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Sunday, May 19, 2024
Gov & Politics

U.S. Wants Allies to Line Up Against China. Europe is Starting to Listen.

China and the U.S. are in a race to build up their world power blocs, and both are using the same pressure point: the war in Ukraine.

Last week, China’s leader Xi Jinping spent three days in Russia, solidifying his “no limits” partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden kicks off his second Summit for Democracy — aiming to rally world leaders around principles of freedom, rule of law and human rights.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Europeans are starting to pay more attention to Biden’s message about the dangers of dependence on dictatorships. With urgency like never before, they are restricting exports of chip-making equipment to China, banning TikTok on government devices and pushing protectionist trade policy. Even long-time holdout Germany, the European Union’s biggest economy and a heavy investor in China, is starting to question its business-first ethos.

China is fighting back. It’s strengthening ties with Russia, offering up a peace plan for Ukraine and pushing the message that governments can be “democracies” even if they deny their citizens the right to vote freely for their leaders.

“We are at a heightened moment — between the war in Ukraine, China’s alignment with Russia, and continued economic tremors — and the stakes for international leadership are fraught,” said Stephen Feldstein, who served as U.S. President Barack Obama’s deputy assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor, and who regularly advises current administration officials on those issues.

Europe is listening.

When Joe Biden won the presidency in 2020, the Europeans didn’t want to hear his grand narratives about standing together against authoritarianism. Biden’s attempt to stop a landmark trade agreement between the EU and China in the weeks before his inauguration was met with scorn from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Since then, European leaders have been split on the issue, with many of them frustrated by a U.S. government that is talking about alliances while also becoming more economically protectionist.

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