China demonstrates no military threat toward Europe: EU MP
Published: Jul 05, 2021 12:27 AM
China Europe Photo: IC

China Europe Photo: IC

Editor's Note: 

"China has displayed no military hostility to the EU. Most Europeans see China as an ally or necessary partner. The EU is spending more on militarization than China. Where is the evidence it's China that is the aggressor?" This was recently tweeted by Clare Daly (Daly), an Irish politician and incumbent member of the European Parliament (MEP). Daly has questioned the "myth of Chinese threat" and urged the EU to cooperate with China. Why did she say so? How should the EU maintain its strategic autonomy? Global Times (GT) reporter Li Qingqing talked to Daly about these issues.

GT: What prompted you to make the remarks on Twitter? In your opinion, who is hyping China's "military threat" to the EU?

Daly: I made the remarks in the context of a discussion at the European Parliament's Security & Defence Committee about "China's military buildup." This is an issue which is increasingly being discussed in the European Parliament as the EU follows the US in their drive to turn China into someone we can go to war with, a particular mantra of Joe Biden, but a call that suits the EU's arms industry lobbyists who occupy much influence in Brussels. I am opposed to militarism everywhere and I regret that China is spending more money in this area but I felt it important to deal with the facts that, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Chinese military spending of $252 billion in 2020 was $21 billion less than that spent by just the countries of Western Europe on their militaries; with a Chinese population of 1.4 billion compared to 197 million in Western Europe, this means per capita military spending in Western Europe is $1,392, while per capita military spending in China is around $180 - or 12 percent of Western Europe's spending. Meanwhile, per capita spending in the US is around $2,300. That puts talk of China's "military buildup" very much in perspective. Not only that, but in an increasingly hostile environment toward China, no military aggression has been demonstrated toward the EU by the country, and an European Council on Foreign Relations survey published on June 9 found that 41 percent of Europeans see China as either an ally or a necessary partner, with just 12 percent seeing it as an adversary, so it's clear ordinary Europeans don't support this drive.

GT: The European Parliament has voted to freeze discussions on the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI). What is your position on this decision and how will it impact the EU? Some say China "wants the CAI deal badly, but they miscalculated and now continue to underestimate the determination of the European Parliament to defend European interests and values." What's your take on this?

Daly: I was opposed to the Parliament's decision to freeze discussions on the CAI. I do not believe that this decision was taken in the interests of the people of Europe. China is our biggest trading partner and that will continue, but the Parliament's decision shows how hostile rhetoric and sentiment and tit-for-tat sanctions can gather an aggressive momentum which is not in anyone's interests. I don't believe China is trembling in the face of the Parliament's decision, but I do believe that these tit-for-tat sanctions are not beneficial and I believe China would be the "bigger person" by making the first move to lift them, denying those with anti-Chinese hostilities an opportunity for an audience.

GT: The CAI is a reciprocal agreement between China and the EU, and it took seven years of negotiation to reach this achievement. In your opinion, how will the agreement develop next?

Daly: I think the agreement will continue as the member states in the EU, represented through the European Council, and the European Commission also, understand that it is in their economic interests to continue to do business with China. Following the US rhetoric could not only continue to undermine the situation, but also make the EU more reliant on the US when its interests are best served by pursuing an independent path. The reality is, US supremacy is diminishing. This process will continue but there is danger in the rhetoric while their influence wanes. The bite of a dying snake can be the most poisonous so extra efforts must be made for dialogue & diplomacy, no matter how difficult.

GT: The EU has often followed the US in playing the human rights card in international relations, although they are not qualified to do so due to the worsening human rights records in US and many other Western countries. How do you view Europe's human rights diplomacy?

Daly: Human rights have been weaponized in an unprecedented way in the past period. I am repeatedly on record for criticizing the EU's constant discussions on human rights violations outside its borders, and always against countries outside the US favorites list. This exposes the concern as a geopolitical stunt, rather than genuine concern for human rights. Why do we talk about Chinese military build-up but say nothing about Israel or Saudi Arabia, who spend respectively 5.6 percent and 8.4 percent of their GDP on militarism and are engaged in war crimes against the people of Palestine and Gaza, and Yemen? The EU's defense of human rights abroad is not only one-sided, but is in sharp contrast to their shyness in dealing with human rights violations within their own borders, the imprisonment of Catalan politicians by Spain, police violence and discriminatory legislation against Muslims in France, and so on - on these issues they are silent! There is always talk of the importance of press freedoms, but the biggest press freedom case of our generation, the pursuit of Julian Assange for exposing US war crimes, cannot even get a mention.

GT: You once questioned the "myth of Chinese threat" in an interview with Russian media outlet RT. Is your position on China-related and Russia-related issues a minority in the European Parliament? What kind of pressure are you facing because of this?

Daly: I have articulated my concern about the growing anti-Chinese, anti-Russian sentiment which is hyped at every occasion in the European Parliament. This is a minority view in the Parliament but the Parliament is very disconnected from the people of Europe anyway, so that is not unusual. The people of Europe do not want precious resources being wasted on war and militarism as the planet struggles to deal with climate change and pandemics. We need global cooperation, not confrontation. I have received verbal abuse and racist slurs from MEPs on these questions, and the usual lazy journalism trying to misrepresent the positions that I have articulated. This is not new. It is hard for any journalist to tackle the status quo and succeed in the mainstream media.

GT: The US is attempting to build an anti-China alliance, while the EU pursues strategic autonomy. Facing US pressure to jointly suppress China, how should the EU maintain its strategic autonomy?

Daly: The EU should adopt an independent position in all of its dealing with third countries. It is of no benefit to the EU to coat-tail US foreign policy, in fact it is to our detriment with interference from the US trying to block projects such as Nordstream 2. This only serves to make us more dependent on the US and cuts us off from opportunities for trade and investment with many important countries around the world. In many instances the international positions taken by the US are given cover by the EU. An independent EU arguing for the return to international law and for the ending destructive and illegal sanctions would be very beneficial to global relations and EU citizens.

GT: In your opinion, what kind of relationship should the EU seek with China and with the US to serve the EU's best interests? 

Daly: The EU should work economically and diplomatically with the US and China, neither favoring or excluding one or the other.