February 6, 2020

China’s Growing Global Influence Has Left the European Leaders in Flux

Launch of the EFPI discussion series “Understanding China’s power” with Philippe Le Corre and China’s long-term goals for trade and investments in Europe.
Launch of the EFPI discussion series “Understanding China’s power” with Philippe Le Corre and China’s long-term goals for trade and investments in Europe.

While the United States is openly claiming China to be its number one worry to its foreign policy, the EU countries are in flux – there is a lack of unified approach among European leaders towards China. What is China’s EU strategy and how they pursue it? How are projects like Talsinki tunnel affecting the Baltic Sea region and therefore Estonia?

These were the main questions at the launch of the discussion series “Understanding China’s Power” on 5 February 2020 organised by the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute (EFPI) at the ICDS.

The first guest speaker of the series was Philippe Le Corre, a research associate at the Harvard Kennedy School and a non-resident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He was joined by Frank Jüris, a junior researcher at the EFPI and project lead of the discussion series. The event was moderated by Kristi Raik, director of the EFPI.

Le Corre pointed out that there is a need for a joint response from the EU member states to China´s assertive strategy. Initiatives such as 17+1 are rather deepening the flux among the EU leaders than helping to solve the issue. China´s growing investments on the European continent are causing a situation where China is setting the rules of the game within Europe´s own borders. The European Parliament´s decision in 2016 on giving China a market economy status is more than alarming.

The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is creating a global infrastructure network. According to Le Corre the BRI is not initiative but rather a strategy that is already being shaped by China´s hard power with its army of 6000 men located in Djibouti as a first Chinese military unit located abroad.

China´s global rise is not something new while China has strengthened its position in international organisations, namely in the UN including FAO. Recent developments in Hongkong and Taiwan are clearly showing that the ´hangover of 1997´ is coming back.

Frank Jüris presented his analysis on the Talsinki tunnel project and China´s interest in it. Jüris describes how China has previously used infrastructure projects to exert political pressure and outlines China’s defence white paper, which states that foreign investments are an important national interest that must be protected.

The EFPI at the ICDS is organising four discussions on China this year with renowned international lecturers. The first with Philippe Le Corre looked at China’s long-term goals for trade and investments in Europe. The next discussions in the “Understanding China’s Power” series will address defence and security, technology, and governance.

 

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