The confrontation between the United States and China is getting worse every day.
The Europeans do not want to let Donald Trump drag them into anti-Chinese towing.
But they, too, are more skeptical about Beijing's politics and strategy than they were two or three years ago.
Xi Jinping's win-win poetry no longer lulls her.
According to an ECFR survey in nine EU countries, 62 percent of those questioned see the People's Republic in a negative light, and only seven percent consider it a useful ally.
And the leading politicians of the European Union have recently been striking in an unusually harsh tone towards China.
That was already evident at the end of June at the first video conference between the EU leaders and China's President and Prime Minister.
And at the second virtual summit, which took place in Leipzig last week instead of the meeting originally planned by the Chancellor as the highlight of her Council presidency, the EU negotiators did not mince words.
There was a slight approximation on some of the disputed points;
for example in transferring technical knowledge to Chinese joint venture partners.
But there was no agreement, particularly on the subject of open market access in both directions;
Beijing's failure to combat climate change also met with criticism.
Not even in the negotiations for an investment agreement, which have dragged on for seven years, has there been satisfactory progress.
"There is still a lot to do," said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, adding frankly that China must first convince the EU that such an agreement is worthwhile.
The Chancellor spoke cautiously about "points of contact";
she could not see any more.
From opportunity to threat
In addition, there was the politically gloomy background.
The suppression of the Uyghurs, the crackdown on the democracy movement in Hong Kong, and the ever overt military threat to Taiwan have sharpened general concern about China's urge to become world leaders, its ambition for leadership in the military and technological fields, and its geopolitical reach. The rise of China is no longer Seen an opportunity, but increasingly as a challenge, yes: perceived as a threat.
And this is now expressed more clearly than ever before.
It was certainly no coincidence that EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell showed the tough line demanded by many, while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi traveled through Europe and campaigned for him to join forces against the United States.
In several articles, Borell called China a new empire, boastful, expansionist and authoritarian.
It undermines international law, especially in the South China Sea.
"Its aim is to transform the international order into a selective, multilateral system with Chinese characteristics, in which economic and social rights take precedence over political and civil rights."
It is necessary to balance the asymmetrical economic relations, otherwise it will soon be too late.
"We shouldn't get to the point where we Europeans have to decide whether to be either an American or a Chinese colony. We have to deal with both in our own way," Borrell formulated his Sinatra doctrine, loosely based on
It may also be no coincidence that the Foreign Office published new "Guidelines on the Indo-Pacific" on behalf of the Federal Government of Berlin while the Chinese Foreign Minister was visiting Berlin.
In the 68-page long paper, the German interest in the region is explained in detail for the first time.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated in his foreword that tomorrow's international order will be shaped there.
Germany should not be satisfied with the role of a spectator.
Our prosperity depends on open sea routes and participation in Asia's functioning growth markets. Furthermore, Germany must deal more closely with the security issues of its trusted partners - "also through participation in exercises".
Five to eight
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The guidelines are expressly intended as a contribution to a future EU Asia strategy.
There is talk of "value partners" such as Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and India on the one hand, and on the other hand, without naming China directly, of "authoritarian actors".
The security policy engagement with the value partners is to be expanded "within NATO", and the 1982 Unclos Convention on the Law of the Sea is to be secured.
Worldwide, the federal government will work for human rights and the rule of law, which are "not adequately protected in some countries", with whose governments it is pursuing an "open and critical exchange".
China is described as a "regional power and a rising world power that questions the rules of the international order".
At a four-hour video symposium between Global Bridges (Berlin) and the China Institute for International Strategic Studies (Beijing), it was found that the Chinese were particularly interested in the guidelines.
However, they stayed with their stubborn stance: the island world of the South China Sea has been under Chinese administration and jurisdiction for 2,000 years; their global infrastructure crusade, Xi Jinping's Silk Road project, does not serve to create spheres of influence, but is merely a development aid;
China's so-called "reaching out" has nothing to do with imperialism;
and Western human rights instructions are an inadmissible interference in the internal affairs of the People's Republic.
Meanwhile, the Chinese will have to understand that Europe - despite Trump!
- will not be split off from America.
That the Europeans - and in spite of all close economic ties also the Germans - will represent their interests and their values more robustly in the future than before.
That respect for each other's attitudes cannot be a one-way street.
Finally, however, that we can continue to work together on the basis of mutual respect: in dealing with the corona epidemic, in the fight against climate change and in saving free world trade.
Europe will rise to the challenges China's rise will bring, but it will not neglect the opportunities it presents.