In an apparent attempt at crisis control, EU officials are going to great lengths to present an image of unity after cracks appeared in the façade following French President Emmanuel Macron's remarks on his China trip.
In his opening remarks at a European Parliament plenary session on Tuesday, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell urged nations to "align positions" and to speak "as a well-tuned choir" on the same wavelength with regard to relations with China.
Speaking immediately after Borrell at the same event, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called on the European Union to maintain a common position toward China.
In fact, the theme of that European Parliament gathering was the need for the EU to have a coherent China strategy.
To their audiences in China, however, what really matters is the fact that while struggling to achieve unity, they do not simply look at ties through an ideological prism. Official Chinese media have focused on the EU officials' recent comments showing that they are against decoupling from China. Their reference to the script of the speech Borrell prepared for his canceled China trip, for instance, highlights his words on the need for EU-China collaboration.
No matter how some critics of friendly China-EU relations lament European "dependence" on China and are eager to reduce it, the benefits of close economic engagement are obvious to all. And the goodwill from China has never been limited to just the economy and trade. Abandoning it for ideological differences, which had hardly been an issue between the two sides over decades, would be a typical lose-lose scenario that will ultimately work against European interests. That is why the EU has so far avoided Washington's prescription of decoupling with China, and come up with its own formula of "de-risking".
Whatever they have said about "diversifying "away from China, people such as Von der Leyen and Borrell have not yet lost sight of the beneficial aspects of the EU's relations with China. In his prepared address to a Chinese think tank, Borrell wrote, "there is a multilateral space in which the European Union and China can manage to work together for the common good", which he said includes protecting biodiversity and ecosystems, the debt issues of the least developed nations, international pandemic control cooperation and climate change.
The New York Times, for one, has noticed the resilience of China-EU economic ties — as Washington seeks to cut off economic connections with Beijing. The German business giants Volkswagen and BASF are significantly expanding their China presences. Each of them is putting billions of dollars of new investment into its China operations. And there is a simple reason why — revenues from China are too important for them to forgo.
Some may be reluctant to recognize it. But the country remains a land of opportunities and, for those willing to recognize the fact, a friendly cooperative partner.