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TematicheCina e Indo-PacificoChina’s Efforts to Fracture Europe’s Unity

China’s Efforts to Fracture Europe’s Unity

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China’s communist leadership is currently making efforts to fracture European unity and sow distrust in international organizations, as testified by a U.S. government agency. 

According to a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund (GMF) think tank, during a hearing of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) he stated that China now considers a politically fragmented Europe to be one of its core interests, a significant shift in China’s perspective in recent years. It is in fact no secret that Beijing prefers dealing with individual European member states rather than with a single entity, as European unity is seen as a direct threat to its interests. The ultimate goal, according to the GMF senior fellow, is to isolate European nations and persuade them to break away from working with the United States against China.  

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ongoing support for Russia and its actions in Ukraine have led to a growing disillusionment with China among European nations. As it was put at the hearing, while many European countries were initially wary of involvement in the U.S.-China rivalry, their hopes for engagement with China were shattered after Xi’s visit to Moscow in March, during which the parties brought about changes in the international system that hadn’t been witnessed in a century. The GMF senior fellow emphasized that Xi Jinping had no intention of disguising the true nature of their alliance as a “peace mission”, something that was then reflected in the subsequent European Council meeting, during which genuine concerns arose among European leaders about the evolving China-Russia relationship, whose primary objectives are military, political, and ideological, leading many to perceive China as an unwelcome interloper in European security.  

In response to this situation, the CCP is adapting its public-relations efforts to incite unrest within the European Union, as a fellow at the German-based Mercator Institute for China Studies, with the aim to undermine the existing international order. In practicality, as the expert put it, the CCP is now targeting fringe political groups and candidates on both sides of the political spectrum, encouraging them to distrust their own governments and reject membership in international organizations such as NATO and the EU. European nations remain hesitant to avoid becoming embroiled in the crossfire between China and the United States. Nevertheless, there is a growing belief that unrestricted economic cooperation with China has reached its limits, as European leaders are now focused on diversification, resilience, and risk-reduction. Although many acknowledge the challenges posed by China, the extent of alignment between European nations and the United States in the broader strategic competition remains uncertain, as there are still significant differences of opinion within Europe and between Europe and the United States regarding the scale and urgency of the threat posed by China. 

The shifting dynamics in China’s approach to Europe and its emphasis on individual engagement with European member states indicate a deliberate strategy to weaken European unity. Europe finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with China’s attempts to undermine its unity and influence, while at the same time it faces the challenge of protecting their interests and values while navigating the complexities of the U.S.-China rivalry. The CCP’s view of European unity as a threat to its interests underscores the importance of a united Europe in countering China’s influence and advancing shared values, let alone the strategic importance of maintaining transatlantic alliances.  

As Europe seeks to navigate its relationship with China, it faces complex geopolitical considerations and domestic divisions. Balancing economic interests, security concerns, and the preservation of values and principles requires a nuanced and coordinated approach. The transatlantic alliance between Europe and the United States will play a crucial role in shaping the future dynamics of the U.S.-China-European relationship. The alignment of perceptions and policies between Europe and the United States in countering the China challenge will determine the effectiveness of the response to China’s attempts to fracture European unity and undermine international institutions.

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