EU should not to play with fire on Taiwan question
Published: May 19, 2022 10:06 PM Updated: May 19, 2022 10:00 PM
China EU Photo: VCG
China EU Photo: VCG

The EU revisits plans "to upgrade trade relations" with the island of Taiwan that were abandoned last November, the South China Morning Post(SCMP) reported on Wednesday. The EU will hold "a trade and investment dialogue" with local authorities on the island on June 2, the bloc's trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis told the European Parliament.

In response to the report, a spokesperson for the Chinese Mission to the EU urged Brussels “not to gamble on this issue, and abide by the one-China principle,” noting firm opposition against any form of official interactions or any discussion and signing of an agreement with implications of sovereignty and of an official nature between countries or organizations and the Taiwan region.

The EU' plans were first reported last November, but was abandoned at the last minute reportedly following concerns from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that they would damage relations with China. The EU trade chief this time once again cited the Taiwan island's important position in the global chip industry, but as the spokesperson of the Chinese Mission solemnly stated, this is not a trade issue, but a serious political one, involving the political foundation of China-EU relations. China has no room for compromise on the Taiwan question.

Taiwan has strong competitiveness in the semiconductor industry, but from the perspective of global economic and trade, the island's economic importance for EU is not worth mentioning. The so-called EU's promotion of trade relations with the island makes no economic sense.

The Chinese mainland is the most important trading partner of the EU. In 2021, the EU and Chinese mainland traded goods worth €696 billion ($730 billion), representing 16 percent of all EU trade, surpassing the US' share of 15 percent, according to data from Federal Statistical Office of Germany. The EU's goods trade with the island of Taiwan in 2021 was €64 billion.

The EU's trade chief also mentioned developing trade and investment relations with the Taiwan island in line with the EU Indo-Pacific strategy, according to SCMP. If the EU simply wants to develop normal economic and trade relations with the island, it's unusual to emphasize the latter's role in its Indo-Pacific strategy, which clearly is a geopolitical gambit.

Essentially, the EU and the US are just trying to use the island of Taiwan as a chess piece to contain China. Their strategic goal is not to boost economic cooperation with the island, but to use it to drag down China's development and progress. 

However, the EU's economy has significantly benefited from strengthening economic and trade cooperation with China. The EU should not play with fire with the Taiwan question to cater to the US at the expense of its own economic interests.

Despite the ups and downs of China-EU relations, both sides recognize the significance of deepening bilateral relations with each other. Some European politicians may think that playing the "Taiwan card" will draw more attention and could help pressure the mainland to make more concessions. But he who playing with fire on the Taiwan question will find himself getting burnt in the fire.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.