European Union foreign ministers have clubbed together to agree on an infrastructure investment project to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Beijing has been steadily expanding its influence through a series of strategic investments in global transport hubs and ports since 2013. In a bid to counter China’s growing relevance to European supply chains EU leaders have announced their own strategy called “Globally Connected Europe.”
The EU’s Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell stressed the bloc’s ambitions were to boost connectivity between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
“It has a broader purpose to put connectivity at the center of our external policy,” he said.
“We started to do this two years ago with our agreement with Japan.
“But it seems that today is much more important for us to look at the connectivity problems with the broader Middle East and looking forward to Central Asia and China, but not with the same approach and the same purposes that China has with the Belt and Road initiative.”
However, a researcher at the Bruegel think-tank has stressed that Europe must diversify trade flows in order to avoid being overly dependent on links with China.
Alicia García-Herrero told Euronews: “Importing, for example, 90 percent of a critical product through a port that belongs to China and suddenly trying for whatever reason to argue against whatever with China.
“Then you have two potential bottlenecks: your imports and your ports.”
It comes as G7 leaders signed up to a broader plan to counter Beijing’s influence through the “Build Back Better World” project.
It comes as Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron suffered a humiliating slapdown over their failure to stand up to China.
“Chinese tech giant Tencent’s WeChat social media platform has deleted dozens of LGBT+ accounts run by university students, saying some had broken rules on information on the Internet, sparking fear of a crackdown on gay content online.”
Macron, Merkel, and Xi Jinping had hosted a summit earlier week to discuss EU-China relations.
“They also discussed international trade, climate protection, and biodiversity,” said the German Chancellor’s office in a statement.
“The conversation also revolved around cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, global vaccine supply, and international and regional issues.”