Spotlight on Geopolitics

European diplomatic traditions, which are some of the most illustrious in the world, have not prevented the External Action Service from writing one of the most inept letters I have ever read. After months of China’s diplomatic bullying, aimed at changing the pandemic narrative in its favour, is this ill-conceived message addressed to the Chinese leadership all that the best diplomatic experts within the EU have been able to come up with ? To add insult to injury, the EU officials have even accepted the letter to be censored by Beijing before its publication, deleting any reference to the fact that the pandemic started in China.

Diplomatic intimidation was not invented by the Chinese. The Nazis used it before them. Just before the start of the second world war, this type of bullying made Neville Chamberlain bow to Hitler’s demands in order to achieve – in his view – “peace with honour”.

Pushing back against Chinese bullying, however, is the only reasonable course of action of any country and self-respecting diplomatic establishment. From my personal experience working for Chinese bosses, I also happen to know that taking a firm stand against their bullying is the only way to deal with the representatives of a nation that has recently achieved economic success, but is still haunted by a huge inferiority complex. Trying to appease Chinese bullying or to ignore it will not make it go away, but will only lead to more serious bullying in the future.

To give but one example, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for an international inquiry into the origins and handling of the coronavirus pandemic. His initiative has prompted a furious attack by the Chinese ambassador to Canberra, who by now is used to treating Australia like a de-facto Chinese colony. He used the media to threaten that Chinese consumers could stop importing Australian beef and wine. This type of threat echoes the Davos speech of a Chinese official this year, who claimed that the United States will not do anything to counter China’s recent belligerence because his country is the biggest market for American hamburgers outside the USA.

“If you give China an inch, they will take a mile. And if you succumb to bullying and intimidation, you can expect only one more thing: more bullying and intimidation. It’s going to be a question not simply of what is Australia saying about what’s happening in China: it’s about China trying to dictate what’s happening in Australia.” (Dr Samantha Power, former US Ambassador to the UN Security Council, in Financial Review, November 2019)

The Chinese amhassador’s assertion that his country’s consumers might decide not to buy Australian beef in the future is also directed against the Chinese middle class. These are the biggest consumers of beef in the country, and if the communist party decides for some reason to stop importing it, they will have to revert to a more traditional, pork-based diet. In other words, the communist party seems as displeased with Australia as they are with the restless Chinese middle class, who have nevertheless made the fatal error of putting their future prosperity into the hands of the communist officials.

The EU , on the other hand, is China’s biggest export market and this fact alone gives it a lot of clout, a temporary disruption in supply chains notwithstanding.

This is why appeasing China’s offensive diplomatic behaviour makes so little sense.

Instead, EU diplomats should intensify calls for an independent inquiry into the handling of the pandemic and declare at least a few Chinese diplomats in Europe persona non grata after their unwarranted offensive behaviour in Paris or Stockholm. Anything else will be construed by the communst regime in Beijing as proof of Western democracies’ inherent weakness. Indeed, like the Nazis before them, their entire propaganda machinery rests on proving to the population how strong China’s communist government is and how weak Western democratic governments are by comparison.

Naturally, no European country wishes to confront China, which is fair enough. However, by appeasing its diplomats’ bullying and ignoring its shameless propaganda, the EU is making a huge error, one which is already being put to good use by the continent’s “ideological competitor”.

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