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European Union needs reflection on its strategic autonomy in a geopolitical sense



Although modern Europe had exercised profound impacts on all the corners of the globe during the past centuries (1495-1945), it is undeniable that it declined substantially in the wake of the Second World War which was followed by the scenario of the bipolar domination by the United States and Russia (then the Soviet Union). The former has inherited from Europe culturally and institutionally but never been a part of its geography; the latter is a part of Europe geographically yet never integrated into it culturally, socially and even psychologically. Moreover, after 1945, Europe became a “thorny” question which required the two superpower to secure its security and equilibrium.

Given this, there is no question that Europe itself was unable to make it equal to the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the world affairs. To redress this fatal reality, the British elite policy-makers proposed that “To keep Germany down and keep Russia out of Europe, it had no option but to keep the U.S. in.” Since then, it is the United States that has secured a long-peace in Europe which has evolved into a civilian power in the name of the European Union during the Cold War and afterwards. By the eve of the new 21st century, it is widely held that “the United States of Europa”, though still emerging internationally, would aim to end American supremacy. For sure, this is what Washington can’t accept for the sake of its elite’s obsession with the “unilateral world order” mandated by the special destiny.

There is no question that the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union did push the European Union to undergo a rapid expansion of the quantity and quality as well. It is an ancient wisdom that a strong European Union should be built on its coherence and integration rather than the sheer binding together which leads to a potential disunity and diversity in all policy issues. However, the EU has been driven to include all European countries potentially including Ukraine while excluding Russia and Turkey although Ankara has submitted its request to be granted a full-membership of the EU from the early 1960s. Now Europe wants to play major role in the world affairs rather than being treated as the playground only. The key remains how the responses are from London and Washington, that is, the Anglo-American axis in the new century.

Historically speaking, as American scholar Walter Mead put it, there have been only two global powers as what Europeans still sometimes refer to as “Anglo-American” powers: United Kingdom and the United States. The British Empire was, and the United States is, concerned not just with the balance of power in one particular corner of the world but also the evolution of what we today call “world order”. A worldwide system of trade and finance have made both Britain and America rich, those riches are what gave them the capabilities to project the military force and intellectual impacts based on the latest technology globally to ensure the stability of their-dominated international systems. Now with acting as the Anglo-American axis in anti-Russian coalition, Washington and London have worked in concert to achieve their core goals: “To keep Russia down during the Ukrainian war and keep the EU disunited as much as they could. In doing so, they must act in concert to be involved into the hybrid war against Russia until the last Ukrainian man fighting in the war.

Given some controversial memories of the past and the nature of geopolitics, Poland and the Baltic states have been the closest allies of the United States and Britain during the Ukrainian war and its aftermath. Yet, some countries including the back-borne of the EU community—France and Germany—have revealed their practical needs and diplomatic traits to end the conflict in Europe. But they have failed all the efforts thus far due to the reasons that the U.S. and Britain have committed to providing the fuel to the burning fire in Ukraine. For sure, the United States has every reasons from history and geopolitics to bolster the European Union but also prevent its drifting off into a geopolitical vacuum. If it is separated from Europe in politics, economics and defense, America would become geopolitically an island off the shore of Eurasia where the transcontinental mass stretching from the Volga to the Yangtze and from the Himalayas to the Arctic Ocean is under the jurisdiction of China, Russia and their friendly countries such as Iran and Afghanistan now. Accordingly, the United States has resented the looming challenge when they covet Eurasia as the pivot of the grand chessboard. As U.S. strategists like Kissinger, Brzezinski and etc. once argued that “no matter which power, either of Europe or Asia, dominates Eurasia, that danger is seen by Washington as a structural threat to its primacy in the world.”[1] Yet, China and Russia will certainly react by all means to how the U.S. would have treated them in the world affairs.

