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Europe’s moment of truth with China (Politico)

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Six factors that will shape the Continent’s relationship with Beijing in 2020

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Noah Barkin is a Berlin-based journalist and a visiting fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies.

For much of the past year, China has been preoccupied with its trade conflict with the United States. Now that it has clinched a “Phase One” deal with Washington, it is turning its attention to Europe. The problem? Europe hasn’t made up its mind about how to respond.

When Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, came to Brussels in December, he delivered two messages to Europe. The first was rather benign: «We are partners, not rivals,» he told his audience at the European Policy Centre think tank, calling on the EU and Beijing to draw up an «ambitious blueprint» for cooperation.

The second was more of a thinly veiled threat: Europe and China had to “get mutual perceptions right,” he declared. Failure to do so would risk “unnecessary disruptions” to the relationship. Wang didn’t mention pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, reports of human rights abuses in Xinjiang or security concerns surrounding telecoms giant Huawei. But his message was clear: If Europe wants smooth relations, it should stop criticizing China.

Europe, however, is still clarifying its stance toward China and may not be ready for the hard choices implied by Wang’s quid pro quo.

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