After her first teleconference with President Xi Jinping, Ursula von der Leyen had made a very important statement, which in any case was the last in a chain of small shifts from last decade’s acritical atlanticism of the EU: “The relationship between the EU and China is simultaneously one of the most strategically important and one of the most challenging that we have,” She had pointed the finger at China for “cyberattacks on computing systems, on hospitals”, adding sternly that “we know the origin of the cyberattacks”, on disinformation campaigns and on the subject of Hong Kong she spoke of “very negative consequences” should Beijing go ahead with the national security law (what ha just happened).
Xi, not impressed by such statements, went on to say that China was “a partner, not an opponent” to the EU, and would continue to deepen reform and expand opening up, providing Europe with a new round of cooperation opportunities and development space. “No matter how the international situation changes, China will take the side of multilateralism and adhere to the global governance concept of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefit.”
Today, the big issue confronting the EU is World Trade Organisation reform. While the US’ hostile approach to the WTO was not welcomed in Brussels, the EU was equally dismayed by Beijing’s attitude. However, if we recall that, a few years ago, EU wanted to sign the TTIP with the US for sorting out China, a great step forward has been done (mainly, thanks to President Trump) in the direction of an overall agreement with China. On the other side, de facto, China is already doing what the EU requires, restraining from investments in Europe and allowing further European investments in China. It is questionable whether these trends are really in the interest of Europe, which needs investments in its own economy.
Finally, once the idea of signing the TTIP fallen aside in March last year, the Commission had classified in a first moment China as a “systemic rival”, while also referring to it as an economic partner and strategic competitor. The idea of a “systemic rival” is very ideological, hinting at old Cold War definitions, which Europe had rejected since a long time, and that now are being revived only under US pressure. Then came the issue of next-generation 5G mobile technology, as different EU countries debated whether to comply with Washington’s demand to ban Chinese telecommunications giant.
As Stefano Stefanini remarked in “La Stampa”, the most important news is that Xi and Li Keqiang have decided to endorse a great power status for EU, since the dialogue has taken place directly between Xi (the President and secretary of the CPC) and Li Keqiang (the Prime Minister), from one side, and Charles Michel (the President of the Council) and Ursula von der Leyen (the President of the EU Commission),from the other.
China sticks to its friendly attitude towards Europe, which it had at the times of Jesuits, of Mao, of the economic reforms, and especially of Xi Jinping, who loves to speak of the “Peoples of Eurasia”.This friendliness is especially important in a moment when the Union needs badly a support to its assertiveness. From another point of view, it is difficult to deny that the idea of Europe’s unity had made many leaps forwards since the beginning thank to reflections as the ones of Leibniz and Voltaire about China.
Since the beginning of the XXI century, I had considered, alongside Asimov, Kubrick, Snowden and Joy, as a priority, to fight against the overcoming of Mankind by Intelligent Machines. Since then and up to now, this threat has come constantly from the Silicon Valley and the NSA, as shown by thousands of law cases all over the world and by the work published by the same initiators of the US digital industry, such as Joy and Musk. Now, the US OTTs are no more alone in their industry, because also China has developed, at an astonishing pace, its digital industry (the BATX), which, under several points of view, is even more advanced than the American, and represents a similar, but not identical, threat, because China does not dominate Europe, nor the rest of the world. So, in any case, it may cause less damage, also because China’s move is defensive, against monopolies which pretended to extend to China, the homeland of the highest population of surfers.
But, especially, this newly arisen competition hinders one party’s domination, and , even if its excessive enthusiasm for new technologies is suspect, the world should be thankful to China for this.
1.Europe unduly harsh towards China
Apart from the fact that Europe had given up since many years to the idea of “exporting democracy”, it seems inequitable to indict China for things that, when they are done by Western countries, are not even remarked,
The Hong Kong national security law is very similar to the US Subversion Act 1807, invoked by President Trump against anti-racists rallies, and especially to the Spanish criminal code utilized for condemning the Catalan Government (« rebelión »- paragraphs 472 and 473 ;“distracción ilegal de caudales públicos” -paragraph 478;”malversación de caudales públicos” -paragraphs 432 and 252; “desobediencia grave” -paragraph 410-).The Generalitat (an autonomous region as Hong Long) has been put under direct control of the Central State, and the ministers have been condemned to very heavy penalties, something that has not occurred, up to now, in Hong Kong.
In the same way, the repression of political Islam in Xin Jiang is not so much different from what has happened in the neighbouring Afghanistan, occupied for less than 10 years by Russians and for 20 by Americans, who are now indicted in front of the International Criminal Court.
In the same way, the annexation of Crimea is not more unjustifiable, from the point of view of international law, than the one of the West Bank.
Then, why to impose sanctions on China and Russia and not on Spain, USA and Israel?
In reality, all these anti-Chinese arguments seem to be first of all just negotiating tools, because more focused arguments are lacking, and in reality no one wants to interrupt negotiations, but nobody wants even to conclude them waiting for this year’s American elections.
