For the EU, improving China’s labor standards and protecting the economic and social rights of Chinese workers is not only a moral responsibility but a long-term benefit as well.
Currents in Context
As many countries struggle to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, China supposedly has the virus under control. However, the beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan was a different story; one that revealed the weaknesses of the seemingly effective authoritarian power.
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.
China now talks about a “dual-cycle” of development that means less dependence on foreign markets and greater domestic demand. Only by stabilizing employment can the country effectively develop and sustain demand. But current rates of growth suggest stabilizing employment will be a tough ask.
For Wuhan, the period of full closure and containment has passed. But the actions taken to respond to the epidemic, including the mobilizing of new technologies and mass monitoring of the population, will have a lasting impact on people’s lives.
While data protection is an essential priority in applying technological tools to the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, experiences in Taiwan also provide an example to Europe in showcasing the importance of civic involvement in tech solutions.
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.