China, Russia and their partners have expected the European Union to play the major role in dealing with the volatile world situation. Accordingly, it is necessary for France and Germany to act in concert in managing the present EU distress and then directing EU development in the future. Historically and strategically, it is proper to say that the first key milestone for rapprochement between Germany and France is the Elysee Treaty of friendship and reconciliation that was signed in 1963. Under the agreement, Paris and Bonn pledged to consult each other, prior to any decision, on all questions of foreign policy with a view to reaching an analogous position. Equally important is the Aachen Treaty signed by Berlin and Paris in 2019, which aims to enhance EU cohesion and provide joint security externally. Now acting as the two powerful engines of the EU, the accord between France and Germany will justify that the future of Europe depends closely on the consensus between the two leading powers in all terms.

Yes, some political groups have voiced their concerns or even anger that France and Germany have fallen into the exclusive Franco-German axis, leaving the rest of the EU membership in second row. Due to this, they have come to question the bloc’s nature and development trend. Given this, the U.S. and Britain have openly driven their closest allies bordering Russia to become more and more aggressive and even cross the bottom line in the anti-Russian campaign economically, militarily and diplomatically in the name of the so-called shared-values. The designs of the Anglo-American axis has insured the rules-based global trade system and economic order which had been weakened since the Trump administration. Yet, a peaceful and prosperous Europe will be a reality only when France and Germany are forged into a real power center. It stands to reason that the two countries have common responsibilities, complemented economies and compatible military capacity. In addition, Germany has acted as the EU’s economic engine and security pivot due to its location at the very heart of Europe.

Still, there are two challenges facing the Franco-German accord. First is history. France and Germany need to learn lessons from each other’s previous bid for mastery in Europe and global hegemony. The price Germany paid was its own destruction and France was totally demoralized as well in 1945. Second is the issue of EU distress. As Joschka Fischer put it earlier, Europeans must not allow wishful thinking to obscure their important facts, as occurred when the European Monetary Union was formed in the 1990s. It argues that there were earlier conflicts between individual member states regarding national economic and fiscal policy, along with their political culture and divergent mentality. But willful ignorance prevailed over rational analysis. Third is the resolve of the EU. Now with the Ukrainian crisis dragging on, the EU can’t make the short-sighted decision again. As consensus will not come easily, a genuine accord between Germany and France is required to struggle for strategic autonomy. Yet, as long as the U.S.-led anti-Russian campaign continues, Washington and London will make all efforts to call on their allies and partners to underscore continued international support for Ukraine. Although not all allies were rustled up, the most radical governments of the NATO and the EU are present at the banner of the U.S.-led crusade: e.g. Secretary of State Blinken flew into Brussels recently where he talked up “unity” among the West while proclaiming that what was at stake with the Ukrainian war was not going to be cost-free. Yet, the reality is that Russian analysts have a devastating assessment of Europe’s economic future, reporting that the EU’s short-sighted policies have already pushed the region into a full-blown economic crisis. Even some Western analysts share this view that the EU is suffering from the ongoing sanctions pressure, rather than the consequences of the energy crisis. Europe has almost canceled its exports to Russia, primarily technology and equipment exports. Everybody understands that Europe invented these problems all by itself, by blocking almost the entire exports to Russia for political reasons, while expecting no retaliatory measures, for some reason.

In sum, Europe has deeply-rooted legacy of statecraft to end wars and to create peace. Now is the right time for France and Germany to stand up for struggling for power, profits and prestige for the EU family rather than acting as a coadjutant of the Anglo-American axis.

[1] Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1994), p. 813; Also see Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives (NY: Basic Books, 1997), p. 27.

The writer is junior research fellow at National Development and Security Institute, School of International and Public Affairs at Jilin University.

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Nurturing Sino-EU Ties through Multilateralism

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Considering the fact that relations between China and the EU are shifting, they will continue since China’s position as a crucial economic powerhouse for the EU cannot be understated, especially as the EU confronts a real and technical economic downturn. In the Eurozone, countries such as the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Germany are experiencing a deceleration in economic growth, which requires immediate consideration. The primary reason for this is the industry-related crisis caused by the collapse of export operations on both domestic and global markets due to a lack of purchasing power.

