ChinaTalks Lecture: Europe within China's Belt and Road: Superhighway or Diverging Lanes?
Although Europe had been viewed by China as an essential economic partner for several decades, the advent of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative has placed Europe into a much brighter spotlight within Chinese foreign policy, even though it remains uncertain what the precise roles European economies will play within the greater BRI framework as it continues to evolve. Although the European Union and its immediate neighbours have been seen as a major hub for China's expanding trade networks, obstacles have begun to appear which challenge the perceptions of both sides. These include the advent of Beijing's 'subregional' approaches to economic engagement in Europe, such as via the Central and Eastern European states as well as the Nordic-Arctic, China's still-developing European free trade diplomacy, concerns about ambitious Chinese investments in Europe, and, on a higher level, the potential backlash in the EU from the widening trade war between Beijing and Washington. These developments have suggested an emerging 'hedging' strategy on the part of the Xi Jinping government towards Europe, while the need for an EU-level approach to China's growing economic power has become more pressing.