Diplomacy: How China walks over Europe

Is Europe the new Lilliput? Window of the World Park, Shenzhen, China.
Is Europe the new Lilliput? Window of the World Park, Shenzhen, China.
8 June 2010 – Hindustan Times (New Delhi)

Five years ago, China was the great hope of the European Union. Brussels believed the Middle Kingdom was moving along the same path of postmodern pacificism being taken by Europe. Today, Europeans recognise this was an illusion, argues a senior editor at India's Hindustan Times.

Three or four years ago, European foreign policy circles did little but complain about the United States of Bush and the bullyboys in the Kremlin. China, however, was acclaimed as the power that understood the worth of European civilisation. “EU diplomats exude optimism when asked about China,” wrote Katinka Barysch of the Centre of European Reform. “Chinese leaders, unlike most Russians and Americans, like and respect the European Union.”

Brussels began to see values in Beijing’s worldview that were invisible to countries closer to China. China, it was said, sought a multipolar world based on international law. Its politik was all about soft power. EU President Jose Manuel Barroso, after a 2005 visit to China, spoke of an EU-China-US “triangulation” that would mould “a 21st century world order.” He envisioned a “cooperative Eurasia under Sino-European leadership and a China-centred US policy towards Asia.” Some saw Europe as an elder statesmen teaching the Chinese novice the ways of the world. “Europe is being asked to face its historical responsibility,” declared an analysis by a Spanish think-tank. Europeans today wonder what they were smoking. At this year’s Brussels Forum, the disillusionment was palpable. “Wishful thinking,” was how European analyst Charles Grant termed Europe’s China fixation.

Even as early as two years ago, European officials were more positive about China than about the US. Beijing seems to have assiduously fed this rose-tinted vision. “On the whole China acts in accordance with international law,” said the Paris-based Institute for Strategic Studies. “China’s alleged role in the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction is exaggerated,” said another European analysis. If anyone disputed US estimates of China’s real defence expenditure it was a European analyst. Read full article at Hindustan Times...

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