Europe’s Protectionist Attitude Towards China ‘Laughable’, Say Chinese State Media


Headquarters of the European Commission (image by via Flickr)

In a recent article Chinese state media have attacked the European Union‘s protectionist attitude towards China and urged the bloc to open up to Chinese investment. The piece, which was published by the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece Global Times, slammed what it described as a “laughable” and “self-defeating” stance on the part of European countries.

The article refers to recent plans by the European Commission to introduce screening mechanisms to curb foreign takeovers in key sectors such as infrastructure, hi-tech manufacturing and energy.

In a speech delivered on September 13 European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that if “a foreign, state-owned company wants to purchase a European harbour, part of our energy infrastructure or a defence technology firm, this should only happen in transparency, with scrutiny and debate,” adding that the Europeans “are not naive free traders. Europe must always defend its strategic interests.”

Analysts believe that Juncker’s speech was aimed at China, though he did not mention the country by name.

In a joint statement the governments of Germany, France and Italy said that they welcomed “the Commission’s proposals as an important step toward a level playing field in Europe.”

The Global Times rebuffed Europe‘s plans to restrict acquisitions by foreign firms, framing its criticism in the historical context of Sino-European conflicts.

“170 years ago European powers used ships and cannons to open up China‘s market, which marked the beginning of China’s century of humiliation (百年近代史),” writes the newspaper, adding that present-day Europe, “faced with the fast rise of Chinese investment,” has been engulfed by a sense of “inexplicable panic,” causing the European people to violate their cherished “principle of free market.”

Shifting to a Cold War narrative, the Global Times reminds its readers of Western economic embargoes against China and the Sino-Soviet Alliance in the 1960s. Citing former leader Mao Zedong, the article argues that a defiant China is capable of developing its own technology despite Western sanctions.

“With regard to Western countries’ technological blockade, Chairman Mao once said: ‘Blockade as much as you want, blockade for ten years or eight years, China will solve all of its problems’. As expected, the Western blockade did not prevent China from rising to the status of a nuclear and aerospace superpower.”

The newspaper claims that “Western countries are spinning a tight net around China’s development,” but says that China is not intimidated. “What are we afraid of?”

The article cites the development of supercomputers as an example of what China can achieve on its own. In 2016 China unveiled the Sunway TaihuLight, the world’s fastest supercomputer, built entirely with Chinese technology after the US government had blocked American companies from selling components to China.

The Global Times argues that Western countries are afraid of China because they are losing their technological edge. “Western countries are all developed industrial societies. If they allow the still developing countries of East Asia to learn from their products and East Asia catches up, how can they keep their own advantage?”

The paper describes Europe’s fears and its desire to preserve the economic asymmetry between the developed and the developing world as “childish”. Europe is like a “beautiful woman” (女神) who cannot see “that age is withering her beauty,” the piece writes with unconscious sexist bias. “She thinks that her style of dress is still fashionable, without realizing that it is outdated, that she is no longer attractive.” Europe’s attitude makes its words and actions towards China “laughable” (可笑), the article argues.

However, the Global Times points out that Europe is not a united bloc, but that countries like Finland and Greece welcome Chinese investment and do not want to be dominated by larger countries such as Germany and France.

In August, Germany’s Foreign Minister had warned China not to sow division among European countries and to respect a “one-Europe policy.”

Read also: Neo-Mercantilism And Asia’s Rise

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