Now, the 27-nation European bloc sees China as a systematic competitor on the world stage, having previously been an ally and economic partner.
Today, Thursday, the King of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, received the Chinese Vice President, Han Zheng, in The Hague, while China continues to try to improve its relations with the European Union, which is a major economic partner for Beijing.
The visit comes at a time when Chinese-Western relations have declined for several reasons, including human rights (the Uyghur minority), Beijing’s position on the Russian war on Ukraine, and the trade dispute with the United States.
Now the 27-nation European bloc sees China as a systematic competitor on the world stage after it was previously an ally and economic partner.
The Chinese vice president is expected to meet Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte later in the day for a political discussion.
On Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Analina Birbock said that Berlin wants to work in partnership with Beijing “in every possible place,” but warned that Germany would reach a stage where it “relies on China even in terms of security,” describing that as naive.
The German view expressed by Beerbock is shared by many of Berlin’s partners in the West.
The EU is not calling for a complete economic or geopolitical decoupling from China yet, but there are concrete steps that indicate it wants to reduce over-reliance on the communist state.
The European Union, of which the Netherlands is a founding member, wants Beijing to be more assertive with Moscow, desiring to end the war.
The visit also comes amid diplomatic tensions over proposed new EU trade measures against countries that help the Kremlin circumvent the bloc’s sanctions on Russia.
For the first time, the European Union this week proposed a new package of sanctions to Moscow that included 8 Chinese companies believed to be working to “re-export sensitive equipment to Russia,” allowing it to arm its army.
China responded quickly to the European proposal and threatened that it would respond in kind if sanctions were imposed on its companies.