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Mon May 3, 2021, 11:04 PM

China Tensions Spill Over as Europe Moves Toward Biden's Side

A major investment deal reached in December between the European Union and China — after seven years of painful negotiations — may end up being the high-water mark for ties that are quickly deteriorating again.

Since then, the EU’s executive branch and Germany have each formulated legislation that would make life harder for Chinese entities to invest, while joining the U.S. in swapping tit-for-tat sanctions with Beijing. Italy’s government has turned from an enthusiastic backer of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative to blocking planned acquisitions by Chinese companies. And in France, China’s ambassador didn’t even show up when summoned in March, citing “agenda reasons.”

Taken together, the moves signal a hardening of the European stance on Beijing. And the biggest shift could be yet to come, with polls showing the German Greens party on course for a significant role in government after September’s election, raising the prospect of a more China-skeptic chill from Europe’s biggest economy. Whether the Greens come to power in Germany or not, EU-China relations are at a critical juncture, said the official, asking not to be identified speaking about strategic matters.

The multiple signs of strain suggest Europe’s biggest players are moving closer to the views of President Joe Biden’s administration in its standoff with China. As Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds talks in London this week with his Group of Seven counterparts, a Europe more aligned with Washington would signal some repair to the damage done to transatlantic ties by the Trump administration, with implications for trade, tariffs and access to technology. The shift in Europe has not been lost on Washington. A Biden administration official said there’s been a sea change in European thinking, coming on board with the U.S. stance on China.


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