Why is America so afraid of China?
How Europe should behave : With China against the USA, with the USA against China
The National People's Congress, which should have taken place in March, will meet in Beijing on Friday. The Chinese leadership will know how to stage the event as a victory: over the pandemic, but also in the "system rivalry" with the West.
The US now reports more Covid-19 deaths than China's total of confirmed cases. Driven by a pandemic just before the presidential election, Donald Trump is meanwhile lashing out in the United States.
Who is the toughest in dealing with China is a central issue in the American election campaign. At the end of last week, the drumming-on-your-chest reached a temporary high point when Trump said in an interview that it was conceivable that the US could cut ties with China altogether.
As is well known, the crisis acts as a catalyst - and also accelerates the dynamism in the relationship triangle USA-China-EU. Driven by the Chinese leadership's fear of losing control and by the American election campaign, the “system rivalry” between China and the USA is coming to a head.
Europe, and not least Germany, are in danger of being squeezed even more than before between their difficult partner America and the “frenemy” China.
Become more careful
For some years now, large European countries such as France, Great Britain and Germany have become more cautious in their China policy. The EU Commission is now calling China a "system rival". Investment protection laws and rules to protect telecommunications networks have been tightened.
Western European heads of state observed the Chinese attempts to bind Central and Eastern European countries with investment agreements with great suspicion.
But many heads of state want to avoid the rhetoric of a new “Cold War”. Germany in particular is trying to cultivate China as a partner at the same time. A large and still planned summit of all 27 EU heads of state and government with China's head of state Xi Jinping in September is to crown the German EU Council Presidency.
An agreement has been under negotiation for seven years, with which China is supposed to commit to dismantling investment restrictions for European companies and reducing the interdependence of state and companies. It should be signed at the summit.
[The epidemic effect: How pandemics are changing society read here]
But China's massive propaganda and disinformation campaign over the past few weeks has exacerbated resentment in many EU countries. A Chinese diplomat in Paris claimed caregivers left people in old people's homes to die alone.
China sent doctors to hard-hit countries like Italy and Serbia. The West, so the message, is overwhelmed.
Options are missing
Observers, however, believe that the “divide-et-impera policy” was counterproductive this time. It is true that China was able to expand its influence in individual countries such as Hungary. All in all, however, there is a certain amount of mistrust. Alone: The options for action are missing.
[The coronavirus crisis is also a historic challenge for politics. Every morning we inform you, dear readers, in our morning situation about the political decisions, news and background. You can register for free here.]
In the middle of a health crisis, at the beginning of the next sovereign debt crisis and six months before the US presidential election, a decision on direction would be as imprudent as it is suicidal. First, Europe must become less dependent on Chinese medical goods in the medium term and diversify supply chains.
The USA would remain a Chinese hawk even under a Democrat. In trade, investment and telecommunications policy, however, discussions at the highest level could become easier again from November onwards.
While China is celebrating itself as the winner, for the moment Europe only has to manage the predicament as well as possible and remain open to both as a coalition partner: with the USA against China for fair economic conditions of competition. With China against the USA for international organizations and the Paris climate agreement.
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