The tension between trade policy, and military security policy, are coming to the fore in relations between The EU and China.
In the past, the United States tended to take the lead in deciding the West’s security relationship with China. This was because the US has substantial security interests and alliances in the western Pacific. President Nixon gave positive leadership when he visited China.
Meanwhile EU countries have been pursuing a vigorous and profitable policy of promoting trade with China. Germany led the way in this respect, especially through the export of German motor cars. This particular trend is weakening at the moment, although trade generally with China has recovered well.
There is a new problem. This is an openly declared and increasingly explicit US policy of curbing the growth and sophistication of the Chinese economy. This is being done because the US fears that China could pose a security threat to the US, and its allies (including Taiwan).
For example, the US wants to deny China access to certain types of semi conductor.
Security concerns were cited by the Trump Administration when it imposed hefty tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminium. China responded with tariffs of its own.
The US is also pressurizing its allies to join in some of these measures. The goal is to prevent China developing strongly in areas that might make a key contribution to its national security.
The WTO, of which China is a member, aims to ensure that global trade is governed by predictable and transparent rules. But “national security” is a matter of subjective judgement, to which such rules cannot easily be applied.
Furthermore China does not want WTO rules to apply to state owned enterprises, while the US is undermining the appeals mechanism on WTO rulings. The law of the jungle in international trade suits big counties, but not smaller ones. Ireland is fortunate to be part of an EU bloc that will defend its interests.
Recently, the US published its National Security Strategy.
It accused China of “wanting to reshape the international order” and of “assertive behaviour”…..hardly a hanging offence.
It said that it wanted the US to “outcompete” China.
It added that it would oppose any unilateral change in relations across the Taiwan Strait.
It said that the US does not support Taiwan independence and remains committed to a “one China” policy.
This language is quite conciliatory and makes one wonder what the then Speaker Nancy Pelosi was trying to achieve with her recent high profile visit to Taiwan.
At a time when we may need China to talk sense to the Russians and get them to back out of their unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
China had a strong record of defending the territorial integrity of states, notably against European powers in the nineteenth century. So it should not be neutral about the imperialist behaviour of Russia!