The Berlin Pulse > 2020/21 > Sitting on the Fence

Sitting on the Fence

Europe’s Position in Great-Power Politics

Answers by Ng Eng Hen, Paolo Gentiloni, Kori Schake and Yao Yunzhu, among others

Under the Trump administration, tensions between the United States and China have increased, leading to a trade war with both countries imposing protectionist duties on each other’s goods. So are we in the middle of a new Cold War? While some experts use this analogy, Kori Schake and Yao Yunzhu lay out why they do not consider it suitable.

Irrespective of what we call the current developments, the question remains how the European Union and its member states should position themselves in this great-power competition. When asked, 56 percent of Germans say that close relations with the United States are more important than with China. However, 82 percent of respondents in Germany and 68 percent of respondents in the United Kingdom would prefer to remain neutral in a US-China conflict. Pauline Neville-Jones explains how Europe can avoid being caught in the middle.

During the course of 2020, many European governments decided to restrict market access for Huawei or even banned the Chinese company as a supplier of 5G infrastructure. The contribution by Paolo Gentiloni demonstrates that the European Union recognizes the necessity to move towards enhanced European sovereignty and to reduce economic as well as technological dependencies. By contrast, the German public is still torn: 51 percent of respondents say Germany should ban the provision of critical infrastructure by non-democratic states, whereas 42 percent say it should not.

While the survey results do not give a clear answer to the question of whether COVID-19 has strengthened (49 percent) or weakened (41 percent) European solidarity, the ongoing pandemic has certainly had one effect. It has accelerated the debate about a reshaping of the world economy and has turbocharged some countries’ desire to roll back their global trade and investment ties. Yet, as Ng Eng Hen points out, increased European economic independence should not lead to isolation but to more cooperation with like-minded partners in the Indo-Pacific. According to Vijay Gokhale, India and the EU should partner to strengthen multilateralism and to counterbalance ‘China’s unipolar dream’. Europe has to walk the line between political cooperation and economic independence – without losing its balance.

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Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Germany
Full Tilt for the Multilateral Trading System
What Germany can and should do in light of loosening US-Chinese economic ties

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Paolo Gentiloni
Three Questions to…
Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for Economy, European Commission, Brussels

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Pauline Neville-Jones, Member of the House of Lords; fmr. Security Adviser to David Cameron, London
Caught in the Middle?
How Europe can maintain control over its future

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Alexander Gabuev, Senior Fellow and Chair, Russia in the Asia-Pacific Program, Carnegie Moscow Center, Moscow
Pax Sinica
Europe's dilemma in facing the Sino-Russian axis

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Kori Schake/Yao Yunzhu
Taking a Side? Diverging perspectives on a new Cold War
Yao Yunzhu, Major General (retired), Member of Academic Committee, Center for International Security and Strategy, Tsinghua University
Kori Schake,Director, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute, Washington D.C.

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Ng Eng Hen, Minister of Defence, Singapore
‘It is in Germany’s interest to be present’
Ng Eng Hen on stability in the Indo-Pacific

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Vijay Gohale, frm. Ambassador to Germany and the People's Republic of China; fmr. Foreign Secretary, Republic of India
EU-India Synergies
Four common fronts for cooperation

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Elisabeth von Hammerstein (parental leave)
Programme Director
Körber Network Foreign Policy; Munich Young Leaders

+49 • 30 • 206 267 - 75
Twitter @EvHammerstein

Julia Ganter
Programme Manager
The Berlin Pulse

+49 • 30 • 206 267 - 64

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