China’s success in penetrating the European defense market

Although China (not a direct military threat to NATO), unlike Russia or the threats of international terrorism, Beijing’s growing economic influence and its confident diplomacy in Europe, according to the vision of “NATO’S member states”, has led to (significant repercussions on security and the transatlantic economy). Therefore, the statements of the “NATO’S meetings”, since the end of the “Trump’s era” and since the advent of the administration of US President “Biden”, and its call for:

   “It’s difficult, if not impossible, for NATO to avoid China, which represents a complete challenge to the transatlantic community and whose potential and capabilities mirror, if not outweigh, the challenge of the former Soviet Union”

   We find that the most dangerous thing for NATO is the realization that China has achieved great success in the European defense market.  We can get acquainted with the Chinese presence in the depth of the European defense market, by learning about the following Chinese measures:

Serbian President “Aleksandar Vucic” recently announced his country’s purchase of “six Chinese-made drones”, which are of the well-known Chinese model, known as: CH-92A (UCAVs)

  This would make the Serbian Army as “the first European army to use Chinese combat drones”.

Chinese President “Xi Jinping” visited France on Tuesday, March 26, 2019, where he met his critics in Europe, led by the European leaders, such as: “Macron”, Merkel, and Juniper”, in order to prepare for the (European-Chinese summit) in the Belgian capital of “Brussels” on April 9, 2019, which observers considered as (a new security breach for NATO and a provocation to Washington).

For the Chinese side to realize the importance of France well, Chinese President “Xi Jinping” began his visit to it by contracting a (Chinese deal from France to buy 290 Airbus planes, valued at about $30 billion), for two reasons, which are:

 The first reason: China’s provocation as a result of its rival India’s contract with the “French Naval Company” in 2017 to buy 126 French Rafale planes worth 19 billion dollars.

The second reason: China also aimed to influence (the submarine deal between France and Australia), which resulted in the “Aukus defense alliance between Washington, Australia and Britain”, after the cancellation of the French-Australian deal and the anger of France and Europe, amounting to about 50 billion dollars, and that to (protect the island of  Caledonia), which is inhabited by more than 1.3 million French resident people, whereas located near to Australia and overlooks the outskirts of the (South China Sea).

However, despite a $30 billion deal between China and France, to buy “French Naval planes”. French President “Emmanuel Macron” didn’t miss the opportunity to express his concern about the expansion of China’s ambition, to which the European response must be, and demanded that (the Belt and Road Initiative be beneficial in the Chinese and European directions, and that mutual and equitable access to markets be the criterion for China’s dealing with  Europe), and despite the French criticism of China, it carries with it, as if (an important French recognition of the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative for Europe and Paris, especially after “concluding the French military aircraft deal with China”), and the Chinese response indirectly to the Indian provocation to it, the conclusion of a similar deal with the French side.

President “Macron” also criticized the files of “Human Rights in China and China’s Presence in Africa”, noting that the first is a global standard and not an internal Chinese affair, and that the second file on Africa and China requires coordination between the two countries, especially with the important French presence in Africa, which  Its countries live in the trap of continuous Chinese debt, such as: (the State of Djibouti), which hosts a (French military base, and the State of Djibouti also witnesses the establishment of China’s first military base abroad, which requires with it French-Chinese security and military coordination, according to what the French President announced “Emmanuel Macron”), as well as President Macron’s speech that China’s investment flows are mainly poured on (Ethiopia and Kenya), which are the mainstays of the French presence in Africa. On the other hand, President “Xi Jinping” didn’t abandon his diplomatic smile in front of missiles and criticism. Here, President “Macron” assured President “Xi” said that: “China wants a united and strong Europe and benefits from China’s massive growth”. In my analysis of Chinese President “Xi Jinping’s statement to his French counterpart, “Emmanuel Macron”, about the importance of Europe benefiting from China’s growth, this means (Chinese determination to cooperate with Europe and make deals with them, despite criticism from the United States of America).

We find here that the details of this grand scene of the meeting between the two presidents, “Emmanuel Macron and Xi Jinping” have opened the door to wide and deep questions and analyzes, regarding:

What are the prospects for further division of the European Union because of China?

To what extent is a European-Chinese trade war possible if things get more complicated and mutual access to markets and balanced benefits between the two sides are not achieved?

Then the fundamental question, about: What is the impact of Chinese-European relations on their relations with the United States of America?

