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China, Seeking a Friend in Europe, Finds Rising Anger and Frustration

作者:admin 2020-09-18

China, Seeking a Friend in Europe, Finds Rising Anger and Frustration  第1张

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  • Sept. 17, 2020, 12:36 p.m. ET

After rebuking a senior Czech lawmaker for visiting Taiwan this month, the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, received an obscenity-laced public letter that punctuated just how far China’s standing in Europe has fallen.

“You should be ashamed,” another lawmaker, Pavel Novotny, an outspoken district mayor in Prague, wrote, calling the Chinese “impudent, thoughtless, uncouth clowns” and demanding an apology.

The outburst was not an isolated one.

In country after country, China is facing rising anger over its policies and its behavior — from trade to human rights — a major setback on a continent that Beijing has viewed as a more pragmatic, and thus more willing, partner to provide ballast against sharply deteriorating relations with the United States.

For China’s leader, Xi Jinping, a lasting shift in European views poses an enormous challenge. In the short term, it threatens to undermine the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery by stifling new investments as the United States restricts them, especially in high tech. In the longer term, it could blunt his ambitions for China to offer an alternative to the United States as the global leader dictating the rules for governance and trade.

European frustrations with Chinese policies have been mounting, but they crystallized this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. China’s obfuscation of its early missteps in containing the coronavirus and its failure at “mask diplomacy” soured public sentiment in several countries, especially the Netherlands and Spain, where protective gear and other supplies that were purchased, not donated, were found to be defective.

That has hardened views that China’s authoritarianism is fundamentally at odds with Europe’s political values despite continued pledges that Beijing seeks peaceful collaboration. So has the imposition of a new national security law in Hong Kong that has been used to crack down on dissent in the semiautonomous territory.

ImageChina, Seeking a Friend in Europe, Finds Rising Anger and Frustration  第2张

“It makes it really hard for them to convey a message of cooperation and peacefulness and harmonious society, if at the same time you see schoolgirls being beaten up by the Hong Kong police,” said Janka Oertel, director of the Asia Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, referring to an incident captured on video recently.

Mr. Xi on Monday called for a “comprehensive strategic partnership” during a virtual summit with the European Union’s leadership, but the meeting, which was once supposed to cement closer economic ties, ended with little progress on even a more limited investment pact. Instead it exposed rifts that had previously been pushed to the background.

Mr. Xi faced — and brushed aside — unusually harsh criticism on a variety of issues that reflected growing popular animosity toward China. The Europeans accused China of slow-walking promises to combat climate change. They criticized the new crackdown in Hong Kong and the longstanding one in Tibet. The Europeans also raised the imprisonment of a Swedish bookseller, the arrests of two Canadians in transparent retaliation for a criminal extradition case, and China’s unilateral moves in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

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