Daniel Korski

The West needs to stop being taken for a ride by China

The West needs to stop being taken for a ride by China
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Over the last twenty years, Western leaders have believed that engaging China would help shape Beijing’s policies. When China cooperated, the West engaged. When China became obstructionist, the West engaged some more. This failure to push for genuinely reciprocal engagement has, as my think-tank colleagues John Fox and Francois Godement argue, allowed China to take the West for a ride. For example, why is a Communist dictatorship that spends £20 billion on hosting the Olympics, receiving £30-odd million in British development aid?

European nations have exacerbated this problem by engaging in an unseemly contest to become China’s new best friend. The Chinese have ably exploited this. As Fox and Godement put it, China “sees its relationship with the EU as a game of chess, with 27 opponents crowding the other side of the board and squabbling about which piece to move.” So, the UK has long pushed to open European markets for Chinese goods, but failed to pry open the Chinese financial service sector. France’s trade deficit with China has exploded and even Germany’s manufacturing exports cannot make up for the move by Chinese-made exports up the value chain. EU goods exports to China in 2007 were €71.6 billion. But EU imports in that year were €230.8 billion.

China has not exactly played ball on the international stage either. It has undermined Western efforts to deal with the junta in Burma, punish Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe in or sort out Sudan’s genocidaires. The Chinese navy is busy with its plans to build large combat warships, next-generation aircraft and sophisticated torpedoes: the offensive intent of these should be clear to all.

The West should stop giving China something for nothing. The European Union arms embargo imposed on China after Tiananmen Square, should only be lifted if China sanctions Iran. China should only receive coveted “Market Economy Status” if its removes barriers of entry to its domestic market. No more free riding.