European Union leaders came together this week to voice their concerns about Europe’s increasing economic dependence on China.
The EU’s foreign policy service said in a prepared statement that China’s communist leadership should be viewed as a competitor promoting “an alternative vision of the world order”.
European leaders’ hardened stance on China comes amid growing concerns that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping is leading the nation in a far more authoritarian direction.
Xi delivered a speech Oct. 16 in which he vowed never to back down the use of force against Taiwan, which he says is part of China, and called for greater security measures in China’s already vast state surveillance apparatus.
He is expected to receive a landmark third term in power this month, cementing his rule in the CCP as second in historical importance only to Mao Zedong.
EU leaders are trying to break dependency on China
EU leaders had grown increasingly suspicious of the CCP since February, when Xi announced a “borderless” partnership with Russian leader Vladimir Putin just before the latter ordered the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s war of conquest in Ukraine has forced many EU leaders to be more aware of their countries’ dependencies, as much of Europe’s gas supply came from Russia. EU leaders now believe they must form a united front to prevent a similar circumstance from happening with China.
“In the case of China, it is the risk of dependence on technologies and raw materials,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
She added that the EU has learned its lesson from Russia and will work to increase production capacity of vital technologies and shift supply chains to more trusted suppliers.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin made a similar statement outside a meeting in Brussels, saying the EU must ensure its supply of critical technologies is not held hostage by the CCP the way Russia has held gas hostage.
“It doesn’t mean that there can’t be economic ties with China, but it does mean that we shouldn’t develop such strategic and critical dependencies in an authoritarian country,” Marin said.
“I think technology is key here. This may not be a problem today, but it will certainly be an issue in the future.”
Marin added that the EU should instead encourage greater cooperation between democratic countries.
CCP expansion stokes fears over port deals
The EU leaders’ discussion of the CCP’s strategic issues follows a push by the German government to reconsider some aspects of trade relations between it and China.
The German government coalition is currently examining whether it will allow the Chinese state-owned company Cosco to partially take over a port terminal in Hamburg near the North Sea coast.
The federal government is currently divided on this issue, which has become a sort of weather vane for how far Germany might be willing to go to become tougher on its largest trading partner.
China has bought a number of overseas deep-water ports to gain control of global shipping lanes and increase the reach of its navy. One of these ports is in the Solomon Islands. Another is in Greece.
However, unlike those two ports, the Hamburg deal would not result in China owning a majority stake in the entire port.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the EU’s previous decisions to allow vital infrastructure to be sold to China were “strategic mistakes”.
Reuters contributed to this report.