October 10, 2022

Europe and the US Must Compete with China

As Europe’s assessment of China has evolved over the past few years, shifting from seeing Beijing as a partner to perceiving it as a competitor, and even a “systemic rival,” the development of the country’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has commanded greater attention.

While Beijing has billed the BRI as an opportunity to accelerate economic development through increased connectivity, its attempt to secure diplomatic and security objectives through the initiative has cast doubt on the wisdom of participation.

The BRI’s future trajectory in Europe now depends upon a number of factors, including the respective European and Chinese economic environments, the degree to which Beijing links the initiative to its geopolitical objectives, and the perceived attractiveness of various BRI projects.

The future of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative will likely hinge on the viability of liberal democratic alternatives.

Perhaps the most crucial variable, however, is whether there are viable liberal, democratic alternatives.

So far, the BRI has an uneven track record in Europe. While 31 European countries — including 17 EU members — have signed Memoranda of Understanding with China, several have recently pushed back due to rising anxieties about Beijing’s coercive behavior and the potential risks associated with Chinese investment.

Lithuania, for instance, blocked Chinese investment in the port of Klaipėda amid a growing diplomatic spat with Beijing. The decision followed both Estonia’s withdrawal from a Chinese-backed Baltic tunnel project and Romania pulling out of an agreement with China to build new nuclear reactors at Cernavodă in 2020.

Yet, elsewhere in Europe, the picture looks substantially different.

Read the full article from POLITICO Europe.

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