The rise of China and the election of Donald Trump have had major implications for Europe’s strategic outlook. European nations increasingly need to balance both the benign opportunities and malign consequences of increased Chinese investment and influence in the region. They must also take into account new frictions in the transatlantic relationship. In this podcast, Paul Haenle sat down with Erik Brattberg, director of the Europe Program and a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, to discuss similarities and differences in European and American engagement with China as well as shifting perceptions of China in Europe.
Brattberg argued that European countries have traditionally differed from the United States in their views of China, primarily seeing it as a commercial partner rather than strategic competitor. In recent years, however, he said the European perception of China had aligned more with the United States. Brattberg pointed to China’s growing economic assertiveness, seen in the Belt and Road Initiative and acquisitions of sensitive European technology companies, as developments that have led to economic and security concerns. He agreed with Haenle that European and U.S. perceptions of China are converging, but said unilateral U.S. trade actions that damage the transatlantic relationship will prevent Europe and the United States from working together to effectively manage Beijing’s rise. European countries are increasingly wary of Chinese influence, Brattberg said, but still view China as a viable alternative to the European Union for investment, leading to different styles of engagement across the region. While China is already seen as the most important long-term strategic challenge in the United States, Brattberg argued many European countries will continue to view Russia as the primary security concern for years to come.
Paul Haenle is the director of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. Prior to joining Carnegie, he served from June 2007 to June 2009 as the director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia Affairs on the National Security Council staffs of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Erik Brattberg is director of the Europe Program and a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.