June 10, 2019

Current Geopolitical Factors of the Development of Relations Between the EU and China


Serhiy Polyovyk

The geopolitical situation in Europe and in the world keeps getting aggravated, and experts believe that for quite objective reasons. Such as:

  • the relationship between the ambitious US administration headed by President D. Trump and the ambitious China -  the world's largest economic competitor of the United States;
  • unpredictability in the postmodern world of intentions and actions of the nuclear Russia, which is forced to take measures for its existence and acceptable positioning in the system of new geopolitical priorities;
  • significant weakening of the unity of the European Union and its economic and institutional capacity;
  • dominance of pragmatic state conservatism in the international policy;
  • the loss of the authority of churches in the society.


Other factors determining the current format of relations between the main geopolitical actors, namely, the USA, China, the EU and Russia, which affect the situation on the European continent are:

  • Intensification of the trade war between the USA and China for domination in the world economic space and each party's efforts to uphold national interests, despite the circumstances and possible deterioration of the internal situation in other partner countries and blocs;
  • Framing the palette of interests of leading European countries, which gradually diverge from the values ​​of pan-European policy, giving preference to their own pragmatic state interests;
  • Increased tensions in the international community due to the uncertain Russian policy associated with the process of the future transfer of power in the Kremlin and the attempts of its current leadership to consolidate its position, restore Russia in the list of the most influential countries in the world and enter the world's governing bodies;
  • Negative consequences for the EU of China's aggressive policy as part of its Strategic Initiative “One Belt. One Road “, the aim of which is to create conditions for the promotion of Chinese goods, capital, labor force westwards, to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean included;
  • Russia and China's cybernetic threats, total digitalization of the socio-economic space as objective factors of the influence of the modern scientific and technological progress on the conditions of existence of the population in the world;
  • Increased global threats to humanity's existence (climate change, lack of food and drinking water, environmental pollution, critical accumulation of industrial waste, etc.) Climate pollution, first of all, by the major world powers - the USA and China - as the largest producers of harmful emissions into the atmosphere, and which so far at the state level ignore this problem. However, this factor will inevitably make them correlate their foreign policy and take appropriate measures to protect national interests. The struggle for natural resources and means for survival, which becomes important in conditions of global warming on the Earth, will remain for all states without exception, regardless of their being powerful actors of world geopolitics or still seeking their place in the process of creation of a new, postmodernist world order. Ukraine so far is among the latter.


The international community, in particular, the democratic Europe with its governing institutions of the EU, is concerned about the USA's stepping aside from the European Union's affai of D.Trump's policy “America First”, the USA's withdrawal from the climate agreement, the deal with Iran, the refusal to support European businesses in the USA, first of all of German industrialists, and so on. Thus, during the time of the current American President, Europe has faced economic and financial problems, in particular, financing the participation of NATO member-states. For example, payment of membership fees, which the USA used to financially damp, but now, given the US-China global confrontation, D. Trump decided to stop damping.

European experts also worry about China's active interference in relations between the EU countries, which is why those relations are regressing. Common economic and fundamental values, th principles of safe coexistence in Europe have lately given way to inspired by China actions for economic expansion and conquest of Europe through bribing European leaders. In addition to these factors of aggrevation of the general situation, there are effects of Russia and China 's “hybrid influences” on the leaders of some respectable EU countries in the form of personal pressure using special services's techniques and latest scientific developments, as well as banal bribery and blackmail. The main aim is to achieve their geopolitical, thereby neglecting the interests and common values ​​of other members of the European Union or NATO partners. For example, recently the European Commission has released its analysis of the economic development of the European Union and individual EU countries, and among other things, of the trends of economic development and budget planning in Italy, which is one of the major debtors of the EU. It is noted that if the competent authorities of the EU recognize that Italy is acting contrary to the EU rules, it may be subject to high fines.

The EU's analytical document entitled “Joint Report” states that the European Commission experts and the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the European Union have, for over several months, been checking the EU-China relations with a view to developing a new strategy for such relations. According to recent reports, the decision to impose fines against Italy has already been taken, the amount of reimbursement in favor of the EU will be over 1 billion Euros. Brussels' paying special attention to Italy is not accidental. After all, it was the first of the most developed countries of the European Union, to enter into a multibillion deal with China within the framework of the PRC's infrastructure project “One Belt. One Road”.

