From Asia Times
Slowly but surely, the EU is shifting its priorities to the East
Chinese President Xi concluded his state visit to France on March 26
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Let's start with the essential background for the meeting in Paris on Tuesday between Chinese President Xi Jinping and three EU heavyweights French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President of the European Commission (EC) Jean-Claude Juncker.
China's growth: 139%. India's growth: 96%. the US' growth: 34%. EU growth: a negative 2%.
French mainstream media, controlled by a rarified group of oligarchs, spun a risible narrative that Macron "imposed" this four-way meeting on Xi to press on him the new EC strategy aiming to "clarify" Chinese ambiguity in relation to the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
As I previously reported, the EC now brands China a "systemic rival," and seems to have realized that Beijing is an "economic competitor in search of technological leadership." And that may translate as a threat to European values and norms.
Xi had just come from Rome - where the populist, eurosceptic Lega, Five Stars coalition government became the first G7 nation to sign a partnership with the BRI, igniting massive sparks of Atlanticist fear.
So in the end, what did we get from Chancellor Angela Merkel as the EU faced a process French elites describe as Sino-globalization?
We had realpolitik. Merkel stressed the BRI was an "important" project: "We, as Europeans, want to play an active part and that must lead to certain reciprocity and we are still wrangling over that a bit." She added: "We are seeing the project as a good visualization of interaction, interrelation and interdependence."
Merkel was essentially relaying the position of German business elites - as a trade powerhouse, the future of Germany lies in turbo-charging business with Asia, especially China.
So, instead of demonizing Rome, in practice Berlin will eventually embark on the same path. After all, Duisburg, in the Ruhr valley, is already the de facto top BRI terminal in northern Europe.
Xi and his EU partners did not fail to emphasize multilateralism. There could not be a more glaring contrast to the Trump administration's narrative that China is a threat and the BRI is all about Chinese "vanity." Juncker even tried to defuse the "systemic" tension: "We understand that China does not like the expression 'rivals,' but it is a compliment describing our shared ambitions."
Add to it that Xi also felt the need to remind the EU leadership of the obvious. China will continue to "open up," as it managed in only 40 years to accomplish what Europe did over the course of the entire industrial revolution.
New Silk Air, anyone?
On the -- embattled -- Macron front, more than New Silk Roads, a de facto New Silk Air seems to be in effect.