If this mild downturn becomes a full-blown crisis, the economies of both the European Union and the United States could stagnate. Because of these challenges, the European Union (EU) must strike a fine balance between resolving the current crisis and accommodating U.S. demands. The recent summit of European Union leaders holds great importance as the EU determined its policy towards China. The EU’s economic prospects are highly dependent on developing strong ties with China.

When combined with China’s growing consumer market and massive expenditures in infrastructure, the European Union’s economy has a once-in-a-generation chance to rebound and thrive. The European Union (EU) stands to gain from closer economic connections with China due to the opportunities it presents for increased collaboration, broader trade, and the infusion of much-needed Chinese investment into the EU’s flagging industrial sectors.

Recognizing this undeniable potential, the EU must priorities capitalizing on the benefits of its partnership with China, whilst likewise making sure that the relationship remains mutually beneficial and sustainable. The path towards achieving such equilibrium, however, is fraught with obstacles, mainly due to external pressures from the United States. Notably, the United States has imposed tariffs and trade restrictions on a number of European products, creating financial challenges for European companies. These actions are frequently used as pressure to influence Europe’s approach to China.

The EU is in a precarious position, compelled to navigate an environment where financial goals, geopolitical issues, and common values intersect. Maintaining a delicate equilibrium is essential. The pressure exerted by the United States highlights the necessity for Europe to assert its own interests and independence in international affairs. It is essential that the EU devise an independent and principled strategy that protects its own interests while approaching China with a productive discussion.

European Council President Charles Michel’s recent statement that it is in the EU’s best interest to maintain “stable and constructive” ties with China has, in a sense, confirmed the continuation of EU-China relations. In a latest commentary, Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, pointed to how the EU could modify its policy towards China. However, he advocated for “vigorous engagement” between the EU and Beijing.

Under the weight of US pressure, maintaining a delicate balance in EU-China relations requires careful handling. European leaders will have the opportunity to define the EU’s position on China at the upcoming EU summit, ushering in a future of balanced, constructive, and mutually beneficial engagement. It is essential that European leaders seize this opportunity and set a course that protects their economic interests and fundamental values. In this manner, the EU can promote stability, resilience, and sustainable growth in the face of changing global dynamics.

At this critical juncture, leaders must engage in exhaustive dialogues that incorporate the many facets of the EU’s relationship with China. The promotion of human rights should be coupled with economic considerations. Considerations such as trade disparities, rights to intellectual property protection, and the development of equitable market practices must be addressed in an open discussion. This strategy will ensure an equitable playing field for EU and Chinese businesses, fostering an environment conducive to healthy competition and long-term economic growth.

The foundation of Sino-EU relations should base on mutual interest and respect, multilateralism, and economic exchanges, and they should be exempt from illicit US interference and pressures. By navigating these complexities and forging a path that safeguards economic interests and fundamental values, the EU can promote stability, resilience, and sustainable growth in the face of changing global dynamics.

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China-Germany Win-Win Cooperation



photo:Yao Dawei / Xinhua

The China-Germany cooperation exemplifies the transformative potential of collaboration based on mutual regard, shared objectives, and complementary strengths. This exceptional partnership has spawned a domino effect that extends beyond bilateral relations, inspiring other nations to pursue similarly mutually beneficial partnerships.

 As the world becomes more interconnected, countries can learn from the China-Germany model of cooperation, which fosters economic development, technological advancement, environmental stewardship, and cultural exchange. By adhering to the principles of win-win cooperation, nations can construct a more prosperous, sustainable, and harmonious global community.

China and Germany’s dynamic and mutually beneficial cooperation is a shining example of win-win collaboration on the global stage. Both nations have nurtured strong economic and diplomatic ties over the years, resulting in enormous advances and benefits for their respective societies.

