In Europe and China, a New Status Quo

Beijing’s recent behavior has expedited a paradigm shift it always knew was coming.

2020 was supposed to be the “Year of Sino-European Friendship,” or so said Chinese state media last December. Eager to drive a stake in U.S.-EU relations, Beijing announced a number of grand diplomatic initiatives intended to present itself as Europe’s ideal partner in defending global trade and prosperity. But there’s been something of a paradigm shift in Europe about China, and 2020 might just be the year Beijing lost Europe instead. Naturally, things started getting away from Beijing when the pandemic hit. Several European governments criticized insufficient transparency and disinformation campaigns, triggering a less-than-contrite response from China’s “wolf warrior” diplomats. This – along with alarm in European capitals about Beijing’s attempts to weaponize their dependence on Chinese medical supplies and China’s crackdowns in Xinjiang and Hong Kong – compelled Brussels to label China as a “systemic rival.” Since then, a long-awaited visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping in October was quietly scrapped. China’s 16+1 forum with Central and Eastern European countries, which Beijing had hoped to use as leverage against Western Europe, lost steam as several of its key member states lost interest. A landmark NATO report released last month called for a shift in focus toward China and outlined […]

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Phillip Orchard
Phillip Orchard is an analyst at Geopolitical Futures. Prior to joining the company, Mr. Orchard spent nearly six years at Stratfor, working as an editor and writing about East Asian geopolitics. He’s spent more than six years abroad, primarily in Southeast Asia and Latin America, where he’s had formative, immersive experiences with the problems arising from mass political upheaval, civil conflict and human migration. Mr. Orchard holds a master’s degree in Security, Law and Diplomacy from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, where he focused on energy and national security, Chinese foreign policy, intelligence analysis, and institutional pathologies. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He speaks Spanish and some Thai and Lao.