Autonomous Europe: Threat to the U.S. and Opportunity to China

In recent years, a geopolitical awakening has stirred within Europe, accompanied by a stark realization: the continent’s overreliance on the United States has been detrimental.

In recent years, a geopolitical awakening has stirred within Europe, accompanied by a stark realization: the continent’s overreliance on the United States has been detrimental. Once an economic colossus, Europe now finds itself diminished, struggling to carve out a role in the new epoch of great power rivalry. This diminution aligns with Washington’s aspirations to maintain a unipolar world order, relegating Europe to a mere vassal state. Contrastingly, the Sino-European dynamic tells a different tale. Beijing champions a multipolar world, willing to acknowledge Europe as a significant player in this diverse global arena. President Xi’s diplomatic overtures in France symbolize China’s commitment to fostering a strategic alliance with Europe—a move that could herald European autonomy from American influence. However, such independence hinges on Europe’s resolve to break free from the comfort of strategic subservience to the United States—a dependency that French President Emmanuel Macron contends has relegated Europe to being a strategic pawn of Washington. The path to true sovereignty is fraught with challenges, but it is a journey that Europe must embark upon to redefine its role on the world stage.

In the aftermath of the Second World War and particularly following the Cold War’s conclusion, Europe basked in the security afforded by the United States. Assured of protection within a unipolar international order, Europe was lauded as an economic titan and a formidable global force. However, that epoch has long since faded, giving way to a world unrecognizable from its former self—a world where neither the US nor Europe resembles their once-dominant selves.

The rise of new geopolitical forces, notably China’s ascent to a stature rivaling that of the United States, has shifted the tectonic plates of international relations, relegating Europe to a lower rung on Washington’s strategic ladder. The U.S. is now singularly focused on curbing its adversaries’ influence, a strategy that seemingly comes at the expense of European interests and security.

The evidence is manifold: the US’s resistance to international multilateralism, its coercive tactics urging the European Union to align with sanctions against China, fanning the flames of conflict in Ukraine while simultaneously brandishing the threat of withdrawn military support, and its role in exacerbating Middle Eastern turmoil. These actions suggest that the US no longer equates Europe’s security with its own, nor does it endeavor to fortify European sovereignty. Instead, it appears to compel European alignment, leveraging the continent’s resources in a renewed contest with global powers. This stance marks a stark departure from Washington’s historical posture of support for Europe. The Europe-China nexus stands in stark contrast to the historically complex ties between Europe and the United States. This Sino-European partnership has been a cornerstone of mutual prosperity, unfettered by the geopolitical maneuvers of Washington that seek to isolate and intimidate Beijing. The robust trade and substantial mutual investments are testaments to the significance of this relationship for both Beijing and the capitals across Europe.

In the current geopolitical climate, China emerges as a pivotal ally for the European Union, particularly in the pursuit of two critical objectives: transitioning to a green economy and advancing the digital frontier. Aligned with European interests, China advocates for a balanced multilateral international order, where power is distributed more equitably, unlike the American approach that often seeks to foster dependency. China’s strategic vision positions a sovereign and robust Europe as an essential component of an effective multipolar world. In this vision, Europe’s independence is not seen as a liability but as a valuable opportunity to enrich the global tapestry. Beijing’s commitment to this partnership transcends mere economic calculations, aiming instead to forge a relationship where Europe is not a subordinate, but a respected equal.

To transition from the periphery to the forefront of global politics, Europe must break away from its entrenched and excessive reliance on the United States—a realization that leaders advocating for European unity, such as President Macron, have come to embrace. The invitation extended to President Xi of China to visit France signifies more than a mere diplomatic gesture; it represents a deliberate move by Macron to pivot away from Europe’s longstanding strategic dependence on the United States. President Xi’s visit is not just a formality but a declaration of China’s willingness to forge a reciprocal and collaborative partnership with Europe. Such a partnership promises to position Europe as a formidable contender in the arena of great power politics, endowing it with the autonomy it seeks. Now, Europe stands at a crossroads: it can either continue as a secondary power, tethered to the United States, or it can assert itself as an independent force within the international order. It appears that President Macron and like-minded European leaders are opting for the latter, charting a course towards self-determination—a stance that is likely to encounter resistance from staunch transatlantic relations supporters such as Ursula von der Leyen.

Peter Rodgers
Peter Rodgers
My name is Peter Rodgers and I am a writer here and there on this and that. But I am particularly keen on the United States' foreign policy. I follow all the news and developments regarding the United States relations with Europe, Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific region and my writings have appeared on websites like Currently, I spend most of my time reading and sometimes writing. When I am not reading and writing, I either watch basketball or play basketball. I was born and raised in Canada where I am currently based but I am very much interested in traveling the world and actually see the countries that I am reading and writing about. I did my degree in international relations at Penn States University. You can find me at conferences and events about United States foreign policy and international relations.