European Union can play vital role in preventing a 'new Cold War'

By Chen Weihua

Source:China Daily

There is growing concern about a possible "new Cold War" between the United States and China with tensions between the two countries rising from the fields of technology, investment and trade to military, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

But in almost all these fields, Washington has been the provoker, waging trade and technology wars, breaking decades of US practice vis-à-vis Taiwan, and launching a full-scale smear campaign against China leading up to the Nov 3 US presidential election.

State Councilor Wang Yi, promoted by US actions, reiterated on Sunday that both countries stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation.

He said China has no intention to change, still less replace, the US, but China will defend its sovereignty, territorial integrity, legitimate rights to development and dignity and place in the world.

While people in China and US should do everything they can to avoid a "new Cold War", Europe, which suffered greatly due to the Cold War, can play a key role in preventing such a dangerous scenario from becoming reality.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell's speech on Sunday at the German ambassadorial conference provides some encouraging clues. Borrell, like former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt in his op-ed in The Washington Post on May 19, lamented the total lack of US global leadership. He said Asia will become increasingly important in economic, security and technological terms, stressing that he believes the 21st century will be "Asia century".

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the top 10 world economies by 2050 will include four Asian countries: China, India, Indonesia and Japan, with the US in the third place.

Borrell admitted the growing pressure to choose sides. But like many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, he said that the EU does not want to do so and instead wants to "follow our own interests and values and avoiding being instrumentalized by one or the other".

The truth is that China has never forced the EU or any other economy to take sides, because it believes in win-win cooperation rather than zerosum games that some US politicians indulge in. China will support what Borrell called a "robust strategy" for China, a strategy that includes better EU relations with other Asian countries such as Japan, the Republic of Korea and India.

In fact, China, Japan and the ROK are pushing forward their free trade agreement and are major parties to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which is expected to be signed at the ASEAN Summit later this year. China and the EU, too, hope to wrap up their Comprehensive Agreement on Investment this year.

China and the EU are major forces upholding multilateralism and international rules at a time when the US has become a major disruptor by quitting the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, withdrawing from UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Council, attacking the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization, unilaterally terminating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Treaty of Open Skies, and threatening to end the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, all of which would endanger European security.

Borrell said China is getting more powerful and assertive, and its rise is impressive and triggers respect but also raises many questions and fears. But, he added, he does not subscribe to the claim that "we are reaching a Thucydides moment", and stressed the importance of a relationship based on trust, transparency and reciprocity and expected the China-EU Summit in Leipzig scheduled for autumn to be an important moment.

The EU and its member states have been expanding cooperation with China while handling their differences, whether on trade or human rights, through dialogues instead of US-type confrontation. And unlike the US, China has been supporting a stronger EU.

China and the EU have much to cooperate in achieving the "Next Generation EU Vision" laid out by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday, including those on developing a digital economy and a climate neutral continent.

So the EU and the rest of the world can and should play their roles in preventing a so-called new Cold War scenario, at least by refusing to participate in it.

The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.