Le Monde: The end of the illusion of China, Europe’s wind shifts to the Indo-Pacific

Sylvie Kauffmann, a columnist for the French newspaper Le Monde, notes that the EU has suspended a draft comprehensive investment agreement with Beijing to be concluded in December 2020. The new geopolitical dynamic favors rapprochement with New Delhi.

“Absolutely incomprehensible!”

“Absolutely incomprehensible!” said the German Foreign Minister angrily on Monday, May 10, after Hungary again vetoed by one vote a statement by 26 other European Union (EU) member states condemning the repression imposed by Beijing in Hong Kong. For him, it seems that this has reached the limit of tolerance. This statement needs to be unanimously adopted by 27 countries to be valid. But is this really an “incomprehensible” situation, as German Foreign Minister Maas said? Or is the situation all too clear?

In fact, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is not hiding his preference, revealing in a recent interview himself that he had just spoken to Chinese Communist Party President Xi Jinping. According to Beijing, Xi told Orban during their last meeting that he appreciated Hungary’s “firm policy of friendship with China”.

Merkel pushes for EU-China investment deal

Coffman noted in his article that the matter is particularly irritating for the Germans, who themselves have tripped over the carpet laid by Beijing. By far, Germany is the EU country that exports the most to China. Germany is eager to maintain this dynamism, and is also strongly encouraged and supported by Xi Jinping. German Chancellor Angela Merkel imposed on her European partners a comprehensive investment agreement (CAI) with Beijing, which she insisted be reached before the end of Germany’s EU presidency on Dec. 30, 2020. At the time, as time was running out and it was necessary to act quickly, it was decided to leave the details for later. But as the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.”

The devil in the details

After that, the details naturally came to light gradually. The German media outlet Die Welt then discovered that in Article II, Section 9 of the annex to this agreement it is written that “senior executives of non-profit organizations authorized to conduct business in China must be Chinese citizens.” Specifically, this means that, for example, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a charity under Merkel’s CDU, which has an office in China, must be headed by a Chinese national, a situation in which there is absolutely no guarantee of independence.

When the annexes to this agreement were published in March, certain passages were combed through on their own to reveal peculiar notions of reciprocity concealed therein, but all highly praised at the time by the impetus of the agreement. Thus, in entry 22 of Annex I, the Chinese side requested that the investment clause in the audiovisual sector stipulate that no European film or television series could be brought to Chinese television screens between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. without state authorization. Similarly, Chinese animation channels can only show Chinese cartoons between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.

However, these Chinese negotiators have carefully carved out strict rules in the draft agreement, and there is no reciprocity in the EU investment provisions listed in the annex; the authors point out that Europe remains true to its noble spirit of “openness philosophy”.

Europe-China agreement moribund and disillusioned

Due to criticism from opponents of the Beijing regime and the European Parliament, the EU-China investment agreement was actually in jeopardy when Beijing decided in March to sanction a number of European parliamentarians and researchers to counter EU sanctions against officials involved in the persecution of Uighurs. Things got worse after that, and as the deal became moribund, the European Commission finally nailed it to the coffin through the voice of one of its vice presidents – Valdis Dombrovsky, a Latvian-born MEP who admitted on May 4 that the political climate was “not conducive to “the European Parliament to sign this agreement.

This also means the disillusionment.

The wind in Europe has changed to blow towards India

Today, it is blowing noticeably toward the Indo-Pacific region. on May 8, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was invited to attend from afar at a European summit in Porto, Portugal, where the EU decided to restart negotiations on a free trade agreement with India, which ended in failure in 2013 after several years of difficult negotiations. In Porto, the leaders discussed about joint infrastructure projects, possible investment agreements …… and these are topics that have been on the agenda of China and Europe so far.

Naturally, India is not China and cannot replace it. But with New Delhi currently drowning in the tragedy of the New Crown (Chinese Communist virus) epidemic, which has also weakened its ability to confront its main rival in Asia, India and the EU share a common desire to move closer to each other beyond trade disagreements.

India’s Foreign Minister Seizes the Moment

On the Indian side, Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar, who has served as ambassador to Washington and Beijing, is an excellent geopolitical diplomat and has seized the moment better than anyone else. In an interview published by Politico on May 9, he clearly demonstrates that the turmoil in the international order has led to a revival of relations between Brussels and New Delhi. The “chemistry,” he said, is different than it was a decade ago.

One word was never mentioned, but there was indeed an elephant in the room that was the consensus: China. For Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar, the new crown epidemic is far more than a one-time event; it has created a new normal in international relations. Like India, the EU is aware of the security gap in its supply. The Indian minister said, “We have to reconfigure and reposition the world to keep the situation created by pandemic diseases intact.” He encouraged the EU to “become more active and visible” in the Indo-Pacific region. The U.S. is already there. There is no doubt that India will feel better in this encirclement if Europe goes there too.