Why does UK follow crazy US policy while EU stays sane?
Published: Jul 23, 2020 06:26 PM

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Will London and Brussels go separate ways in their China policies after Brexit? Signs have been emerging since the UK began closely following US' footsteps. By contrast, certain EU members are maintaining cooperative attitudes toward Huawei as well as China. 

The argument that the UK's post-Brexit China policy will completely veer off that of the EU is bit exaggerated. Yet there will surely be differences. 

UK's foreign policy was once constrained by the EU, but Britain also got support from the bloc so that it could maintain a degree of strategic independence from the US. 

However, once London officially divorces from Brussels, it will lose the backup strength. In this context, especially when the US is changing its China strategy while increasing pressure on its allies over related issues, the UK will inevitably get close to the US. 

But Brussels will not take Washington's side in a clear-cut way. In the end, EU members will prioritize their own national interests.

Be issues regarding the Iranian nuclear deal, Paris Agreement on climate change, the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, Huawei's 5G technology, or US-Europe trade war, Washington has seldom taken into account the interests of its allies. 

The "alliance" is a concept which is used when they jointly face the outside world. Taking a look at the inside on the alliance, disputes over different national interests are easy to spot. 

Take Huawei's 5G. Washington showed little tolerance toward its European allies over their collaboration with Huawei. Yet it has never provided an alternative. 

What's Uncle Sam's plan? Making Europe suffer the losses along with the US? There is no way the EU won't be anxious in the current predicament - especially in an era of rapid development of digital technologies. US pressure is hurting Europe's interests. 

So the US tactic is trying to divide the continent and win over more of Europe's support, one country at a time. During US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's latest trip to the UK, he visited anti-China, pro-US lawmakers from the Conservative Party on Tuesday before meeting Prime Minister Boris Johnson. What an obvious move to exert pressure on the UK's government. 

However, when most Western mainstream media outlets were busy covering how Pompeo was forging a coalition in Europe against China, they failed to intentionally or unintentionally touch upon the agreement reached on Monday between Brussels and Beijing regarding geographical indications (GIs), which is an agreement to protect products' intellectual property rights from the two sides. 

Although it was rarely mentioned in media coverage, the European Council called it "the first significant bilateral trade agreement signed between the EU and China." 

This is only part of the negotiations on investment and trade between the two sides this year. It proves that EU's China stance and China policy is pragmatic and that the big trend of cooperation between them won't be swayed. 

The EU is not seeking US-style hegemony, but is promoting its integration and strategic independence. Washington is obviously not satisfied with the aim since a stronger EU would pose challenges to the US. This is the reason why, since the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), the US has been attempting to jeopardize the European integration. China, on the contrary, has been firmly supporting the process of the EU's integration. 

After all, the basic condition for the survival and prosperity of countries today is economy. The US manufacturing industry is waning. But China has the world's largest consumer market and labor market, it also has the most mature and comprehensive assortment of industrial sectors. 

The comparative advantage of cooperation with China is simply too obvious for Europe, which is yearning to revitalize its economy in the post-pandemic era. The irreplaceability of the Chinese market cannot be ignored. Would the EU fail to see that?

This is also the elephant in the room for British policymakers. The UK ignored the sacrifice in its own national interests when dealing with China-related issues lately. This is just like what happened during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in which the UK kept in step with the US regardless of whether US' moves were approved by the UN. Listening to whatever Uncle Sam has to say has become the political correctness of the UK.

Nevertheless, it is believed the UK will eventually go back to the normal, rational path of its China policy. Take the Huawei issue. The country has actually left itself some leeway. London said it will remove Huawei from UK's 5G networks by 2027. At that time, the person in the Oval Office will have long been changed. 

The article is compiled by Global Times reporter Li Aixin based on an interview with Sun Keqin, research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn