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Opinion | As Trump berated NATO over its defense spending, China may reap lots of benefits

By Augustus K. Yeung

Former U.S. president Donal J. Trump is at it again (on February 10), despite the fact he had done it before. Back then the situation in Europe was different as Russia had not been showing aggressive intent toward Ukraine, and the Europeans, therefore, did not take his words seriously.

But this time the situation is different as Europe is at war with Russia, and America is fighting a proxy war, heavily behind its European NATO allies.

Given this serious reality of the situation, the Europeans are alarmed by Trump's threat verbiage. To make matters worse, prominent GOP members rushed to express solidarity with Trump, who accuses the Biden administration of draining the American taxpayers hard-earned money.

These unpleasant words of Trump come as a warning – that dependency on America for military protection is unreliable and unrealistic. If this is the case, the mindset of European leaders needs a reset, resulting first and foremost in a rising Germany trying for the third time – after the First and the Second World Wars – to rearm itself and be militarily self-sufficient.

The timing is significant: The world has just learned that Germany is replacing Japan as the world's third-largest economy. Naturally, the rest of the European countries will turn their attention to and rely on Germany to rearm and play a protective role.

The result of this logical thinking is that there will be an independent Europe, not leaning on American military support and no longer being subservient to Washington. This is what China has been urging Europe along.

Amid accusations of "Trump's betrayal", how this betrayal is affecting China-EU relations?

EU cracks widening as Wang Yi flies in

A year ago, Wang Yi stopped off in Munich in what was billed as a "European charm offensive", to be rounded off with a trip to Moscow.

"This year's meeting will definitely be the place to watch – to learn about China's current views on European security and the future of the transatlantic partnership."

Trump aside, Wang Yi has landed in an increasingly war-weary Europe, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine ticking towards its second anniversary.

In contrast to a year earlier, cracks have appeared in EU unity on the conflict, largely down to the stance of China's closest friend in Europe, Hungary…

Reports indicated Hungary specifically objected to the listing of three mainland Chinese and one Hong Kong entity on an EU blacklist for helping Russian firms evade EU sanctions and access dual-use goods made in Europe.

Last year, there was still some hope in Europe that Beijing could help broker a ceasefire in Ukraine. But these days EU expectations are more measured…

"Nobody expects Beijing to intervene positively, but with Trump on the horizon, we will more and more see leaders managing their personal relations with China so that they don't start actively helping Russia, said a senior EU diplomat.

On the other dominant geopolitical issue of the day, the Middle East, the bloc is profoundly divided. Ireland and Spain this week demanded the European Union review its trade deal with Israel, saying its bombardment of Gaza did not satisfy the agreement's human rights tenets.

As other members stand by Israel's right to defend itself, tensions within the bloc have mounted. And since the Hamas attack on October 7 sparked the current crisis – Beijing has been a staunch supporter of Palestine, repeatedly calling for an immediate ceasefire…

"The Chinese hope is that outreach towards major member countries – Germany, France, Italy, Spain – will keep EU policy on a friendly track," said Pascal Abb of the Peace Research Institute in Frankfurt.

"They have enjoyed recent Chinese overtures like visa-free business travel and are also natural proponents of strategic autonomy, which China has encouraged in the interest of preventing US-EU alignment."

In Spain, for example, a debate is underway – as to whether and how to invite Chinese investment into its electric-vehicle sector.

"China sees Spain as a reasonable actor in Europe – at a time of a change in attitudes towards China in the EU, particularly in the east and north," said Otero. "In Spain, China is still seen as a partner that we have to work with."

Observers view France as playing a two-sided game. It too is open to Chinese investment in hi-tech industries, including electric vehicles and batteries, even as it teeters on the cusp of a trade spat with Beijing.

"It would be very easy to antagonize China, but largely counterproductive," said Marc Julienne of the French Institute of International Relations in Paris.

"It is understandable that France wants to retain good ties with China, the world's second-most powerful economy," he added. "But it is also legitimate to try and protect French and European interests." (Source: SCMP)

To conclude, for China, any change that helps to push Europe away from overwhelming American influence is a chance for China to establish a stable tie with a bloc that promises immense trade and economic opportunities.

Thinking along this line, this new development is advantageous to both Europe and China as the former is further away from the firm grip of America, moving toward multilateralism. This is exactly what Xi Jinping wants.

With Washington gradually losing a staunch ally in Europe, what would it do to China?

America may be the most powerful nation in the world, it still needs a friend, which is to the interest of both countries; Washington can spare time and resources to fix its neglected domestic problems, while China can be relatively free to conduct business deals with America.

Seen in this light, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi is given a shot in the arm; with two more willing business partners in Europe and America, his missions would no longer be so hectic.

Here, too, is another possibility; as Germany rises, an insecure France may also want China to be its reliable partner – in more fields than China can imagine.


The views do not necessarily reflect those of DotDotNews.

To contact the writer, please direct email: AugustusKYeung@ymail.com

Read more articles by Augustus K. Yeung:

Opinion | Between a rising China and the developing Philippines, will there be war or peace?

Opinion | Courage then is key to charting Sino-US ties now

Opinion | As China enters the Lunar Year of the roaring Dragon, Xi rolls out good tidings and greetings


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