Also the main question, about: the US position on its ally Europe, whose imports will witness more US tariffs in the future due to the trade war between Washington and Beijing?

Here, we find “the conflicting security positions between Europe and the United States of America because of China, in defense of their interests”. At a time when the United States of America wants Europe to take a clear position in defense of democracy, the rule of law and human rights regarding China in all international organizations,  European criticism of China continues, but China deliberately (contracting military deals with Europe and France), despite the American criticism.

We find that the most dangerous issue here is (Europe’s failure to succumb to the American desire to help it “stop Chinese military modernization” by imposing a ban on technology transfers to it), and the European failure to respond to the United States of America, regarding their conduct of a security check with China before they conclude purchase deals or any form of European government investment, with the aim of (preventing China from controlling Europe’s telecommunications and the other critical infrastructure). These are all matters that Europeans don’t always pay attention to in their relations with China, which irritates Washington towards them.

The same applies to Russia as an ally of China, at a time when the United States of America also wants “Europe don’t want to depend on Russian gas through the Nordstream 2 pipeline, nor on Chinese communications equipment through contracts with Huawei”. But, the European Union doesn’t always succumb to these American pressures, and it has a stronger trade and investment relationship with the Chinese side.

There are European security fears of (the increasing Sino-Russian rapprochement in the field of military cooperation between the two countries), even if it is limited, and fears have become of an increase in the intensity of joint military and naval exercises between China and Russia, with (the participation of ships from the Navy of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army with  Ships of the Russian Navy in the eastern Mediterranean in joint naval exercises), and it was the only joint exercise between the two countries in the Mediterranean in 2015.

NATO’s concerns have increased with fears of (Russian-Chinese cooperation in the Arctic, where the two countries invest in natural gas projects as well as in transport corridors), as part of a project known as: (the Polar Silk Road or the Northern Sea Route), so NATO’s military leaders has declared that:

  “NATO should monitor Russian-Chinese military cooperation, but the alliance must realize that its first priority is Russia”

We find that the most prominent military development from NATO towards China is (the signing of a document by the NATO Military Committee against China in May 2019), which is a committee consisting of Allied defense leaders, and this document against China is a (new military strategy  to confront China), its importance is due to the fact that it is the first document of its kind written by NATO since the late 1960s.

As a result of American pressures on the NATO’S leaders, the Military Committee submitted (two secondary documents that map out how to implement the strategy of the alliance against China). Their content, are:

The first document of NATO against China: the document for (Defense of Democracy), and it specifies how the alliance will use its military power to address the main threats facing the interests of the allies in Europe.  It calls for the use of NATO’s military force to deter and defend its main sources of threat, which are (Russia, China and international terrorism), throughout Europe and beyond in all areas.

The second document of NATO against China: the  document of (Capstone Concept for Combating War in NATO), whereas it clarifies a twenty-year vision of the alliance’s capabilities and war characteristics.  The work program focuses on short-term threats, while the “National Anti-Corruption Committee” looks at the long-term. These concepts are supposed to help NATO better align its existing tools, operations and activities to ensure “the Alliance secures and stabilizes the Euro-Atlantic region”.

  Hence, we conclude that, despite the increase in these American pressures on Europe and NATO’s military allies, it (the degree of Sino-European cooperation in all major fields and sectors has increased and grown), and the degree of Chinese investments within Europe has increased.

  According to my final analysis of the matter, it seems that everyone in Europe and the world has become (growing in the shadow of China and not the other way around), which is a matter that greatly worries Washington, especially with the division of positions within “NATO and its European members themselves, due to their rapprochement with China”.

   Perhaps according to my understanding of the nature of the American competition with China, and the attempt of each party to acquire others to defend it, I believe that (China has become aware of the European dream of military or economic independence from the United States, especially after the signing of the new Aukus defense agreement, and Washington’s abandonment of France and its European allies) in defense of its interests.  Therefore, with the growing talk of the necessity of (forming a united European army and separating from NATO, with the absence of the ability to bear its costs in light of the current economic crisis).  Therefore, my distant strategic analysis has become (the possibility of China itself contributing to the disintegration of NATO through a network of financing the dream of forming a unified European army, and thus helping the Europeans to separate from NATO in preparation for its disintegration and collapse), and perhaps this was the “long-term Chinese strategy” in managing its relations with European countries and NATO’S alliance, to counter US pressures against China.

Dr.Nadia Helmy
Dr.Nadia Helmy
Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit