The Pilgrimage of European politicians to Beijing, a sign of accelerating the transformation of the world order
by Vladimir Terehov on 30 Apr 2023 0 Comment

The first two weeks of April this year were a time of pilgrimage to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by European politicians of various ranks, representing some of the continent’s leading states as well as trans-European structures. This in itself turned out to be one of the signs indicating the acceleration of the process of change that has recently been taking place both in the world as a whole and in the group of countries designated by the (increasingly conventional) term “generalized West”.


No less representative of the fact that the world order as a whole is already at the stage of another radical reformatting is the increasingly obvious conventionality of the terminology used, which until recently seemed to reflect certain political realities more or less adequately. In particular, several elements accompanying European trips to China involuntarily provoke the question: What, in fact, are we talking about when the word “Europe” is used?


The same “elements” superimposed on the long-standing conflicts in transatlantic relations, the outwardly strange events and circumstances that accompanied the recent visit to Ireland of the American president, make legitimate the broader formulation of this question, namely: What realities do the mentioned term “generalized West” reflect? Moreover, it seems that the already aggravated situation on the territory of the current leader of the latter, i.e. the United States, provokes the question: who, in fact, does the current American administration represent in the international arena?


The answer to this question must be in the exclusive competence of the American people, who will do without prompting or, all the more so, “help from outside”. Let’s wish them success in this. If only because during their short and controversial history the Americans have created a specific culture (in the broad sense of the term), worthy, at least, of study, and the author of this article in no way shares the not infrequent gloating over various acts of turbulence, as well as tragic events in the territory of the present USA.


These acts are also evidence of accelerating reformatting of the world order, in this case affecting one of its main “supporting pillars”. In this respect, noteworthy is the opinion of the “neo-isolationist” wing of the American establishment about the usefulness, first of all for the US, of a certain lowering of the height of the American “bearing post”. That is, reducing the scale of American involvement in world squabbles to the level of a few other players who are now in a state of growth. It seems that in this case the “roof” of the whole (new) world order will be placed more securely on them.


Today the key problem in it remains the “state of clash” with the de facto second world power in the form of China. This state is mainly defined by the Taiwan problem. But not only. To varying degrees, the same condition can be observed in the area to the north and south of Taiwan, as well as in the vast subregion that comprises the countries of Central and South Asia.


It is increasingly clear that the conflict in Ukraine is no more than an important element of this general US-Chinese “clash.” With its help, Washington is trying to remove from the global game the de facto most important ally of Beijing. Consequently, the prospect of resolving this conflict is hardly imaginable outside the context of the above-mentioned global US-China “clash.”


The same “clash” factor is also present in China’s relations with European countries individually and trans-European structures as a whole. The latter include both the EU intergovernmental bureaucracy and the two parliamentary configurations. Moreover, all the actors in the European political space do not always demonstrate coordinated behaviour, both on the continent and in the international arena. This is largely due to the presence of the “American factor” on the continent.


The recent Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) concluded at the turn of 2021-21 between the PRC and the EU is a case in point. It was an important breakthrough in the decades-long exhausting negotiation process on various topics in the area of economic cooperation. And the firm overseas hand holding the Europeans by the tails of the tailcoat during these negotiations was and still is quite discernible.


This grip weakened somewhat in the period indicated above due to the sharply aggravated situation in the US in connection with the procedure of power transfer from one part of the American establishment to another. Even then, the procedure began to take on the nature of domestic political violence. So, for a short period, both American groups had no time for Europeans. The latter were not slow to take advantage of this by signing CAI on the sly with China. The cheerful faces of the participants in the signing of this Agreement (with the exception of Angela Merkel, almost all of them are still sitting in the same administrative chairs today) can be seen here.


But their joy was short-lived, because another turmoil in Washington came to a swift end with the “neoconservatives” coming to power in the US and starting their favourite rattle about widespread (although not in the US) “human rights abuses.” Anyway, they had to urgently “fix it” and in May of that year the European Parliament froze CAI under a minor pretext.


Apparently, this incident began the process of rethinking Beijing’s relations with the aforementioned actors on the European continent, the results of which were reflected in the formats and contents of the recent visits of European politicians to China. Until the spring of 2021, there was probably hope for the possibility of using EU structures as a counterweight to the US influence on the continent. The current very tepid form of communication with top EU officials shows that Beijing has apparently given up on such hopes. And of course, there are no grounds for any illusions as to the possibility for Beijing to build favourable relations with the parliamentary branches of power in Europe. On both the interstate and national levels.


This is illustrated by the reaction of French parliamentarians to President Macron’s controversial remark on the Taiwan issue after his visit to China. It can hardly be regarded as an explicit challenge to the US position (as presented in the Global Times illustration) on this issue. But it certainly falls out of the rather well-established context of Washington’s position on the Taiwan issue in particular, and its policy towards the PRC in general.


The words said by prominent French parliamentarians at a meeting with their counterparts from Taiwan who arrived in Paris a week after Macron’s visit to China are just as obviously at odds with the said position of the president (and fully consistent with the conditionally “American” stance).


All this once again proved that the executive branches of the leading European countries (in contrast to the legislative and current leaders of trans-European interstate structures) retain a window of opportunity to maintain constructive relations with China. That is taken into account by Beijing, where even the current head of the Foreign Ministry of Germany A. Baerbock, not a sympathizer (to put it mildly) of China and quite obvious supporter of transatlantic trends in modern world politics, was given quite a decent reception, sharply different from what the head of the European Commission Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen underwent in Beijing.


Beijing is clearly not giving up hope on the possibility of building constructive relations with the leading European country, despite its participation in the US attempts to exclude leading

Chinese IT companies from “global supply chains.”


In view of all the above, it seems appropriate to turn to the generalized topic of “Europe in the New World Order”. The author is not a supporter of total skepticism about the participation of Europe in the process of forming the latter. But it seems obvious that there is a need for a radical revision of the structures governing interstate relations in Europe.


It may be necessary to downgrade their significance, but in such a way that centuries-old inter-European “skeletons in the closet” do not manifest themselves. It seems inevitable to reject the principle of “one state, one vote” (this question arises from time to time in the format of the present EU), whereby the small limitrophe states, playing the role of “Lansquenets”, get the opportunity to engage in political and economic racketeering, as well as serving as a barrier between Russia and “Old Europe.” The current Ukraine is a typical example of this. And, of course, the Crime of the Century of undermining gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea must be dealt with exhaustively.


All in all, the recent pilgrimage of leading European politicians to one of the now two leading world powers is an appropriate occasion for reflection on the fundamental problems of the modern world order.


Vladimir Terekhov, expert on issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.” Courtesy


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