In recent weeks Beijing has both won victories and suffered defeats during important summits and dialogues with France and Italy, as well as the European Union. Paul Haenle sat down with Tomáš Valášek, director of Carnegie Europe, and Pierre Vimont, senior fellow at Carnegie Europe, to discuss underlying issues driving China-Europe relations, the outlook for China’s engagement with the European Union (EU), and the implications for transatlantic relations.

Valášek said that transatlantic tensions have affected Europe’s relations with and perceptions of China. The Trump administration’s tariffs on the EU led to the realization across Europe that the global environment is becoming more competitive and zero-sum. Additionally, Trump’s tough dealing with China has spurred the EU to use harsher language and take more confrontational actions against Beijing, as evidenced by the recently released European Commission report on China. Vimont argued that French President Macron invited German Chancellor Merkel and European Union Commissioner Juncker to join his meeting with Chinese President Xi to demonstrate a united European response against Beijing. This sent a message to China, as well as to central and eastern European countries, that Beijing’s attempts to pick off individual EU member states by dealing on a bilateral basis or through its 16+1 forum will not be taken lightly, Valášek said. Just as China requires countries to acknowledge the “One China Policy,” Europe is increasingly requesting that Beijing respect a “One European Union Policy.” Vimont said both the United States and Europe should not be naïve when it comes to China, recognizing that promises Beijing has long said it would come through on have not yet materialized. However, the United States and the EU disagree over certain aspects of their approach to Beijing. The United States prefers a confrontational approach focused on limiting China’s threat to U.S. primacy, whereas European countries prioritize cooperation with China based on mutual cooperation and equality.

Paul Haenle

Paul Haenle holds the Maurice R. Greenberg Director’s Chair at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy based at Tsinghua University in Beijing. His research focuses on Chinese foreign policy and U.S.-China relations.

Tomáš Valášek

Tomáš Valášek is the director of Carnegie Europe, where his research focuses on security and defense, transatlantic relations, and Europe’s Eastern neighborhood.

Pierre Vimont

Pierre Vimont is a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe. His research focuses on the European Neighborhood Policy, transatlantic relations, and French foreign policy. He served as the French ambassador to the United States from 2007 to 2010.