In a landmark report announced on Sept. 16, the European Parliament urged the European Union (EU) to adopt a more robust strategy to engage with the communist Chinese regime to defend its vital democratic values.
The new EU strategy on China was approved by an overwhelming majority in Strasbourg, France, on Sept. 15, with 570 votes in favor, 61 against, and 40 abstentions.
The report outlined six pillars on which the EU and its member states should work together to build a new strategy to deal with China. It includes cooperation on global challenges, engagement on international norms and human rights, identifying risks and vulnerabilities, building partnerships with like-minded partners, fostering strategic autonomy, and defending European interests and values.
Members of the European Parliament (MEP) made a series of recommendations to the EU and its 27 member states, such as addressing human rights violations, tackling Beijing’s disinformation campaigns, calling for an independent investigation into the origin of COVID-19, and excluding Chinese companies that don’t fulfill security standards in 5G and 6G wireless telecommunication networks.
“We must not be naive when dealing with China,” said MEP Hilde Vautmans after the vote on Sept. 15. “Economic gains should not make us blind to the Chinese Communist Party’s ambitious political agenda, its increasingly assertive foreign policy, and its repressions in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.”
MEPs in the report also asked Beijing to allow an independent and transparent probe into the origins and spread of COVID-19.
The European Parliament reiterated its condemnation of the Chinese regime’s systemic human rights violations in Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and Hong Kong. It also urged support for European companies that have suffered from the regime’s economic coercion after cutting ties with forced labor in Xinjiang, while calling for a ban on forced labor products.
Earlier this year, the EU leveled sanctions against Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials over their role in overseeing the repression of ethnic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, which led to Beijing slapping retaliatory sanctions against European politicians and entities. The deepening row led to the freezing of a bilateral trade deal in May after seven years of negotiations.
The European Parliament emphasized in the report that the deal won’t move ahead unless the regime in Beijing lifts its sanctions on MEPs and EU institutions.
The report noted that the differences in fundamental values between the EU and China are rooted in the CCP. The ruling party, which is committed to Marxism–Leninism, is against democratic values such as freedom of speech and religion, it said.
“We must defend our values and interests by acquiring European strategic autonomy in areas such as trade, digital and security, and defense,” said Vautmans, calling for the 27 member states to work together to confront the regime’s threat.
European Commissioner on international partnership Jutta Urpilainen said during debate on Sept. 14: “China will remain an increasingly assertive global power that does not shy away from applying economic pressure on countries and actors whose policies it disagrees with.
“Our values gap is growing.”
The report also called for developing an EU investment agreement with Taiwan. MEPs had pushed the EU to build closer ties with the democratic-ruled island in a previous resolution adopted by the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs on Sept. 1.
MEPs also sought to combat Beijing’s disinformation efforts, recommending the creation of a dedicated committee to monitor and counter such campaigns.
They also proposed the development of a regulatory system to prevent European media companies from being acquired by firms controlled or sponsored by third-country governments.
The European Parliament urged EU member states to work with like-minded partners, such as the United States, Canada, UK, Japan, India, South Korea, and Australia.
Educational and research institutions across the EU should be free from the CCP’s influence and financial support, the report said. It encouraged programs that study Chinese culture and languages independently from the CCP’s influence, such as those from Taiwan.
On Sept. 15, the EU announced an investment project to counter the regime’s controversial infrastructure investment program, the Belt and Road Initiative. Beijing has poured billions of dollars into infrastructure projects across Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Asia, and analysts worry it’s used to expand the regime’s global influence while ensnaring developing countries in “debt traps.”