The EU, and especially Angela Merkel, wants to reach a substantial agreement with China, because their economy needs markets, capitals and customers. Especially the dominating EU industries, like the German car manufactures and their Italian and Spanish sub/suppliers, need a favourable climate for their most promising market, already in difficulty because of Trump’s trade wars and the Wuhan lockdown.
And, if we analyse the two parties’ mutual relationships, we see that a similar swing is not new at all.
|Trump’s West Bank Annexation Plan, more questionable than Crimea’s|
2.”Digital Renminbi”, Made in China 2025 and China Standards 2035
Things will probably further change with the recent advance of China in digital industries, whose further progress is already planned (“Digital Renminbi” “Made in China 2025”; “China Standards 2035”). From another point of view, such advance, exerting a certain weight on the military balance with the US, could be a further area of specific conflict, which could degenerate into a total one.
The impact of this technological duopoly may represent, for Europe, at the same time a challenge and an opportunity. A challenge, because it will make still more difficult, than today, to stop a deadly escalation among autonomous weapons as had succeeded in the Petrov case, and, from another point of view, an opportunity, because Europeans will not be put any more in front of the diktat of a sole alternative, the American one, and will be able to choose between two, or among many, up to a moment when (we hope) they will be in a position to build up their own technology. Angela Merkel and Li Keqiang have spoken some days ago about technology. Here lies the most important aspect of the relationship. China is so advanced in digital, that it is the only partner which could help Europe to become achieve technological sovereignty before this is too late. An example is the proposal of Huawei to sell to third parties on an absolute exclusivity basis the whole technology package of G5, whilst Huawei would focus only on the new G6.A similar formula could be utilised for acquiring from China the algorythms for creating a European web apt to sustain US competition. The idea of a European telecom giant between Nokia and Erickson could be achieved thanks an agreement with Huawei.
Now, following an indication of our “Da Qin” post, the Italian central bank has expressed its wish to participate, in an experimental way, to the creation , by the European Bank, of a European digital currency.
The same approach could be followed for the creation, in Italy, with the Recovery Fund and the help of China, of other exemplary forefront digital activities, such the digital academy and a European Web,
It would be the case that a collaboration is started between European and Chinese on all these new technological fields. It has to be recalled that, as written below, China is filing one half of all patents filed in the world.
3.Europe’s crisis is caused first of all by the American hegemony
Europe and America are not the same thing for a reason very well expressed by Huntington in “Who we Are”: America is the Dissidence of Dissent. Puritans flying from Europe because English Protestants were not sufficiently anti-traditional for their tests. As well exemplified by Dan Brown in his “The Lost Symbol”, America is a hidden theocracy of Christian sects at the borderline with political radicalism, esoteric Freemasonry and Qabbalism.
America had overcome Europe already with World war I, when it had imposed on the UK the Lend-Lease Agreements, the “14 points”, the Society of Nations and American films. With the military occupation after WWII, it just completed the conquest of Europe. As Trockij had written during WWI, after the wear, “America would have contingented European capitalism”, what is what they did with the Marshall Plan, European Antitrust, the hegemony of the dollar…
Since, in a world which is conformist as the present one, it is essential that people think that America is winning, every effort has been deployed since ever for showing that the USA are and remain stronger than any other. For this reason, when the weight of America declines, Europe’s weight must decline even more. From this come the tariffs, the sanctions (which do not hit China and Russia, which, on the contrary, have become more independent, but Europe), as well as the giant lawsuits against European corporations.
As a consequence, Europe has a dramatical interest in reducing, especially now, USA’s influence over its society. Since Europe is very weak, the only way to reduce US influence is to play intelligently with Chinese, Russian, Islamic and Israeli influences, as well as the ones of the Churches. Today, US influence may be considered as one half of all the external influences over Europe. It is still too much for giving Europe a real freedom of movement. As an example, in case of a total war, Europe would find very hard to avoid being involved.
Even the continuous US/China bilateral trade negotiations are often at the expenses of EU economy. For instance, China bought more than US$1 billion worth of soybeans from America in the first quarter of 2020. Photo: Bloomberg
For instance, China’s commitments under a trade agreement signed with the United States in January have left European firms feeling frozen out of the world’s largest consumer market, observers say. Under the deal – reached in an effort to put the brakes on a trade war that started in July 2018 – Beijing promised to buy an additional US$200 billion worth of American agricultural products over the next two years.For European firms, who had made some inroads into Chinese markets during the trade war – as Beijing sought alternatives to its usual US suppliers – the phase one deal, as the January agreement is known, came as a body blow.
In 2018, with the trade war under way, Beijing granted approval to 46 meat companies from European Union (EU) countries to export their products to China, more than double the figure for the US. Last year, as China grappled with a shortage of pork and other meats due to an outbreak of African swine fever, which killed an estimated 60 per cent of its pig herd, the number of EU meat producers granted approval to export more than doubled to 112.EU sales of agricultural products to China in 2019 rose 38 per cent from the previous year to €15.3 billion (US$17.1 billion).
