While “bigger” countries in Europe and the EU are struggling with finding a new China policy, the Baltic states have approached China with a curious mix of independence and engagement.
China Through a European Lens
For a number of years, China seemed to be making inroads in Central and Eastern Europe, even drawing participation in an informal grouping of CEE nations. Lately, though, it seems that CEE states are fed up with unfulfilled promises, aggressive diplomacy and illiberal behavior.
French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken of "boldness," "risk-taking" and the upholding of Enlightenment values as essential to foreign policy. But far from boldness, the current strategy toward China in Paris seems one of avoiding offense at all cost.
In a toughening geopolitical context, with much hanging also on the transition in the US, the months and years to come will certainly be difficult for China-Europe relations – just as this year has undoubtedly been.
While some recent moves, from trade to coronavirus aid, may suggest Italy is moving closer to China, the reality is that the country's China policy continues to seesaw between assuagement of traditional Western allies and closer ties with China.
The importance of the trade relationship with China has encouraged the view in Germany that economic dependencies limit its choices in areas like human rights and investment. But closer scrutiny suggests this might not be the case.