by N. Peter Kramer
It appears that Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell have different views on China. She has called out China for targeting EU hospitals with cyberattacks and trying to distort public debate around the Covid19 virus with disinformation. ‘We have seen attacks… cyberattacks in the past on computing systems, on hospitals. And we know the origin of these attacks, the same goes for disinformation’, Von der Leyen said after a videoconference with China’s President XI Jinping.
The Commission President called China a ‘systemic rival’ of the EU, meaning that ‘there are two very different systems, very different views on values’. Unsurprisingly, the foreign policy chief (also Von der Leyen’s Vice-President) didn’t agree with her ‘systemic rival’ characterisation. In an interview he said, ‘we don’t want to engage in a kind of systemic rivalry with China’. Last month Borrell bowed twice to Chinese intimidation. The text of a critical EU report on China was softened, and an open letter in a Chinese daily, written by the 27 EU memberstates ambassadors, was – without their knowledge - changed by Borrell’s EEAS (EU External Action Service).
During the assembly of the World Health Organisation the EU tolerated that, at the instigation of China, a democratic country as Taiwan was not allowed to take part in deliberations. And the EU’s reaction to China’s latest attack on Hong Kong’s rights has been shamingly poor.
But it looks like the tide is turning. German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron recently showed a more critical attitude to China. The Commission President obviously follows them. Now we are waiting for Josep Borrell to catch up.