“The change of the times and the shifts of power have failed to change the condescending attitude of some Europeans,” People’s Daily, the ruling Communist party’s mouthpiece, said on Thursday. “China doesn’t want a trade war, but trade protectionism cannot but trigger a counterattack.” […]
The EU has been telling the world for decades that it is something new in the world: a global economic power, reliant on the attraction of its social model for its influence. This explains why the long running economic crisis is so devastating for the EU. What happens to an economic power if its economy is in the tank? What happens to a power that depends on the attraction of its social model if the world sees that model as dysfunctional and decaying? The New York Times paints a very bleak picture:
[T]he total value of foreign direct investment to Europe, including Britain and Eastern Europe, plunged by 36 percent to $293.5 billion — double the decline worldwide. Foreign businesses, in other words, remained deeply cautious about investing in Europe’s future.Even if the euro zone economy does stop declining, that does not mean it will grow. It could simply hit bottom and stay there.
Seeing all this, China is losing respect for the Continent. Europe is divided: Germany is fighting Brussels, the economy is a mess, and the EU dream appears in doubt.The Chinese editorialists have a point that the EU’s propensity to lecture is waxing even as Europe’s world position declines. The legacy of colonial rule still rankles in Asia, and Europeans would be very foolish if they forget that. (Europe should also remember, however, that sharp, barking diplomacy is a tool China is fond of using to see if it can get what it wants on the cheap.)As they hunker down against the blast of harsh Chinese rhetoric and policy, Europeans might want to talk to the Australians and many others in Asia who have weathered similar typhoons. One important piece of advice they would likely share: don’t cave. As long as harsh rhetoric and peremptory demands work, the Chinese will keep using them. Generally speaking, when rebuffed, they return to more realistic negotiating tactics.Whatever happens, the EU is going to have to give up on some dearly held dreams of reshaping the world order from a position of privilege and power. Europe is no longer the center of world politics or the world economy, and Asia in particular is simply not very interested in European ideas about how the world should be run. President Xi is meeting President Obama this weekend to ask, in effect, for the United States to switch from Europe to China as its chief global sidekick.This is the lens through which the Chinese see their trade problems with Europe. Perhaps especially because it knows that Europe’s own deep divisions on these issues make Brussels vulnerable to Chinese pressure, Beijing is bent on forcing Europe to make some kind of public acknowledgment of its changed status. As Chen Zhimin, a professor specializing in EU diplomacy at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the FT: “If the EU thinks that it can safeguard its interests through sanctions, it will have to realise that it is no longer facing the China of the past.”[Image of downtown Beijing courtesy Wikimedia]