Think Tank
The Relationship Between China and Europe: The Case of Huawei and the Fight Against the Epidemic

The case of Huawei actually reflects the intense competition between China and the United States in the field of high technology, as well as the strategic containment of China by the United States. The main problem here is the globalisation of science and information technology.

Initially, the current round of globalisation was dominated by the United States, but as this process accelerated, it also faced great difficulties. Of course, there are some contradictions in the relationship between the United States and China, but science must be beyond that. In the situation with Huawei, the UK was the first to decide to follow the example of the United States and put pressure on Huawei, followed by France and other European countries. How many European countries can oppose Huawei in this conflict and pursue a relatively independent diplomatic policy in the context of major strategic changes in US-China relations (for example, the Hong Kong issue after the enactment of the Hong Kong National Security Law)?

On the one hand, Europe has been moving along the path of integration for more than 60 years, but on this path it has encountered more and more obstacles. This is due to constant disputes inside the European Union itself regarding the applicability of a common policy for all countries toward Huawei and China in general. The most significant external factor is, of course, that the United States has changed its strategy towards China.
The UK has been the most proactive when it comes to Huawei. It stands apart, not only in the conflict with Huawei, but also in the situation with Hong Kong. This country always has its own system of so-called strategies and policies. After leaving the European Union, the most important international relations for Great Britain have been Anglo-American relations and the normalisation of relations with the European Union. The relationship with China undoubtedly also plays an important role for the UK. In fact, it still has doubts about Huawei. With regard to the Hong Kong issue, Great Britain has assumed so-called "moral responsibility". London is more determined about Huawei. However, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently stated that Britain does not perceive China as an enemy. So, can that country continue to be realistic, or will it follow the lead of the United States?

We have yet to see changes in the overall international order. In the end, circumstances are always stronger than us. The most important point of the new round of globalisation is that along with goods and capital, the development of information technology and science is also taking leaps and bounds across countries and beyond. 5G technology and Huawei are a prime example. They are characterised by rapid development, implementation and popularisation. Corresponding transformations, changes and updates are also not long in coming. Amid such conditions, it will be difficult for European countries to resist this process alone.

In this round of globalisation, the United States continues to follow Trump's policy of trade protectionism, diplomatic isolationism, and socio-political populism, and continues to view China as the main strategic competitor. It has even unilaterally broken off relations, launching the so-called "New Cold War”. Great Britain, which is a follower of the United States as the second-ranking power in the English-speaking world, will certainly follow the path of the United States.

The main variable here is the US presidential election, which will take place in three months. If Joe Biden wins, changes are also possible. Trump's game is not diplomacy or a trade war against China. These actions lead to technological and diplomatic strife. Trump seeks to stay in office and preserve the United States' economy and its global status. But if the epidemic in the United States is not under control, the economy does not begin to recover, and, in addition, the recently-erupted ethnic conflict continues to escalate, then the results in the vote in the fourth quarter of this year remain impossible to foresee. If Trump fails in the elections, and Biden takes his place, and if he adheres to traditional democratic policies regarding the country's internal and external issues, then the UK and the European Union will also follow the United States. America today is unpredictable. Will it continue to adhere to traditional democratic politics? Will the so-called “bipartisan consensus” system (including consensus on China) continue, and will the United States remain the main strategic rival of China and Russia? In any case, this is not just a game between China and the United States, since in addition to them there are a number of players in the world; the  main ones are Europe and Russia.

For the European Union, first of all, it is important how so-called integration will be achieved and how much Brussels will be ready to sacrifice it. The European countries have transferred much of their sovereignty to Brussels. Integration is most important in terms of its internal mechanism. The biggest obstacle to integration right now is the financial issue, and the extent to which EU countries are willing to give up their economic sovereignty.

Today, the most urgent task is to fight the epidemic, and then to restore the economy and return to a normal social life. Now everything is in limbo. We can say that the pandemic has been the most unpredictable event in the last hundred years; it is a kind of "black swan". Moreover, the epidemic situation is not only a problem for the European Union. The original world order turned out to be ineffective in the face of the spread of coronavirus infection.

