However two high-ranking envoys who attended mentioned there was no instant response from the ministers gathered in Brussels when Blinken mentioned: “We should push China again collectively and present power in unity.”
Their reluctance is partly as a result of an unwillingness to decide to something till Washington extra totally outlines its China coverage underneath President Joe Biden.
However ministers had been additionally cautious because the EU seeks to strike a strategic stability in relations with Beijing and Washington that might make sure that the bloc is just not so carefully tied to one of many world’s two superpowers as to alienate the opposite.
The EU additionally hopes to have enough independence from Washington and Beijing to deepen ties by itself with international locations within the Indo-Pacific area, equivalent to India, Japan and Australia, EU officers mentioned.
† Again to advice tales
In one other transfer to the EU, they mentioned, the bloc hopes to agree subsequent month on a plan that would come with a bigger and extra assertive safety presence within the Indo-Pacific and elevated improvement assist, commerce and diplomacy.
“We’re searching for a 3rd method between Washington and Beijing,” mentioned an EU envoy to Asia.
One other EU official in Asia expressed concern that the US “had an aggressive agenda in opposition to China, which isn’t our agenda”.
‘EUROPE ROAD SHOW’
Final month’s video convention was a part of an effort underneath Biden to rebuild alliances uncared for by former US President Donald Trump, who had a hostile relationship with each the EU and China.
The White Home has launched into a “Europe roadshow,” mentioned a senior US official, and is in every day contact with European governments about China’s rising energy in “a sustained effort for … a excessive diploma of coordination and cooperation.” in quite a few areas.”
As an indication that US stress on China is having an impact, Germany plans to ship a frigate to Asia and throughout the South China Sea in August, the place Beijing has army outposts on synthetic islands, senior authorities officers instructed Reuters.
The EU will even impose sanctions on 4 Chinese language officers and one entity — with journey bans and asset freezes — on March 22 for human rights violations in China’s Uyghur Muslim minority, diplomats mentioned.
As one other signal, when Chinese language President Xi Jinping chaired a video summit with Central and Jap European international locations final month, six EU member states — Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovenia — despatched ministers as an alternative of heads of state.
However there may be nonetheless distrust in Brussels over Washington’s strategy to China, whilst stances in Europe in opposition to China have hardened over Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong, its remedy of Uyghur Muslims and the COVID-19 pandemic. , which was first established in China.
America says China is an authoritarian nation that has launched into a army modernization that threatens the West, and has sought to weaken telecommunications gear producer Huawei, which it sees as a risk to nationwide safety.
NATO’s US-led army alliance can be beginning to concentrate on China, however the Biden administration remains to be reviewing coverage.
“We ask what their China technique is and so they say they nonetheless do not have one,” the EU official in Asia mentioned.
French President Emmanuel Macron final month highlighted issues in some EU international locations, saying unity in opposition to China would create “the best potential” potential for battle.
However the EU is hungry for brand new commerce and sees the Indo-Pacific as large potential.
The EU has a commerce settlement with Japan and is negotiating it with Australia. Diplomats say Indo-Pacific international locations need the EU to turn out to be extra lively within the area to maintain commerce free and open, and to make sure they don’t seem to be confronted with a direct alternative between Beijing and Washington.
France promised in 2018 nearer ties with allies equivalent to Australia and India with an Indo-Pacific technique, adopted by the Netherlands, which additionally has its personal technique, and Germany’s looser set of “pointers”.
The EU technique, if agreed, may embrace deploying extra EU army specialists in EU diplomatic missions in Asia, coaching coastguards and sending extra EU army personnel to serve on Australian ships patrolling the Indian Ocean mentioned diplomats.
It’s unclear to what extent Germany, which has shut enterprise ties to China, will decide to a brand new technique. German authorities officers say the EU can’t afford to alienate Beijing, regardless of China being labeled a “systemic rival” in 2019.
However French International Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will journey to India in April to develop the EU’s Indo-Pacific technique, and the EU plans to carry a summit with India this yr.
France, which has 1.8 million inhabitants within the Pacific Abroad Territories, has about 4,000 troops within the area, plus naval vessels and patrol boats.
“The Indo-Pacific is the cornerstone of Europe’s geopolitical path,” mentioned a French diplomat. “There is no such thing as a different.”