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A fearful Europe needs to grow up, and wise up to China

47 0 619

Europe finally woke up to China’s rise last year. President Xi Jinping’s scrapping of term limits turned into a global news event that put a recognisable face on Chinese power to European audiences. The trade war that US President Donald Trump so boisterously declared on China made clear to the European political elite, as well as the general public, that Europe too must engage with the most important power relationship of the century. Xi even launched a charm offensive in Europe, trying to win over hearts, minds and investment capital.

Xi couldn’t have picked a better time to improve China’s brand abroad. Caught between the Trump White House and the Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, Europe is looking for a great power it can rely on. Xi’s speech at the World Economic Forum in 2017 positioned him as exactly that: a reliable, rational and durable partner in business and governance – the anti-Trump. Back in 2014, Xi had invoked a quote attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte (“China is a sleeping lion. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world”) when he told an audience including then French president Francois Hollande: “Today, the lion has woken up. But it is peaceful, pleasant and civilised.”

It is certainly in China’s interests to build a positive image in Europe. The EU is China’s biggest trading partner and a crucial part of its Belt and Road Initiative. The European Union’s relatively open economy has invited a lot of Chinese investment, enabling China to strengthen its foothold in the global infrastructure and hi-tech........

© South China Morning Post