Brussels (Brussels Morning) It is exactly a year ago that China ended democracy in Hong Kong by introducing its National Security Law. Since then, China has rapidly ended most of the opposition against its authoritarian regime by putting pro-democracy politicians behind bars, ending media freedom and installing a blanket surveillance state.
In the West, we have naively thought that more trade and prosperity would automatically lead to more democracy. We could not have been more wrong. Since President Xi Jinping has taken over the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, China has not only increased its repression of minority groups such as the Uyghurs, it has also started to export its authoritarian model to other parts of the world.
The agenda of the Chinese Communist Party has become a challenge to the liberal world order, which cannot be ignored by a European Union that claims to defend the rules-based world order. To better position itself and defend our way of life, the EU needs a new strategy. We propose to base this strategy on four pillars.
A renewed strategic partnership to fight climate change and preserve global security
China is the world’s largest carbon emitter. If we want to save the world from a climate catastrophe, we must make sure that China commits to the Paris agreement. Renew Europe proposes a border adjustment tax for Chinese goods if these commitments are not met.
A rules-based trade relationship based on reciprocity and an industrial policy focused on innovation and open strategic autonomy;
China has become Europe’s biggest trading partner. However, we face a China that does not play by the same rules. It remains difficult for European companies to enter the Chinese market and Europe is confronted with Chinese industrial espionage, unfair Chinese state subsidies and forced labour for the production of certain products.
We need a fairer, more equal trade relationship. The recent EU-China Investment Agreement is an attempt to do this, but Renew Europe is not convinced it goes far enough. We believe China must show more commitment to the ending of forced labour and improve its human rights record in general. Furthermore, as long as China is not lifting its sanctions against European NGOs and politicians, the European Parliament should not discuss the agreement, let alone ratify it.
But we should not only focus on defensive measures. In close cooperation with other liberal democracies, Europe should become a technological leader again. By investing more in Research and Development, we can work closely together with other democracies to agree on a regulatory framework based on democratic and ethical values, giving European companies priority in rolling out our 5G networks.
A united Europe to address China’s violations of human rights and international law
Probably the biggest challenge in our relationship is China’s contempt for human rights. It is an authoritarian, one-party state in which the rule of law does not count. The Uighur Muslims, Tibetans and the people of Hong Kong are particular victims of this. Human rights organisations and various countries have labelled the atrocities against the Uighurs a genocide. Taiwan is subject to an increased siege.
The Chinese attempt to export their surveillance state to countries in Africa and Latin America and their support for authoritarian regimes is a direct threat to fundamental human rights. We need to continue to use sanctions against main human rights violators, increase our cooperation with other democracies such as the US, Canada, Japan and India to protect a world order based on the rule of law and invest in Africa, the Balkans and Latin America to give our partner countries a better alternative to cheap Chinese money.
A reformed EU to be able to play a geopolitical role on the world stage
Only a more united Europe will be able to counter the negative consequences of China’s growth. We must reform to play a fuller role on the world stage. We need an end to the unanimity rule which so often blocks joint decisions. We need a European Defence Union and we need to make China pay for its disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks.
The Renew paper for a new EU-China strategy can be read in full here.