Europe apparently confuses China – Here is why

In this post:

  • China misunderstood European support for Ukraine due to a cognition gap.
  • Chinese leaders, believing in economic interests over values, underestimated Ukraine’s resistance and Europe’s response.
  • China perceives Europe’s support for Ukraine as an ideological shift rather than principled belief.

The terrain of international diplomacy is rarely smooth, and the rough edges seem more pronounced when it comes to the rapport between China and Europe.

Of late, an intellectual chasm has opened wide between these two global powerhouses, particularly concerning their contrasting perspectives on the Ukraine issue.

The great misunderstanding

At the crux of the problem lies an intricate web of misperceptions, misunderstandings, and miscalculations. For several years, China’s foreign policy architects, steeped in a brand of realism that prioritizes economic gain and power, believed that Ukraine would offer feeble resistance, and Europe would not risk economic or energy relationships with Russia to support Ukraine.

These presumptions, coupled with the camaraderie between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, has given a sharp blow to China’s international standing.

The Chinese think tanks eventually realized the strength of European support for Ukraine. But their interpretation was pinned on the resurgence of ideology in Europe, a return more potent than what was witnessed during the cold war.

They perceived this ideological rebirth as a form of confrontation that Europe was willing to undertake at any cost.

The belief that ideology was impairing Europe’s assessment of its interests started to gain momentum in China. Premier Li Qiang, on his European tour, posited that European firms would not worry about risk-proofing their supply chains if politics did not meddle.

However, the fervor that Europe has displayed for Ukraine springs from principles such as peace, sovereignty, and collective self-defense rather than political maneuvering.

China’s historical skepticism towards NATO necessitates it to echo Russia’s narrative – NATO as the aggressor, threatening Russia’s existence and prodding it into a war of self-defense.

For an average Chinese citizen, the bombing of China’s embassy in Belgrade in 1999 holds more relevance than Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Seeking clarity amidst confusion

Ever since China lifted its travel restrictions in January, several diplomats, politicians, and scholars have embarked on European sojourns to glean insights into the continent’s psyche.

Initially, they speculated Europeans were stepping blindfolded into an economic abyss. Now, there is a growing conviction that they can exploit the situation to sow seeds of discord among European alliances over Ukraine.

The Chinese academic circles debate if the staunch European support for Kyiv can be attributed to democratic ideals versus autocratic inclinations. There is also a belief that the war is being used by some Western politicians as an excuse to overthrow Putin.

Such ideologically driven geopolitics, they argue, does not bode well for global peace. The idea of a clash between systems deeply unsettles China, which yearns for a world where autocracies can feel safe.

However, this clash is more of an American construct than European, as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has highlighted, describing aid to Ukraine as a global investment in security and democracy.

China seems to believe it can pull Europe away from the US, viewing it as diplomatically useful only if it serves this purpose. Hence, China’s European diplomatic charm offensive is based on a divide and conquer strategy, with France perceived as a prime target.

The conundrum is that China does not view Ukraine as a European issue and expects unity on defense to crumble over time. It now rests on Europeans to steer the course of this critical relationship.

Disclaimer: The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decision.

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