China's intensive activity in Europe is quite noticeable. This may lead to its taking control over the key objects of the EU infrastructure in terms of their long-term lease. The threats of the loss of common democratic European values ​​do not stop the pragmatic leaders of Italy, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and other countries of the region. Getting today's preferences and quick dividends from Chinese participation in Europe, they consider them to be sufficient arguments for short-sighted decisions. Even the fact that future generations will later be paying back today's debts to China has never stopped hard pragmatists who believe that “after us – the deluge!”.

At the same time, European think tanks and their researchers not-engaged by Chinese promises, rpublicly point out the political short-sightedness of such a leadership and its hypertrophied financial appetites verging on corruption. In particular, the German “Süddeutsche Zeitung” emphasizes that naivete in the EU's relations with China should be left behind. According to Matthias Kolb, own correspondent of the publication, according to the European Commission, China is not only the EU's partner in tackling climate change and trade competent. The PRC, in the opinion of experts from the European Commission, is in fact a systemic rival, who demands introduction of alternative management systems. In other words, according to EU experts, Beijing propagates its autocratic power system as an alternative to liberal democracy around the world and is not at all interested in a strong EU.

Special attention of geopolitical analysts was drawn to two events that took place at the beginning of June, practically simultaneously, with the participation of the Presidents of the United States and China, and which will affect their further relations with Europe. In particular, US President D. Trump took part in events taking place in the UK on the occasion of the next anniversary of the United States' entry into World War II and landing of Allied troops in Normandy. His meeting and non-diplomatic behavior with international partners, neglecting the rules of etiquette even in conversation with the Queen of Great Britain, will not add to further mutual understanding between the USA and Europe.

Also, to this event for the first time since the end of the war was not invited Russian President V. Putin. Russia, demonstrating hostility to the European Union and the United States, paid special attention to another event: Chinese President Xi Jingping's state visit to St. Petersburg, where he met with a number of statesmen headed by V. Putin and signed several intergovernmental economic agreements.

Analyzing the results of the Chinese President's visit to Russia rin terms of the prospects of developing bilateral interstate relations and the two states' relations with Europe and the USA, the authoritative Swiss edition the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on June 5, 2007 points out that over the past five years, a geopolitical component has become more active in such relationships. Russia relies on developing good relations with its powerful neighbor in the Far East. After all, the former hopes that the US President D. Trump would contribute to mitigating Russia's relations with the United States were premature. At the same time, the publication notes, that the US administration's aggressive position regarding China contributes to the unification of the positions of Moscow and Beijing.

In this confrontation, the European Union acts as a non-independent, economically dependent on other powerful countries, player who cannot formulate its own allied strategy, create mechanisms for its implementation, and provide for collective security on its own. Russia's EU well-aimed aggression, its using its international satellite countries in different regions of the world are weakening and destroying the EU. Russia will not replace for China the economic power of the United States, but their strategic positions more and more coincide, especially in East Asia, the Middle East and the Arctic. The publication states that Russian and Chinese experts are not inclined to believe that their countries will become members of a new military-political alliance, because both, China and Russia value value their independence and status of superpowers. Moreover, they have not overcome mutual distrust yet.

An analyst of the Swiss publication Markus Ackeret draws attention to V. Putin's statement that China and Russia's positions on Iran, Syria and Venezuela coincide. At the UN Security Council, the position of these two states is now almost the same. However, as pointed out by the Russian political scientist Andrey Kortunov, this is not enough for a strategy of prospective cooperation, because there will always be differences in positions, and relations between the countries will remain difficult. According to his assessment, it would be useful for both countries to develop common approaches to adjusting the new world order. However, the analyst says, there is no certainty that Moscow and Beijing could go that far on this issue. At the same time, both countries have some plans for action in this direction, as evidenced by two memorandums with thirty interstate documents signed at the summit in Russia. One of them mentions the united position of the parties regarding the strategic parity and the critical assessment of the “destruction of the arms control system”. At the same time, the analyst says, this China's position, aimed against the USA, is perceived somewhat ambiguously, because it does not want its missile and nuclear programs to be controlled by limiting systems or other such-like mechanisms. Russia, in view of historical events, as compared with China, is playing the role of a more flexible world political player. For the RF it is very important not to be in the role of China's junior, subordinate partner in the world arena.

