National Security

China’s Apology Tour to Europe Fails

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi / Getty Images

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s two-week trip to mend fences with European economic partners and counter Washington’s stand against China has so far brought little dividend, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Wang’s visit was Beijing’s first mission to the continent since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, which has strained economic partnerships between Beijing and members of the European Union. 

Many EU states have joined Washington in shutting out state-backed Chinese tech firm Huawei from 5G and infrastructure development, favoring a "clean path" approach to technological upgrades. The new limits on China’s access to Europe have led Wang to focus on restoring economic ties—especially those that contribute to Beijing's Belt and Road initiative, which attempts to connect the Far East to high-demand European consumer bases.

"Today the choice is confrontation or cooperation, multilateralism or unilateralism, openness or isolation," Wang said at a press conference in Germany, a Chinese trading partner and European economic heavyweight. "China and Germany must open to each other more."

So far, Wang’s attempts to restore partnership seem to have fallen on deaf ears, evidenced by a Tuesday speech from Czech president of the senate Milos Vystrcil in Taiwan excoriating Beijing. At one point in the speech, he said in Mandarin, "I am Taiwanese." The speech earned threatening rebuke from the Chinese Communist Party, further straining relations between China and Europe.

"In the European Union we deal with our international partners together and with respect, and threats do not fit into that approach," German foreign minister Heiko Maass said, referring to China’s treatment of Vystrcil.

Wang’s failed bridge-building followed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s own July tour of Europe, marshaling a "coalition" of democracies to push back against China.

The height of Pompeo’s visit was a landmark speech given in a historic Czech castle, warning against the dual authoritarian threats to European democracy posed by Beijing and Moscow.

"China's world dominance is not inevitable. We are the authors of our fate," Pompeo said in August. "It will take us working together…. We have the obligation to speak clearly and plainly to our people and without fear. We must confront the complex questions presented by this challenge, and we must do so together."