EU Agrees on Global Infrastructure Plan to Rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative

EU lawmakers and officials. 

President Xi earlier this month said in a nationally televised speech marking the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party that Beijing would no longer listen to “sanctimonious preaching.”

He warned: “We will never allow anyone to bully, oppress or subjugate China. Anyone who dares try to do that will have their heads bashed bloody against the Great Wall of Steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.”  

Uneven Approach 
The EU national governments are far from united in their thinking about China.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are seeking to revive the stalled investment deal with China and have been emphasizing the need for cooperation with China, saying Beijing’s assistance is crucial for global efforts to reverse climate change and overcome the coronavirus pandemic. 

Luxembourg’s foreign minister Jean Asselborn cautioned Monday against making China an adversary. 

Formally, the EU’s strategy towards China seeks to balance relations with Beijing and Washington. The approach focuses on tackling “specific challenges posed by China without pursuing an outright political confrontation,” said Grzegorz Stec, a EU-China expert in a paper for the Royal United Services Institute, a British research policy group. 

Sinatra’ Doctrine
He notes that a year ago EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell “remarked that in managing its relationship with China the EU ‘should be like Frank Sinatra’ and pursue ‘my way,’” but he adds, “the Sinatra doctrine has faded over the past year” with debate under way over China taking place between EU member states. “The outcome may well be a more assertive Europe,” he says.

Others want the Sinatra doctrine to fade faster. Lithuania and a group of smaller EU countries have been calling for at the adoption of a much tougher policy towards Beijing. 

Last week, Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, complained of Franco-German dominance in deciding EU-China relations. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has called on European Council President Charles Michel to organize a strategic discussion on China among the 27 EU leaders. In a letter to Michel, first reported by, a Brussels-based new site, Nausėda said: “Regrettably, in recent years China has become less of a cooperating partner and more of an unfair competitor and a systemic rival.” 

Pepijn Bergsen, a research fellow at Britain’s Chatham House, says the EU is likely to continue to try to pursue a balancing act between Washington and Beijing for economic reasons and to avoid being drawn into a geo-political tussle. But he says it is a strategy that is unsustainable in the long run.  

“While wishing to remain neutral between the two is understandable, particularly from an economic perspective for countries such as Germany, this is likely to turn out to be a difficult balancing act,” he said in a paper released last week.

Jamie Dettmer is VOA reporter. This report  is published courtesy of the Voice of America (VOA). It  includes information from Reuters and Politico.