China is making bold moves to contradict the possibility that President-elect Joe Biden or another Western leader may form a multinational front to oppose its authoritarian policies and human rights abuses.
This month, Chinese officials quietly signed an investment deal with the EU that grants European nations expanded access to Chinese markets. In exchange, China agreed to loosen restrictions for European companies working in China and to observe international standards on forced labor.
For China, the deal is a diplomatic victory that will make it harder for Biden to team up with European allies.
“The Chinese leadership is concerned about a trans-Atlantic front, a multinational front, against it, and it is willing to make, I think, tactical concessions to bring the Europeans on board,” says Noah Barkin, a China expert in Berlin with the Rhodium Group. “They’ve been very smart about this.”
The deal was signed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the last few days of Germany’s EU presidency without much input from other EU nations and without consulting the Biden Administration.
“That means Merkel and her allies have publicly snubbed Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser designate, who politely expressed his displeasure in a recent tweet,” reports Politico’s Ryan Heath. The deal is also indicative of China’s plan to divide the democracies that could defeat it, if only they could get along.
In November, China signed a free trade agreement with 14 countries across the Asia Pacific including US allies Japan, South Korea, and Australia. The deal, known as the “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership,” represents nearly 30% of the world’s population.
Alongside these deals comes a new law that gives Beijing the authority to review, deny, or punish foreign investment in areas related to national security. This includes:
- The production of military products
- The development of agricultural, energy, or natural resources
- Internet technology
- Critical infrastructure
China says the new rules are “not protectionist” and are similar to rules in other countries. Ironically, the law gives Beijing the power to veto the kind of investments made possible by the EU deal.
In spite of the coronavirus pandemic and the trade war with the US, China has the fastest-growing economy among major world powers. China knows the only way it will be defeated is if the United States and its allies team up against it, so it is doing everything it can to prevent that from happening.
As China continues to make deals, it tightens its grip internally and become more authoritarian.