When The EU Was a Fan of the Belt and Road
Under the von der Leyen presidency, the European Commission has launched a hostile policy against China, first calling it a “systemic rival” in March 2019, then launching the so-called “Global Gateway” project as an anti-Belt and Road initiative in September 2021, then finally initiating a “de-risking” policy (another name for “decoupling”) in March 2023.
In addition to the fact that dissolving economic ties with your main trade partner is a suicidal proposition, Ursula von der Leyen and her clique have reversed a EU policy, which was quite different before.
In 2008, in fact, the Commission had issued a policy paper describing China and the EU as having the same interests in Africa, and advised member states to act to expand cooperation with Beijing in a whole series of areas. The paper is an endorsement ante-litteram of the spirit and intentions of the Belt and Road Initiative, although the latter was officially launched only later by by Xi Jinping.
The “Communication” from the EU Commission to the European Parliament, the EU Council and other EU institutions and states, among others, is headlined The EU, Africa and China: Towards Trilateral Dialogue and Cooperation. It states that “the European Union and China are both long-standing partners of African countries,” and describes Beijing’s approach in Africa as follows: “China’s official development policy is to pursue cooperation with the focus on sovereignty, solidarity, peace and development with non-interference in domestic affairs and mutual benefit as key principles. Trade, investment, turnkey infrastructure projects and training in China (fellowships) are the main tools supported mainly through loans and in-kind operations.”
And further: “both the EU and China have a strong shared interest in promoting stable and sustainable development in Africa”, and this reality “has been recognized by the EU and China” at the tenth China-EU Summit in Beijing on Nov. 28, 2007.
The question is therefore “whether more can be done between the EU, Africa and China to reinforce their policy dialogue and cooperation through forms of trilateral cooperation.” The EU Commission “argues that we should begin on the basis of consensus to establish, in a gradual, but progressive way, a cooperative three-way agenda with both our African and Chinese partners in a number of areas where synergies and mutual benefits can be maximized.”
The areas where the Commission calls for a “pragmatic and progressive approach,” a “shared approach” and “effective aid,” are: 1. Peace and security in Africa, 2. Support for African infrastructure, 3. Sustainable management of the environment and natural resources and 4. Agriculture and food security.
On the basis of this policy, when Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road in September 2013, it was to be expected that the EU would welcome it with great enthusiasm, as corresponding to EU expectations. But as EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen advanced at the EU, China’s role as a desired partner in developing Africa, vanished.
The explanation for that is to be found in the EU’s new colonization schemes, disguised as the “Green Deal” or “save planet” schemes, which aim above all to prevent the development of Africa and poor countries in general. China has become a threat not to “European values”, but to such imperialist schemes.