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EU sovereignty means letting go of US coattail: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-03-29 20:07
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a statement after video conference of EU leaders at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, March 25, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Speaking at a news briefing after the European Council's virtual summit on Thursday, to which US President Joe Biden was invited to take part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the European Union has a lot in common with the United States, but they are not identical, "This is for sure."

"It's not just about economic interests. This is about living up to what we call 'European sovereignty'", she said, referring to the differences in the China policies of the EU and the US.

Merkel's concerns are well-grounded, because if there is any difference between the China policy of the Biden administration and its predecessor, it is that the former tried to thwart China's rise alone, while the latter is trying to persuade the EU to throw its weight behind its leadership.

But the more Biden tries to breathe life into transatlantic relations, the more he is telling the world how far the two sides have drifted apart.

An important reason that the EU has refused to close ranks with the US against China is because it knows that doing so serves no parties' interests. No matter how anxious the US has become about China's rise, the EU has remained sober-minded.

The EU is well aware that when Biden declared "America's back", it signaled the US thinks it can walk into the same river twice and turn back the clock to a unipolar world. It knows that what is "back" is by no means a well-mannered participant in the global governance system, one respectful of the rules-based international order, but rather just a more seemingly civil version of the previous US administration, whose policies were wantonly unruly.

While there is nothing new under the sun, nothing remains the same forever. The EU, given its makeup, should have a better appreciation of the prevailing trends than the US and thus be reluctant to put all its eggs in the hegemonic basket the US insists on clinging to. Not least because the EU has more to gain from striking a balance in its relations with the US and China.

The US wants the EU to bet the future on its China policy. But the conclusion of the years-long negotiations between the EU and China on a bilateral comprehensive agreement on investment at the end of last year, should have further consolidated the bloc's confidence that good relations with China will boost its economic recovery prospects, and that staking everything on the US is not in its best interests given the eastward shift of the global economic center of gravity.

As European Council President Charles Michel observed, the US and the EU have a responsibility for the generations to come, because the decisions that they take now will have an impact for years to come. They should not let fear of change lead them to make the wrong ones.

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