Strong and coordinated global action is needed immediately to combat climate change and advance sustainable development. There is still a lot to be done, but China and Germany have already shown their dedication to environmentally friendly and low-carbon development. By aligning their strategies and exchanging best practices, they can expedite the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.

China’s pledge to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 shows its commitment to a deep low-carbon transformation of its economy and society. Through the International Climate Initiative (IKI) administered by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the German Federal Government supports Sino-German climate change cooperation.

 Collaboration in areas such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, the circular economy, and sustainable transportation can lead the way for a greener future, mitigating the effects of climate change and nurturing ecological equilibrium.

China and Germany have established a strong economic partnership that has benefited both countries significantly. Germany’s main commercial partner is China, and vice versa, and this strong bilateral commerce has led to significant economic growth and employment creation. This collaboration has given German businesses access to the sizable Chinese market.

Notably, the exchange of products, services, and knowledge between the two nations has fostered innovation, productivity, and economic resiliency, thereby laying the groundwork for long-term cooperation. This commitment to cooperation has yielded an array of beneficial effects, strengthening the conviction that win-win partnerships can drive progress and prosperity in an interdependent world.

The dynamic economic partnership that has grown between the two nations is one of the pillars of China-Germany cooperation. Germany, known for its scientific prowess, inventiveness, and precision engineering, found a favourable market in China, with its enormous customer base and rapidly expanding economy.

On the other hand, China’s manufacturing expertise and devotion to infrastructure development have presented German businesses with incredible possibilities to expand their operations and enter new markets. Entrepreneurs from both nations could keep pursuing openness, inclusiveness, and win-win cooperation, as well as keep the stability of industrial and supply chains with high-level practical cooperation. This symbiotic relationship has allowed both nations to capitalize on their respective strengths, resulting in economic expansion and job creation for both countries.

China and Germany have also established cooperation in the fields of innovation and research, recognizing that advancements in these fields are crucial agents of economic and societal progress. Through joint research initiatives, academic exchanges, and institution-to-institution collaboration, both nations have been able to pool their intellectual resources, foster innovation, and address global challenges. This cooperation has not only led to revolutionary scientific discoveries, but it has also set the groundwork for future innovations in technology that will benefit all of humanity.

China and Germany have fostered cultural exchange and people-to-people diplomacy in addition to their economic and technological cooperation. By encouraging education exchanges, cultural events, and intercultural dialogue, both countries have built bridges of appreciation, understanding, and friendship. Not only do these interactions enrich the lives of individuals, but they also strengthen the bilateral relationship as a whole. They facilitate dialogue, eliminate preconceived notions, and set the groundwork for mutually beneficial relationships and respect.

By expanding on these accomplishments and upholding a spirit of mutual respect and shared objectives, the China-Germany partnership can continue to advance progress and inspire global collaboration.

The China-Germany model of win-win cooperation provides valuable lessons for nations seeking to forge prosperous partnerships. It emphasizes the significance of mutual respect, trust, and open communication as the foundations for productive collaboration. It also emphasizes the importance of recognizing and capitalizing on balance in strengths and resources, which allows nations to maximize the positive effects of cooperation.

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The Eurasian Zeitenwende: Germany and Japan at the Crossroads

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Image source: X @Bundeskanzler

Russia’s decision to invade in Ukraine in February of last year has been nothing short of a critical juncture in recent history—sending reverberations across the entirety of Eurasia. Seldom have events on one end of the continent been so consequential on the other. Russia’s invasion has shattered the prime directive underpinning the long peace after the Great Wars—the inviolable right to sovereignty has been shattered, as mass armed aggression has reared its head once again. Nowhere is this sweeping change felt than in Berlin and Tokyo—to capitals separated by over 12,453 kilometers of land and sea.

