with this speech “raised high expectations that China and the European Union can work together on multilateralism, on rules-based global order and trade”. She then added,”Not only our people, but probably the multilateral system, need Europe and China to work together on some of the major global issues”.

Feeling obliged

No need to underline here that both the EU and China seem to have very well understood, that the whole world expects the two economic super powers to stand up to the American belligerence. The fact that China is also a military super power may deepen the relations of the two, because the EU is practically unarmed. Of course, the EU doesn’t stand in the world as a military power, but rather as a peaceful and honest trader. The military potential of its member states is almost fully disconnected from Brussels.

In short, the Mongherini visit to Beijing last week has opened the way for the June EU-China summit to effectively counter the American aggression. It may also reassure the entire world that the complex global economic and political relations is not a ‘toy’ for just one country, even the most powerful one, to reshape according to her own interests and presumptions.

 

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