On this second day of LYONMUN, the European council gathered up in a small room. But small rooms do not mean small decisions. Indeed, they begin the day by voting the resolution for the last day, after waiting a long time for the delegate of Ireland to show up–he probably forgot to wake up.
The BRI, a China hold over the world?
They quickly switch to the China and Europe economic relationship debate, and especially the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project. The BRI is a strategy which started in 2013 and established by the president Xi Jinping. It aims to develop sea routes and land roads – also known as the New Silk Road – to connect China with the rest of the world. But this project is suffering from its bad reputation, especially in European countries that see it as a way for China to extend its economic power by establishing itself in countries that have been reluctant to it.
After last month’s meeting with the Chinese president, the delegate of France was convinced on his willingness to create trade routes with Europe. The delegate of Sweden immediately agreed with her, arguing that China was Sweden’s leading economic partner in Asia. But the fact that China is still a political threat was not forgotten and was very regularly highlighted by other countries.
During the debate, Italy defended its position: the intelligent use of existing business partnerships and the establishment of new ones. The delegate qualified them as “opportunities for Europe.” Indeed, as he mentioned, Europe is still very dependent on China’s ores like iron or gold, or just for electronic component. This is where the country’s position differs from that of its neighbors.
For Germany, China is practicing unfair competition, based on their comparative advantages, and the relationship needs to be reciprocal which is not the case today. The presidency quickly pointed out that the European market is open to Chinese companies. However, China’s territory is not open to foreign companies.
China’s central position in key sectors worries Europe
But today, the main topic was the central position that China took over the years all around the world. They took control of specific but important sectors like telecommunications, airports, ports. The primary example is the controversy of Huawei. Should Europe ban this company for being part of the 5G market in the next few years like the United States did? Or should it be associated with them so that Europe could be ahead in technology? Other examples, like the port of Piraeus in Greece, which is now owned partially by China, are important issues for European authorities.
After the interview of the Luxembourg delegate, it will be difficult to simply refuse Huawei on the future 5G market because of the open market in Europe. However, it could be done with some privacy or economic law. He also added that in Europe, they have some serious competitors, so they cannot be technologically retarded. Is it merely a political speech without any proof to reassuring the European citizens about the “China threat,” or was this announcement made knowingly? The reader will judge by himself.
To conclude, this day was important and focused on the economic aspects of relations between European countries and China. The need of the latter to extend its power around the world is worrying at the highest-level politicians, especially in the European Council.
Even if they came to a collective agreement just before 4 pm, the European countries did not all have the same point of view during the debate. It is this plurality and at the same time, the concessions that have been made by each country, that represent the European Union, through its strong motto “United in diversity.”