EU-China: Let's face the hard truth about China
28 June 2011
The European debt crisis is an open goal for Chinese investment overseas. This is why we need to understand what kind of power China is becoming, argues British historian Timothy Garton Ash.
Once upon a time, Europe colonised bits of China. Today, China colonises bits of Europe. Informally, of course, and much more politely than when the boot was on the other foot. China's rise both illuminates and exploits Europe's relative decline. When prime minister Wen Jiabao comes to Europe, he will visit Germany, Britain and Hungary. Why Hungary? Partly because it holds the rotating presidency of the EU but also because China has large investments there and aims to make more – as it does elsewhere in south-eastern and southern Europe. A forthcoming study by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) estimates that 40% of Chinese investment in the EU is in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and eastern Europe. Why pay so much attention to the periphery? Well, there are promising investments to be made there and these smaller, peripheral economies are an easy way in to a single European market of 500 million consumers. The EU market is far more open to Chinese investors than the Chinese one is to Europeans. Investing heavily in these countries also has a political pay-off. It is not too cynical to see Beijing building up a kind of China lobby inside the decision-making structures of the EU, where the smallest state is at least notionally equal to the biggest. Read the rest of the article at The Guardian...