Europe's complacency intensifies China's challenge

After the chaotic retreat from Afghanistan and the announcement of the United States’ new defense relationship with Australia, many Europe...


After the chaotic retreat from Afghanistan and the announcement of the United States’ new defense relationship with Australia, many Europeans question the Biden administration’s claim that America is “back. “. Since the summer, those who aspire to so-called European strategic autonomy – most of them muted since President Biden’s election – have resumed beating drums for the European Union to disassociate itself from the United States.

It’s time for these Europeans to face the new global reality: America is back, but the world has changed. There are still security threats in Europe, especially from Russia, but for Washington the priority is Beijing’s campaign of hegemony. This is the right priority. If America loses its dominance in the Indo-Pacific, it will trigger a shock wave in global energy balances that will engulf Europe as well. Against all odds, the United States and Europe should work together, not in competition, in the Indo-Pacific region.

To date, Europe has tried to act as a balancing power between the United States and China. We have recently become much less naive about Beijing’s intentions, in part thanks to pressure from Washington. This is particularly the case in northern, central and eastern Europe. However, European policy is still too focused on mercantilism, as illustrated by the haste of France and Germany to sign Europe for an investment agreement with China at the end of 2020.

At the time, Jake Sullivan, the White House’s designated national security adviser, called for a delay until the Biden administration could coordinate a joint plan. Despite concerns in many European capitals, the EU still signed the agreement. Within weeks, it must have been put back on ice after China imposed sanctions on EU ambassadors, members of parliament and others, including my own Alliance of Democracies Foundation.

Europe is learning that it is not easy to find a good balance between Communist China and democratic America. Margaret Thatcher once said: “Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous. You are run over by traffic on both sides. We tried it with

Vladimir PoutineRussia, leaving our relations stuck in a quagmire. In a battle between freedom and authoritarianism, Europe cannot equivocate.

Europe’s mercantilist approach to China has allowed economic dependence. Beijing took advantage of the eurozone crisis ten years ago to rapidly increase its strategic investments across Europe. By the time the Europeans realized our vulnerabilities, it was too late. China has shown that it is all too willing to use economic coercion as a weapon.

Not all EU states fall into the trap. Lithuania, for example, decided this summer to withdraw from China’s 17 + 1 initiative, the stated aim of which is to expand Chinese investments in central and eastern Europe. Its hidden motivation is to expand Chinese influence and drive a wedge in European unity. Lithuania is instead developing relations with Taiwan. If a country of less than three million people can take a stand, so can the rest of Europe.

Without a doubt, the recent Aukus defense deal reached by the US, UK and Australia could have been better handled. Close allies should not be notified of new partnerships a few minutes before their announcement. Now that the dust settles, French leaders should ask themselves whether it is really in their interests to step up and divide the free world’s efforts in the Indo-Pacific. After the German election, even Berlin is likely to harden its stance on China, with the more value-oriented Greens and Free Liberal Democrats ready to enter government.

Submarine contracts were not the only factor behind Australia’s decision. Canberra has chosen to cement its security ties with Washington and London amid heightened tensions with Beijing. Paris – and all of continental Europe – should reflect on this choice.

But China’s challenge is not limited to military hardware. From trade to technology, China is trying to reconnect the post-war multilateral system to serve its own interests. Democracies represent around 60% of the world’s gross domestic product. It’s a language Beijing understands, but only if the free world unites to make global rules on everything from commerce to artificial intelligence to space. United we stand divided we fall.

According to a survey recently published by the European Council on Foreign Relations, nearly two-thirds of Europeans believe that a new cold war is brewing between China and the United States. Yet only 15% believe their own country is in a cold war with China.

Cold War rhetoric is overblown, but free societies face a challenge from Chinese nationalist leaders. The issue is whether we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in a world ruled by democratic America or by communist China. Europe cannot remain indifferent to this battle and expect Uncle Sam to foot the bill.

Mr. Rasmussen was NATO Secretary General in 2009-14. He founded the Alliance of Democracies Foundation in 2017.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Europe's complacency intensifies China's challenge
Europe's complacency intensifies China's challenge
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