April 20, 2018

Clingendale Silk Road Headlines

Source: Louis Vest/flickr

 According to the German newspaper Handelsblatt, the embassies in Beijing of EU member states have compiled a joint report that criticizes the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) [EU ambassadors band together against Silk Road]. Of the 28 EU countries, Hungary was the only one whose ambassador to China has not signed the report. Handelsblatt quotes the report as stating that BRI “runs counter to the EU agenda for liberalizing trade and pushes the balance of power in favor of subsidized Chinese companies.” It is unclear what the status of the joint report is and for what purpose it has been written, as it is not publicly available. The fact that nearly all EU ambassadors are said to support the report is remarkable, since most countries in the eastern half of the European Union have signed a memorandum of understanding with China on BRI cooperation - a symbolic sign of support for the Chinese initiative. Interestingly, several Western European leaders who visited China in recent months - including Macron of France, May of the UK and Rutte of the Netherlands - have refused to sign similar MoU’s in spite of invitations from the Chinese government to do so [Netherlands keen on Chinese investment but wants belt and road to benefit foreign companies].

Meanwhile, the European Commission is preparing an EU strategy on ‘Europe-Asia connectivity’ which is likely to be perceived by many as a European answer to BRI. This new connectivity strategy will be aimed at contributing to greater economic integration across Europe and Asia, and cooperating with Asian countries to do so, while defining and promoting relevant EU interests and values. As such it appears to be an effort to counterbalance Chinese influence - in particular what the EU regards as the undermining of liberal economic norms - in the Europe-Asia economic sphere. After the European Commission’s proposal of September 2017 for an EU-wide investment screening framework, which is said to have been triggered primarily by Chinese investments in the EU, the connectivity strategy may turn out to be a further sign of growing worries in the EU about the rise of Chinese economic power. To which degree this is the case remains to be seen as the strategy will not be publicly available until later this year.

Frans-Paul van der Putten

This week's Silk Road Headlines

EU ambassadors band together against Silk Road [Handelsblatt]

Is China waging “Debt Trap Diplomacy” Against Its Neighbors? [China US Focus]

Poland Designated as Home to New BRI East European Logistics Hub [HKTDC]

Can a small German city reinvent itself as a gateway between Europe and Asia?[Belt and Road Blog]

Attracting foreign funding to build the BRI would be a capital idea [East Asia Forum]

Netherlands keen on Chinese investment but wants belt and road to benefit foreign companies [SCMP]

China and the EU in the Horn of Africa: competition and cooperation?[Clingendael]

Iran Planning Super-Highway to Connect with Mediterranean [Silk Road Briefing]

HSBC names veteran banker head of Asia belt and road initiative [Reuters]

Leadership in a Multipolar World: Can the United States Influence Cooperation between China and Russia? [NBR] 

To increase awareness of and facilitate the debate on China's Belt and Road Initiative, the Clingendael Institute publishes Silk Road Headlines, a weekly update on relevant news articles from open sources

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