Europe has been “a little naive” in its relationship with China but its approach is becoming more realistic, said EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.
China is as much an economic partner as it is a “systemic rival that seeks to promote an alternative model of governance,” Borrell told France’s Le Journal du Dimanche in an interview published Sunday. He added that because both China and the EU promote multilateralism, it puts them “on the same side.” But this doesn’t mean they share the same understanding of global governance, especially in times of crisis.
“We Europeans support effective multilateralism with the United Nations at the centre,” the high representative on foreign affairs said. “China, on the other hand, has a selective multilateralism that wants, and is based on, a different understanding of the international order.”
“We have to see what is behind the word,” he said.
Borrell added that the coronavirus crisis has exacerbated the rivalry between the U.S. and China, as both powers blame each other for the spread of the pandemic. As such, he criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s view of multilateralism. “[He] sees it as a zero-sum game where America would have everything to lose. This view is false,” he said.
But Borrell cast doubt on Trump’s suggestion that the virus had been engineered in a Chinese laboratory — one that was contradicted by the president’s own intelligence services. “One must always take the statements of the president of the United States with care,” he said, adding that “a few days ago, he recommended that we drink disinfectant to fight the coronavirus.”