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Backing Russia is costing China in Europe

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  1. Fal

    Last month, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, visited Kyiv, Warsaw, Berlin, Paris, and Brussels with “a clear message”: European governments should view Beijing as an alternative to Washington, and recognize Ukrainian territories seized by Moscow as belonging to Russia in order to quickly end the war. These overtures fit a larger pattern; for some time now, in its dealings with Europe, China has promoted the concept of “strategic autonomy” from the United States, arguing that the continent should go its own way in international affairs.

    For Beijing, dividing the United States and Europe makes good strategic sense, since it would weaken the Western bloc and enhance China’s influence on the world stage. The concept of strategic autonomy also appeals to like-minded political elements in Europe who have long sought, albeit for very different reasons, to pull Brussels and Washington apart.

    Some European leaders are on board. Following his recent trip to China, French President Emmanuel Macron argued that Europe faces a “great risk” of getting “caught up in crises that are not ours, which prevents it from building its strategic autonomy.” Those sentiments were, of course, promptly trumpeted by China’s state media.

    But Macron’s once mainstream views are now out of touch. Today, Europe is more united than at any time in recent memory—mostly as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Much to Beijing’s chagrin, Moscow’s campaign of aggression against its western neighbor has breathed new life into the NATO alliance and forged a durable consensus on the continent about the need to roll back Russia’s advances and thwart its persistent imperialist impulses. Even Germany, which for decades refused to provide arms to conflict zones, has made a historic policy shift in response to what Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called the “new reality,” and is now providing considerable arms to Ukraine.

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