Europe’s China policy is undergoing a tectonic shift. The attention was on Mr. Xi Jinping’s visits for influence to EU member states – Italy after Portugal and Spain a few months ago, and even tiny Monaco (population: 38,000). This is the time chosen by the EU to suddenly come forward with a short and crisp new China strategy that starts from realism : China is a "systemic rival", and the EU must build its own responses, starting from competition rules and industrial policy, leveraging issues in dealing with Beijing.
The Commission leaves few stones unturned, starting from China’s egregious human rights practices, noting drily that China’s large exports of coal-fired plants contradict its commitments on climate, and promoting coordination across the continent for the security of 5G networks.
To this shift, Emmanuel Macron is adding an innovation in European foreign policy: he is inviting Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker to a joint meeting with Xi Jinping during the latter’s state visit to France this week. He is also setting a high bar: besides climate, the reform of WTO and key issues in the EU-China economic relationship are on the menu. Mr. Macron is also just back from East Africa where he pointed out in Djibouti the risk of Chinese hegemony. He has also publicly endorsed in Brussels the new European strategy, commenting that the EU has to act like a superpower if it wants to be treated as one.