"No longer a developing economy." A "systemic rival" - and over economic issues a "strategic competitor". A major coal power plant exporter that thereby impedes the fight against climate change. Worsening human rights policies – starting from Xinjiang and domestic lawyers, extending to EU and other foreign citizens. A "short and mid-term" military issue of concern for the EU with "large military maneuvers". A state whose aid to national companies and different standards do not allow for a level-playing field in third countries. A failure to implement reciprocal access to its domestic market, inter alia through heavy subsidies to its companies and manifold restrictions to foreign firms: the apex of this being the international expansion of Chinese fintech while access to its own market is denied. A rising protectionist trend in public markets. Multiple obstacles to European agricultural exports…

François Godement
Godement, an expert on Chinese and East Asian strategic and international affairs, is a nonresident senior fellow in the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
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The latest communication from the Commission (and EEAS) on China really throws the book at China. Of course, it also maintains the need to “deepen its engagement with China for the promotion of common interests at the global level”. The part about China’s foreign policy is notably more discreet, with calls for more joint action on Iran, Africa.

But the above treatment is not the most important one. Two aspects of the Communication are more striking. The first is the placing of a deadline on China to conclude an investment treaty by 2020. The Comprehensive agreement for investment, aka bilateral investment treaty, has gone through 19 rounds of negotiation in 7 years. The Commission also asks for "swift" completion of an agreement on geographical indications (it had been expected in 2018…), and "in the coming weeks" for another one on civil aviation. Towards a WTO reform, China must start to work on the issue of industrial subsidies. In short, China is asked to “deliver” on previous commitments. Brussels also calls for China to "cap its CO2 emissions before 2030" - the Paris Agreement committed China to that goal “around” 2030. It states that “the ability of EU and China to engage effectively on human rights will be an important measure of the quality of the bilateral relationship”: a tall order given the direction which China has taken under Xi Jinping.

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This article was originally published by Institut Montaigne.