Europe Needs Desinization
Desinization is a term known in Taiwan. Sinization, desinization and resinization are narratives of the Taiwanese people's confrontation with their Chinese past, their present striving for autonomy, and the future that China intends for them.
Europe? Its geographical position "at the other end of the world" does not save Europe from having to deal with China claiming hegemony. At present, Europe is in a phase of sinization: gentler and more gradual than the processes ongoing in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but just as focused and determined 1).
Sinization: a big word for Chinese investment in the infrastructure of poor European countries such as Greece and Montenegro, as well as in the industries and economies of rich countries such as Germany, France and Italy. Sinization also means China's attempts to exert massive influence on politics and public opinion; for example, Beijing's campaign to deny that the SARS Cov 2 virus originated in Wuhan.
There is no doubt that China sees itself as the nascent hegemon to serve. The more the self-destruction of the US in the Trump mess progresses; the longer the Covid epidemic paralyses the still largest economy in the world; the more China is being offered the role of the new hegemon. China wants to prevent Trump's re-election, the incumbent claims. Ridiculous: China could not wish for a better ally than Trump if he had another four years to put the world at China's feet.
This possibility of another Trump term of office should make it clear to Europe that afterwards China will be the big shot. Many Americans traditionally reject international institutions such as the United Nations because they believe there is already one highest global authority, the President of the United States. China is no different: during the unrest in Hong Kong, the vast majority of mainland Chinese supported the government's tough course against their cousins in Hong Kong.
Why should Europe switch from sinization to desinization? Simply because the once benevolent hegemon USA, who protected and promoted Europe, is increasingly being replaced by a strict and selfish hegemon: China. This new supreme power has no emotional and kinship ties to Europe: no shared family histories, few friendships. It does not dream of Versailles, Heidelberg or the Highlands. For Beijing, Europe is a market, a potential vassal, at best a competitor. Just as Ankara's Erdogan, supported by millions of diaspora Turks, is brazenly meddling in German affairs, China is also exerting its influence in Germany, based on the power of its close economic ties.
If Europe wants to avoid being told by Beijing what is right and what is wrong, it must choose the path of desinization. That means first and foremost: economic disengagement. It is not enough, as Anders Fogh Rasmussen* suggests, to subject Chinese investments in strategically important European companies to a control and approval procedure based on the Spanish model.
It is not enough to closely monitor which infrastructural projects China is prepared to finance in virus-weakened countries such as Italy as part of the New Silk Road. In addition to these defensive measures, an active strategy is also required, namely the pursuit of a gradual reduction in Europe's economic ties with China. Gradually, cautiously, but targeted. The concept of China being the "extended workbench" of European companies should be considered redundant.
It is obvious that large American and European industries are no longer viable without the hard-working Chinese, without the fine fingers and sharp eyes of Chinese women on the assembly lines. Nowhere else in the world, according to the opinion of American enterpreneurs**, is there a better place to do fine work than in China. It is no longer just the production costs that make China unbeatable: it is also the quality of the work.
Knowing this, American and European companies have been trying for several years to lower costs and be less dependent by moving to other countries: Vietnam, Kampuchea, Thailand, Indonesia. The results have always been disappointing. What does this mean for Europe?
The only hope of escaping the dependence on China's workers is offered by artificial intelligence. Until now, it was common practice to develop technically sophisticated devices in Europe, have them manufactured in China and sell them as Made in Germany/France/Italy. One can hope that AI will allow to bring production to Europe that can match Chinese quality and flexibility. This would be a high goal which can only be achieved if politicians identify with it.
What we need is not a discriminatory policy that puts obstacles in the way of Made in PRC, but a policy that makes it possible to produce Chinese quality competitively in Europe by means of hi-tech.
China as a workbench is only one aspect of European dependencies. Another one is the importance of the Chinese market for European exports. This is certainly no problem regarding perfumes and baby food, but it is for automobiles and machinery. Every news of record sales in China is prima facie welcome, but its flipside means that the manufacturer is becoming more dependent on the Chinese market and its unpredictable and omnipotent one-party government.
Europe would be well advised to gradually reduce the interdependence of its economy with China, despite all the benefits of globalisation. The economic gain of an ever closer embrace with China does not outweigh the loss of political independence to an ever more rigorous hegemon.
If Europe wants to retain its autonomy in the long term, it must reduce China's potential for exerting pressure.
... beyond politics, there “really is deep distrust of being too closely aligned” with China, especially when it comes to rare earths, technology and medical or pharmaceutical equipment, he said. At least a partial decoupling in some of these sectors is a “very real” possibility. Americans want to be more self-sufficient and certainly not bound to China, he added. (CNBC)