Will the Sudden E.U.-China Deal Damage Relations With Biden?
By Steven Erlanger
Jan. 6, 2021
BRUSSELS — The European Union embarked on a trade deal with China believing that engagement with Beijing was the best way to alter its behavior and make it a committed stakeholder in the international system. But that was seven years ago.
The deal was quietly sealed in the final weeks of last year. By then, China had changed and so had the world. The trans-Atlantic relationship has been damaged by President Trump, with new doubts in Europe about American constancy and in America about Europe’s ambitions.
The timing — with a newly aggressive China seen as a strategic rival to the United States and just weeks before Joseph R. Biden Jr. becomes president — has opened the European Union to questions and criticism, from analysts and particularly American officials, that perhaps the deal was a diplomatic and political error.
It was concluded in the midst of China’s crackdown in Hong Kong and Xinjiang and accepts vague Chinese promises to stop the use of forced labor. It creates doubts about Europe’s willingness to heed Mr. Biden’s call to work with him on a joint strategy toward Beijing. And it has handed an important victory to China, where the deal was hailed as a great success for President Xi Jinping before the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party and confirmation of its power in the new world.