The main problem of the European Union is differences in aspirations, priorities and interests among the countries that make it up. Should the EU increase the number of member states from 15 to 25? This is not integration in the full sense of the word, but expansion. The biggest problem is that its many countries (27 without the UK) have completely different interests and priorities. Such integration causes only internal resistance. Under such conditions, how can a “common European consensus” be reached on foreign policy and relations with China?
The current world order is undergoing major changes, including a change in the picture of the world, a reorganisation of international relations and a rewriting of international rules. Objectively, European and American countries have problems, to varying degrees, associated with social breakdowns, political disorder, economic imbalance, loss of control over security, negligent leadership, etc. For the European Union, this translates into problems such as the refugee crisis, debt crisis, terrorism, Brexit, and also affects relations with the United States, China and its largest neighbour, Russia.

As the “leader of the Western world,” the United States faces even greater challenges and uncertainties, such as ethnic conflicts, its irrational migration and economic structure, and severe income inequality. Amid such conditions, the United States cannot but use Europe, as well as other countries and regions, to suit their interests. On the one hand, Trump has followed the America-first path and distanced himself from his allies, which has prompted a negative reaction from Europe. On the other hand, the United States is trying its best to influence Europe, especially on the issue of relations with China.

China and Europe have the world’s largest economies, are home to its largest markets, constitute the largest world powers, and are the most important civilizations. Objectively, at the global level, the European Union remains one of China's largest partners on major international issues and non-traditional security concepts such as climate change and the green economy. Of course, there have always been contradictions and serious disagreements in relations between the countries. But this does not compare with the relationship between China and the United States. The cooperation between China and Europe as a whole has great potential and prospects. Such cooperation can bring many benefits.

China and the European Union are at different stages of development and have different priorities. To date, the consensus between countries is mostly achieved in such global areas as ecology, environmental protection, sustainable development and scientific and technical cooperation aimed at combating climate change. However, there is still disagreement on how this cooperation should be implemented. The European Union offers higher standards than China. China is a developing country, so it must keep in mind that goals and responsibilities should be both common and separate. The EU must understand that China is still a developing country in terms of climate change, and cannot have an equal degree of responsibility. The European Union insists on so-called "parity". China is also committed to equality, but emphasises both common and distinct challenges. The European Union recently adopted new rules for screening foreign investments. This suggests that it does not recognise China's status as either a market economy or a developing country. Therefore, in such cooperation, disagreements and disputes are inevitable. China and Europe do not resolve differences and disputes through confrontation, moreover, they do not resort to such drastic measures as a "new cold war." Success can only be achieved amid conditions of peaceful coexistence and harmony, adopting different views and learning from each other.

The pandemic has once again proved that the traditional Western approach to international relations does not work in this case. Globalisation has led to the fact that such global trans-national problems cannot be solved by each state separately. We can see that global cooperation and joint efforts are needed to combat the epidemic. The current round of globalisation began to take shape in the 1980s. In this process, China and Europe are direct participants, and bear full responsibility for the further development of the situation. It is not profitable for any country to go against the tide, even if its path is accompanied by a lot of uncertainties, challenges, risks and crises. In the current era of globalisation, no country can be single-handed in the fight against the pandemic, oppose despotism and financial risks. And to solve all these problems, cooperation and joint efforts are needed.

Summing up, what should the new world political order look like? Maybe it is worth adhering to traditional national sovereignty, national independence and not interfering in the internal affairs of other states, but at the same time not forgetting about the equality of all countries, regardless of their status, and striving for unity while maintaining differences in order to achieve mutually beneficial cooperation? Or is it better to go back to the proverbial jungle and randomly fight each other? War is not always an armed conflict. There are financial and trade wars, as well as conflicts of interest and values. If, in a pandemic, we continue to shift responsibility and make claims without reason, we will inevitably become enemies to each other and return to the law of the jungle. Do we need this? Or do some countries really think that the law of the jungle will bring them victory? Today, the Cold War is no longer and should not be an inevitable choice of countries? If, from now until the middle of this century, we succeed in creating a new world order, this should magnify us. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, and that step must be taken now. For example, you can start with a dialogue and a mutual exchange of achievements in the economic, trade and scientific and technical fields, solve the problem of security around the world, prevent the start of a "new cold war" and create a health organisation to combat the epidemic.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.