US, EU pledge deeper cooperation to counter China
Brussels : The United States and Europe on Wednesday pledged deeper cooperation on countering China, with an agreement to start a formal US-European Union (EU) dialogue on the matter.
The cooperation in countering China's increasing assertiveness includes North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) closing ranks with 'like-minded democracies' in the Asia-Pacific region, reported South China Morning Post (SCMP).
"We decided to continue meetings at the senior official and expert levels on topics such as reciprocity, economic issues, resilience, human rights, security multilateralism and areas for constructive engagement with China, such as climate change," said European Commission Vice-President Josep Borrell, the EU chief for foreign affairs.
"We share an assessment of China's role as a partner, as a competitor, and as a ... rival. We equally agree, and this is maybe all most important, to support the fullest possible involvement of the United States in the European Union Defence Initiative, and to enhance our dialogue on this issue," he added.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Belgium this week, said that the US-EU dialogue was needed to confront "the challenges that China presents to the rules-based order that we both subscribe to".
Earlier, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in a discussion with Blinken said that he plans build partnerships with Japan, South Korea, Australia and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region to counter China, as the military alliance of 30 European and North American nations develops its strategic plan, known as NATO 2030, reported SCMP.
"To strengthen partnerships with like-minded democracies is a way also to protect the rules-based international order. And of course, this is all about the consequences of the rise of China, and on many of the issues in NATO 2030," he said.
The alliance-building efforts come after a heated exchange between US and Chinese officials in Alaska last week, the first such meeting under President Joe Biden's administration. China's more aggressive diplomatic posture at the meeting is considered likely to further intensify tensions with the US.
According to Andrew Mertha, director of the China studies programme at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Blinken's engagement with EU and NATO leaders is a "perfectly natural" response to China's rise and its recent international behaviour, SCMP reported.
This also comes after the United Kingdom, Canada, EU and the US teamed up to slap sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights violations in Xinjiang, a sign that the Biden administration plans to use alliances to counter an increasingly assertive China.
China also retaliated swiftly to the European sanctions, banning 10 European individuals and four entities and associated individuals from entering the country, including Macau and Hong Kong. The sanctions by Beijing have left China's investment agreement with Europe in tatters.
SCMP reported that three of the four biggest parties of the EU have already said that they cannot support the deal until sanctions are lifted.
Condemning the retaliatory sanctions, the MEPs had slammed the Chinese government's attempts to "interfere in the democratic life of our nations and our European Union".
Since the signing of EU's landmark trade deal -- the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) - by Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, there is a mounting concern in the European Parliament over China's human rights record on issues, including alleged forced labour camps and a crackdown in Hong Kong against anti-government protestors, reported Greek City Times.
Amid mounting pressure from the US and its allies, China has continued to deny the charges of both forced labour and genocide in Xinjiang. (ANI)