The three-day state visit of the President and leader of the ruling Chinese Communist Party to Russia had to demonstrate that bilateral intergovernmental relations, especially in the economic sphere, have never been stronger since (70 years ago) the establishment of diplomatic relations between the PRC and the USSR. Both state leaders, tsays the publication, tried to demonstrate it to both, the confused Europe and demonstratively unceremonious America.

By the way, at the moment when it was important for Russia to demonstrate to the EU's its readiness to abandon cooperation with the West, China twice took the advantage of the situation: at the summit, President Xi left Russia without political support, when it, due to the to introduction of t US sanction, could by its statements harm itself internationally. And he readily used a number of favorable for himself situations in economic and political cooperation. Such a pragmatic position during the negotiations sometimes annoyed Russia, but there was no retreat, given the reality of its current state. Assessments of the Chinese leader's visit differed even in the close to the government circles in Russia. In particular, the newspaper points out, that some expectations of Russian economic circles did not come true. For example, regarding the Chinese banks' loans or the volumes of Chinese investments.

At the same time, the publication points out that in addition to successful cooperation in the energy, raw materials and trade sectors, Russia has additional opportunities for influencing China's relations with Europe, in particular in tourism and agriculture. Russian foods are valued in China, because they are considered biologically pure and organic.

The publication says that at the summit in St. Petersburg were raised the main problems of Russia itself, namely, its concern about legal and investment security, the inability to get rid of the status of the country-supplyer of raw materials. Recently at one of the conferences in Moscow, it was critically emphasized that in Russia's economic cooperation participate mainly state-owned companies.

Thus, the economic global confrontation between the United States and China directly affects China's relations with the European Union. China's plans in Europe, which were foreseen within the framework of the Strategic Initiative “One Belt. One Road”, are being implemented on the European continent. Predictable are results of China's economic expansion, through the  influence on countries and regions, with the provision of significant financial loans which they won't be able to pay back and will get into Beijing's debt yoke. China's economic expansion in other regions and countries has been practically tested, has taken into account the peculiarities of European realities and has been used effectively in the civilized, but no less corrupt and pragmatic Europe. The US-EU disagreements, based on the solely pro-US foreign policy priorities of the current US President, D. Trump, are used by China in its relations with the EU as an additional and free leverage of influence to promote Chinese interests in Europe and in the world as a whole.

China's relations with Russia are situational in nature, which is determined, above all, by the PRC's interests and financial capabilities. China's restraint in relations with Russia is due to the latter's nuclear potential and similar to China's approaches to the USA's pragmatic attitude to the EU. In case of a change in the balance of power behind this line, or due to internal changes in the state structure of Russia, China may change its position and its rapid absorption of the infrastructure of Russia, which China sees as priority. China's violations of the existing state and internationally recognized borders of Russia should not be expected, at least as long as its statehood is preserved.

Relations between China and Europe will slowly exacerbate in the near future. Chinese corporations will covertly absorb critical infrastructures in the EU. The situation will change as a result of changing the unfriendly policy of the US administration towards the EU and, at the same time, of the friendly policy towards Russia. The international situation may also exacerbate as a result of the Kremlin's aggressive policy in relations with the EU and the USA, in particular, given the situation in Ukraine.

At the moment, there are all the necessary conditions for further aggravation of the situation and its turning into a new phase of confrontation, with the use of weapons included. Casus belli, a formal reason for unleashing a war by one state against another, can always be found or easily created artificially.

The EU, in its new format, after the election of the governing bodies of the European Commission, will need to focus on finding ways to counteract undeclared aggression by all unfriendly parties, namely the United States, China and Russia. It will be important to preserve European values ​​and ensure the architecture of European security, confront unfriendly external influences and cybernetic threats, manifestations of state protectionism and corruption within the EU.

Ukraine should strive to maintain a balance of national interests in relations with all geopolitical actors in Europe and in the world and to develop its statehood in order to become a regional leader.