Jan 25th 2020IF JUDGED BY words, rather than deeds, China is the world’s most powerful supporter of European unity. At a time when populist leaders
IF JUDGED BY words, rather than deeds, China is the world’s most powerful supporter of European unity. At a time when populist leaders such as President Donald Trump barely conceal their scorn for the European Union and other multilateral institutions, China talks of deepening and strengthening ties with the EU and other international bodies dear to Europeans.
Their great nation’s rise is powered by globalisation, Chinese officials explain. That gives China cause to fear anti-European populism that often overlaps with hostility to trade. As a result, it wants to work with all of Europe on crafting a fairer, more just, multilateral order fit for the 21st century.
There are reasons to be sceptical of such pledges. Start with core principles. China’s worldview is built on absolute deference to state sovereignty, chin-jutting nationalism and a belief that one country should not meddle in the internal affairs of another. In contrast, the belief that small and mid-sized countries can gain by pooling some sovereignty is the EU’s founding idea. Meddling in members’ affairs, to defend inviolable norms, is the union’s point.
This year will test China’s commitment to Europe in deeds, as well as words. Twice in 2020 the country’s leader, President Xi Jinping, will meet European counterparts at summits. The largest will take place in September in Leipzig, co-hosted by…