After Brexit, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), might be a better partner for dialogue with China than the European Union.
While the British opted for Brexit and the EU presented its strategy to achieve its ambitions vis a vis China, China’s president Xi Jinping made a high-profile trip through Central and Eastern Europe. He visited Serbia and Poland before finishing the week with private talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The Chinese president returned to Beijing with a pocket full of deals on trade, education, technology, infrastructure and civil aviation. Of course, all fit within the One Belt One Road plan, the ambitious infrastructurual renewal of the former Silk Route.
For China these contacts are vital. The Central and Eastern European countries are an important part of this infrastructure plan as the the are the gateway to Western Europe and Africa. Chinese investments into Europe last year hit 20 billion Euro (US$22,45 billion). That means a rise of 44% in comparison to investments in 2014. Half of this investment went to Germany, France and the UK. The other half was distributed among the Central and Eastern European countries.
The growing presence of China in the EU delivers not only investment, but also a security threat for Europe. After the ‘tête-a-tête’ with Putin a common statement followed that criticised the US (on missile shield deployment) and the G7 who recently gathered in Japan. Key in the declaration is that the US should not intervene in developments in the South China Sea. That is China’s backyard, the part of the world where China is the most powerful nation. That is why China, perhaps following the example of the US behaviour in the Carribean Sea, claims to have exclusive rights there.
On July 12th, the Court of Arbitration in The Hague is to decide on Philippines versus China on the South China Sea, a case that was filed by The Philippines in 2013. Whatever the verdict is, it will put further stress on the escalating situation in the South China Sea, with all its consequences for international geopolitical relations. For the EU, the South China Sea may seem far away. It is not.
GB vs SE
In midst of all these tumultuous developments we have to witness how Great Britain became Small England. Or, in other words, how conservative, older, white people blocked the way for young people with more global ambitions by choosing to end the vacillating participation of the United Kingdom in the European Union. Undoubtedly this wil have a direct impact on the power dynamic between the EU and China.
While the Britons decided to leave the EU and Xi Jingping made his tour through Central and Eastern Europe, Brussels presented a China Strategy. This is an important document, revealing EU’s ambitions regarding China. Unfortunately it is not ambitious at all. Apart from a few nice ideas, like further collaboration in the field of education, the approach of the strategy is defensive and lacks pro-active proposals to give substance to the relation between China and the EU.
News Ambitions for the OSCE
There are 57 member countries of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), from more than Europe alone. The OSCE spans the world “ from Vancouver to Vladivostok”.
It is worthwhile to seriously consider the OSCE as a far more logical partner for dialogue with China than the EU. First , in addition to the EU member states, the US and Canada, Russia and the Central Asian Republics are member states of the OSCE. These are exactly the countries where China is making significant political and economic gains while chasing its ‘One Belt, One Road’ dream. Apart from that, the OSCE’s explicit mandate on securtiy is a strong reason to seriously explore how a structural dialogue between China and the OSCE could be stimulated.
In our world today, everything seems possible and we are all challenged to think “out-of the box”. That means also that relations, that until recently were considered absolutely unthinkable, deserve a serious consideration.