EU slams China as ‘systemic rival’ as trade tension rises
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EU slams China as ‘systemic rival’ as trade tension rises
EU slams China as ‘systemic rival’ as trade tension rises

Brussels also slaps down Italy for looking to engage too closely with Beijing.

By Hans von der Burchard
3/12/19, 7:36 PM CET
Updated 3/14/19, 4:26 AM CET

Europe dramatically sharpened its political stance against China on Tuesday by slamming Beijing as a "systemic rival" for the first time.

In a strategic communication mapping out 10 proposals for dealing with Beijing, the European Commission also slapped down countries such as Italy for aligning too closely with China's landmark One Belt, One Road program, which promotes Chinese trade via infrastructure running across Asia into Europe.

In a departure from its usual softly-softly approach on Beijing, the EU called China “an economic competitor in pursuit of technological leadership and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance.”

This hardening tone in Brussels chimes with Franco-German plans to build a more defensive European industrial strategy, bolstered by European champions in sectors ranging from telecoms to heavy engineering. In a sign that Berlin is strongly influencing the strategy, Germany's main business lobby, the BDI, has also recently started describing Beijing as a "systemic competitor."

"There is a growing appreciation in Europe that the balance of challenges and opportunities presented by China has shifted. In the last decade, China's economic power and political influence have grown with unprecedented scale and speed, reflecting its ambitions to become a leading global power," the communication said.

The EU's language shows a perceptible change of tack: The last EU-China strategy, adopted about three years ago, was guarded in its criticism of China's trade practices, such as strategic takeovers of key European technology producers as part of the Made in China 2025 strategy.

"What we want is to avoid to end up in a situation where we are forced to compete with public subsidies," European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said. "We believe in social market economy, and we are not in favor of subsidized economy." (...)

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2019 Mar 19 23:53

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