On the eve of 2021, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, and Xi Jinping announced via a video conference call that they had reached a consensus on the EU–China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), concerning which 35 rounds of negotiations had already been conducted over the previous seven years. The news hit the headlines all around the world. However, it has recently been reported that the EU-China investment deal is now in doubt due to the mutual sanctions between the EU and China. Meanwhile, the French Senate has passed a resolution in support of “Taiwan’s participation in international organizations” with zero opposition for the first time. Why has the EU become so icy towards China within less than six months?
Back in March, when the world was optimistic about EU-China cooperation, the EU, acting alongside the US, the UK and Canada, imposed sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on four Chinese officials over the violations of the human rights of the Uighur people in Xinjiang. In response, China swiftly announced retaliatory sanctions against ten members of the European Parliament and EU nations’ parliaments. China’s countersanctions prompted the protests of the major political caucuses in the European Parliament and its president. They said that the ratification of the CAI should be premised on China’s lifting of the sanctions. Officials of the European Commission responsible for the negotiations also said that efforts to ratify the CAI had been suspended.
Furthermore, Thierry Breton, a Frenchman who is the European Commissioner for the Internal Market and the former Finance minister of France, even said bluntly that the CAI was not exactly a deal but more an “intention”, adding that it would still take a long time before the contents of the agreement could be implemented. His remarks were no different from a stop sign for the CAI. What was the reason behind such a dramatic change? Was the anger of the French officials in the EU merely a coincidence, or were there other factors?
Blatant interference in the domestic affairs of other countries
In fact, France has long been alert to China’s expansionary behavior, and it was the US’s first European ally to act in alignment with the US’s Indo-Pacific strategy. During a visit to Australia’s military base on Garden Island, which is near Sydney, French President Emmanuel Macron integrated “Indo-Pacific” into France’s diplomatic policy for the first time, calling for a new strategic alliance with India and Australia in response to the challenges in the Asia-Pacific region and an increasingly assertive China.
France’s concerns about China’s increasing naval presence stem from the fact that the numerous small islands under French sovereignty across the Indian Ocean have become increasingly overshadowed by Chinese naval threats.
In addition, Alain Richard, a senior French Senator and former Minister of Defense, who was to lead a delegation in March to Taiwan, was warned by Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye. The blatant interference in the form of wolf warrior diplomacy greatly infuriated French politicians and the public. Richard promptly pushed for a vote in the French Senate in support of Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, such as the World Health Assembly, the International Civil Aviation Organization, INTERPOL, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and meetings. The motion was carried with 304 votes in favor and zero opposition.
The Senate’s cross-party support for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations with zero opposition is precisely a backlash against Chinese wolf-warrior diplomacy.
Chinese diplomats have long been notorious for their actions, which are done not only out of domestic propaganda purposes, but also for the sake of their own promotions in the bureaucratic hierarchy. These actions have long incurred the displeasure of the politicians and people in many countries. Another classic example was the Lithuanian government’s announcement that it would establish an office in Taiwan. The reasons behind the move included not only China’s failure to live up to its investment promises to Lithuania, but also Chinese diplomats’ interference in Lithuanians’ support for the anti-extradition movement and peaceful demonstrations in Hong Kong. A country that is unmistakably anti-Communist, Lithuania abhors Beijing’s behavior and has chosen to support Taiwan instead, which has similar values as well as industries that can mutually complement Lithuania’s.
However, it is important for the Taiwanese people to remember that the support of the international community is not a guarantee of Taiwan’s international participation. From the perspective of trade and globalization, China’s enormous market will be highly sought after by developed countries after the pandemic. The speech made by Antony Blinken at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ meeting, in which he said that the US did not pursue a cold war with China Cold War and would not demand its allies take sides, illustrates the limitations of the strength of democratic nations at the moment.
Furthermore, Taiwan’s participation in international organizations is not determined by democratic countries, but by one-country-one-vote. With China’s influence in international organizations, Taiwan’s road to return to international organizations on the strength of European and American support is still paved with difficulties.
In all fairness to the international community, while in the past it turned a blind eye to Taiwan’s existence because of Beijing’s one-China principle, it is paying proper regard to Taiwan again due to China’s expansionist behavior and war wolf diplomacy. Contrasting the attitudes of Europe and the US with a cover story of The Economist, which describes Taiwan as the most dangerous place in the world, we can see the success of Beijing’s deception and intimidation strategy. As the willingness of the Taiwanese people to fight a war with China remains unclear and the US remains war-weary after the war on terrorism, the PLA’s attack on Taiwan seems possible.
Taiwan should throw off the shackles of protectionism and join CPTPP
But considering the major social, economic, and political crises within China and its neighboring countries’ repulsion of China’s expansionist behavior, we can see that a military attack on Taiwan will not solve the complex issues between the US, China and Taiwan, but will only cause democratic countries to further its containment of China, inflicting unbearable damage on China’s economy. Therefore, at a time when European and American countries have begun to help Taiwan return to the global arena in response to China’s wolf warrior diplomacy, we should remain calm and cautious and demonstrate our democratic resilience. We should also do away with protectionism and join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which will be the foundation of our national security.
(Lin Tzu-li, Associate Professor of Department of Political Science, Tunghai University)
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