German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz spoke to the Bundestag just three days after Russia’s invasion, on the ‘historic turning point’, the Zeitenwende this moment presented. Not a year later, on December 16, after much negotiation Japan finally released their first National Security Strategy in almost a decade. Ukraine provided for both governments the impetus to shed decades of consensus on defense policy. Berlin and Tokyo were once partners in the greatest conflict wrought on mankind, and today they are once again on the same page—but this time arming in the name of global peace.

The postwar consensus

With 1945 came the crashing down of the German and Japanese imperial ambitions that underwrote the explosions of violence from 1914 to 1945. The first half of the twentieth century saw successive orders predicated the passing of power; the imperialist order long preceded the turn of the century, and came crashing with the First World War. From there, a brief liberal interlude of the Washington Conference was doomed to fail given Anglo-American isolationism, and from that chaos was born—a return to imperialism. With these passing orders, German and Japanese leaders debated and sought to reinvent themselves in response to changing tides across the globe.

In fact, twice in the last century, during Twenty-five Years Crisis, Wilhelmine and Nazi imperialism exploded in the European theater. For the Japanese, a slow roll to imperial domination in Asia began much before the war and exploded in the 1930s. This imperial flame was extinguished almost as soon as it was ignited—bringing with it the deaths of millions through genocide and war, and the destruction of much of the world’s industrial capacity. In the wake of it, a similar thinking overtook both Berlin and Tokyo. In the wake of the horrors of war, both peoples came to a similar conclusion that militarism ought be eschewed—with Japan going as far as enshrining its anti-militarist urge in the constitution’s article 9. Though it must be noted, the Germans accepted their guilt—the Japanese continue to engage in denialism and apologia.

For decades, under the guise of guilt in Germany, and occupation-enforced constitutional limits for Japan, both countries eschewed providing for their own national defense needs—instead relying on the all-powerful U.S. security guarantee.

A new look in a new environment

This change that has occurred here has happened within the context of what Dr. Kent Calder described in The New Continentalism: Energy and Twenty-First Century Geopolitics, and Supercontinent: the Logic of Eurasian Integration, as ‘proto-continentalism’—the modern stirrings of transcontinental integration. The continent was transformed by China’s Four Modernizations, the Oil Shock, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union—all requiring readjustments on the continent. Continental integration followed the integration and modernization within China, the Oil Shock highlighted the need for energy-driven interconnection, and the collapse of the Soviet Union meant no more Cold War political antagonisms. These changes meant that there were suddenly lower costs for trade across the continent—one rife with great complementaries. Like some geographic providence, the world’s largest energy producers in the Middle East, sat between the world’s biggest consumers in Europe and Asia.

Of course, this integration isn’t just relegated to the economic realm—but also the defense sector. Whereas integration was predicated by the near-collapse of mass interstate conflict, the War in Ukraine would seem to threaten just that. But in fact, integration ensures the costs associated with this conflict are felt from one end of the continent to the other. This inherently ties the most far-flung countries on matters of defense—exactly what ties Berlin and Tokyo, and their similar responses to the war in Ukraine. This integration doesn’t just tie Berlin and Tokyo, but also Seoul and Warsaw, both of which have seen deepened defense cooperation not limited to the production of South Korean tanks and artillery in Poland. Furthermore, Japan has sought out increased cooperation with NATO.

The mutually-reinforcing loop

Russia’s invasion has been an unmitigated tragedy for the people of Ukraine—but a boon for solidarity in the ‘Western’ security architecture, including the West’s numerous Asian allies and partners, and Eurasian integration writ large. In fact, the mutual economic ties that have fostered closer defense ties across the region, will continue to reinforce each other. Integration between these partners, across various sectors is the greatest mitigator of future conflict—an idea that underpins the great postwar peace, and one that will continue to endure.

Today, Germany and Japan, once imperial menaces to the international system, now make a proactive contribution to global peace—in deciding to behave like normal countries, and arm amidst a threatening global environment. Their contribution to the peace is in the solidification of transcontinental defense ties—ones predicated on deep economic integration.

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