The trend has been reversed in 2020, with 1,024 US companies getting the green light to sell to China, compared with just 24 from the EU. In the first three months of 2020, China bought more than US$1 billion worth of soybeans from America – one of the world’s biggest suppliers of the crop – and US$691 million worth of US.
Meanwhile, European sales of agricultural goods to China are set to take a further hit after officials in Beijing said the new outbreak of Covid-19 in the city was linked to a “European strain” of the coronavirus.
4.A cultural revolution
For the reasons listed above, for understanding how Europe should interface with China, it is preliminary to locate the present conflict within an overall vision of what present days superpowers are, i.e, holistic realities which we may understand only adopting at the same time different points of view, the ones of world-view, ideologies, alliances, supra-national organisations, confederations, federations, nations.
For what America is concerned, it is sufficient to think of the complexities of the “Hidden Empire” described by Immerwahr; as to China, the nature of its empire lies in the vague and archaic concept of “Tian Xia” as described by Zhao Tinyang (see post n. 3 below). Both of them are purported global empires which have not achieved up to now their final goals because of the existence of alternative empires and sovereign states. Their mutual conflict is not subject to mediation, because it arises from their similar ambitions to world power, well expressed by the 矛盾, (“hanzi / maodun”) contradiction.
The ambiguities of the two concepts depend on our inability to locate the same within their specific holistic context:
-the limitation of human beings, denied by the messianic pretention of the Perpetual peace;
-the contradiction of Western eschatologies, with the Tree Ages myth, the Antichrist, the Millennium;
-the vagueness of Classical Chinese, and in particular, the absence of a clear cut times declension.
As a consequence, it is very unlikely that, either the Americanisation, or the Sinicization, of the world, may be really carried out, so that the world will go on being “polyhedrical”, so guaranteeing the freedom of all peoples.
Also Muhammad (r.w.m.’.), Rousseau and Kant, often described as tenants of a Uniform World State, considered this a monster, and appreciated all kind of differences :“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” – [Holy Qur’an, 49:13].
This implies a persistence of international conflicts, not only among States, but also among worldviews, up to the Last Day. Possible (and positive) moments of encounter and of peace exist, as have existed in the past. The first, and not yet overcome example was the “Pax Aeterna”, signed among the Byzantine emperor Heraclios and the Persian emperor Khosrow, to which also China, India and the Huns should have been participated. Second case was the Treaty (‘aqd) signed between Emperor Frederick II and the Egyptian King al-Malik, for the recovery of Jerusalem. Even the signing of the Charter of the United Nations did not bring an end to wars. On the contrary, very important conflicts (Israelo-Palestine, Indo-Pakistani, Greek and Korean wars) were under way in that period.
Also today, the maximum to which we may strive is a similar situation, a “plural world” with peaceful competition, as opposed to “Existential Risk”.
5.Europe has to fight against the perspective of WWIII
Europe is indeed now a piece-loving country, not because of a special spirit of election, but because today its most concrete development prospects lie in pacific activities, such as culture, digital and environment (in which it can be the first in rank), and not in mass production, bureaucracy and technological warfare. For which it is not endowed, especially after the disastrous internecine religious, dynastic, colonial and, finally, the civil/World Wars. This had been foreseen relatively clearly already by Fichte and Nietzsche
From another point of view, the war of today is not a “hot war”, but, on the contrary, a virtual one, fought at the writing desk, in conference halls, via the web, in laboratories and television studios.
Consistently with this “pacific” vocation, Europe, being in any case one of the largest countries of the world, does not need a huge offensive apparatus, but, on the contrary, just a thin, but very effective defence (and counterintelligence)apparatus, in a position to protect Europeans from any attack to the freedom of our country, without invading others (as done in Sinai, Somalia, Iraq, Kossovo, Afghanistan, Libya), according to the traditional defence doctrines of Switzerland and Sweden (“Om kriget komer”, “inte samarbejde!”).
The ambitions of Europe, starting from Reconquista, has gone through radically different stages: requerimiento (1492-1600); colonisation(1650-1800); exploitation (12850-1950); neo-colonialism (1950-1990); democratic imperialism(1995-2010); rhetoric equalitarism (2015-today). For the future,they should not lie, as it happens still today, in territorial expansion, but more in the upscaling of all its social activities, so being able to seize a “nobler” position in the international division of work (“a trendsetter”), as opposed to the present situation (“a follower”). Europe as a center of religion and of big data, of culture and high tech, of environment and of cyber-defence, of automatisation and of financial organisations, of tourism and international trade. No need of re-locating labour intensive industries, because we will be all “Saints, Poets and Seafarers”.
A type of ambition and, consequently, of defence, radically different from the American one. As a consequence, it is very difficult that, in such post-modern world, America and Europe will go on having a common interest (and even complementarity) in defence structure. A “secondary” consequence is that Europe has no interest in conflicting with China.