After one of the longest honeymoons on record, EU-China relations have been going through a rough patch over the past two years, as tensions have proliferated over trade restrictions, screening of foreign investment, perceived attempts by China to ‘divide and rule’ in EU member states, and numerous other matters.
A year ago, to Beijing’s chagrin, the EU described China as a ‘systemic rival’ in its latest strategy paper. Just last week, the European Commission pushed back aggressively against the Chinese government’s claim to be the prime external support for Italy and others in facing up to the COVID-19 crisis, pointing out how much more has been done internally and warning about Chinese disinformation on the issue.
For all that, the two sides know they need each other, above all for preserving open markets in an age of growing protectionism. At €630 billion last year, EU27-China bilateral trade in goods and services comes a close second to the EU’s commerce with the US, and foreign investments have grown in tandem.
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