Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has driven a wedge between the European Union and China, and for the first time in the history of their relationship, Brussels is ready to go on the offensive.
The world’s second and third-largest economies have been at loggerheads
since March 2021, when the European Parliament halted ratification of the
Comprehensive Agreement on Investment over human rights concerns. But
since Russian forces entered Ukraine on Feb. 24, relations have cratered, and
there seems to be little prospect of any reconciliation.
Brussels is irate at Beijing’s refusal to condemn Russian aggression in
Ukraine. In the early days of the war, EU officials hoped that China would try
to broker a peace deal, but a frosty virtual summit between EU leaders and
Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 1 dashed these expectations. More
importantly though, the war in Ukraine has forced Europe to start thinking
geopolitically for the first time since 1991. EU countries’ growth expectations
for 2022 have been slashed amid spiking energy prices. The EU’s longstanding assumption that economics can be a substitute for actual foreign
policy in dealing with authoritarian states now looks like a bad bet.