EU awakening shows US market distortion is a lost cause
Published: Oct 16, 2022 01:58 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The US seems to have ants in its pants after a growing number of European leaders have started to make rational, interest-oriented remarks on their ties with China, as well as with the US. 

On Wednesday local time, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that the US must prevent China from "weaponizing" trade as a tool of geopolitical coercion. On the surface, the rhetoric is another US smear against China. But deep down, it reveals underlying US concerns - US fearing that the EU will no longer let itself be brainwashed by the US. Yellen's remarks came on the heels of the changes in mainstream European politicians' rhetoric. Earlier in the week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said "decoupling" from China would be a wrong path. EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis then made similar remarks that "decoupling" from China is not an option for companies in the EU. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire then publicly stated that "We must not allow the conflict in Ukraine to result in American economic domination and a weakening of Europe." 

European politicians' voices not only put the brakes on declining China-EU ties, but also send a signal that EU will try to keep a distance from the US, in trade, as well as in strategic autonomy. 

Eight months into the Ukraine conflict, some Europeans have started to think about where their interests lie. After rounds and rounds of EU sanctions against Russia have done almost all harm and no good to the continent, especially to the people on it, some politicians may finally sober up to the reality, observers note. 

There is only one reason behind the changes in the European tone - the law of the market. Sanctions against Russia are carried out based on geopolitical interests, which are poles apart from the law of supply and demand. But all Washington wants is to overwhelm the law of the market by geopolitics, so as to lead the EU by the nose. However, no one can completely leave economic activities, where forcibly distorting the law of the market by geopolitics is a lost cause, Yang Xiyu, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times. 

This means China has an opportunity now in its ties with the EU - to promote and strengthen their economic and trade exchanges based on market law, as counteract to the US, which itself has been the one that manipulates or even weaponizes trade. It is also believed that China will stress further opening-up to promote market law in the international community, according to Yang. 

Moreover, both China and EU pursue globalization and multipolarization, while the US chases only after ways to maintain its own hegemony and a unipolar world. China and the EU share the same goals for the world's future outlook, there is thus much room for the two to cooperate. 

Those rational voices may not necessarily represent a possible fundamental change in EU's China policy, but at least a signal that the EU will make a turn from being US tool to safeguard the US' hegemony to seeking its own strategic autonomy. 

In June, the National Interest published an article entitled "European Strategic Autonomy Is Dead." This is to some extent exaggerated. But EU's efforts of pursuing strategic autonomy have always been constrained and held back by the US, either explicitly or implicitly. It is an open secret that the US is not a fan of European integration and the existence of the euro, because the US is far from welcoming Europe's strategic autonomy. It simply wants Europe to completely rely on Washington, Sun Keqin, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times. 

Nevertheless, things may not turn out the way the US wants this time. The awakening of the EU sheds light on the decline of US leadership. Brussels and Washington will still be on the same page in politics. But if economy is touched upon, the EU has learned its lesson - the US does not and will not take the interests of the entire West into consideration, but only cares for Washington's own perspective. 

The rejection of US demands by Saudi Arabia to delay its oil production cut is a good example. When facing the choice between geopolitics and market law, Saudi Arabia chose to respect the latter. Similar episodes will likely occur between the US and EU, especially when it comes to the supply and industrial chain that involve the vital interests of Europe, Yang told Global Times.

If the US continues its current practice of using geopolitics to twist everything else, alienation from its allies will come sooner or later. In other words, the harder Washington promotes its hegemonic policies, the deeper the discord will be. 

However, European strategic autonomy requires not only the unity from within Europe, but also cooperation with more countries from around the globe, so as to shape a conducive external environment to seek autonomy and break loose from the US.

If China, Russia and other major powers are one day suppressed by the US in real sense, Washington will become the biggest rival of Europe. It means EU's strategic autonomy needs collaboration between Germany and France. It needs China-EU cooperation as well. 

The author is a reporter with Global Times opinion@globaltimes.com.cn