Top EU diplomat: U.S. is fading, but China is gaining and requires ‘robust strategy’

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks at the conclusion of a video conference of EU foreign affairs ministers in April.
(Olivier Hoslet / Associated Press)

The European Union’s top diplomat has called for the 27-nation bloc to have a “more robust strategy” toward China amid signs that Asia is replacing the United States as the center of global power.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told a gathering of German ambassadors Monday that “analysts have long talked about the end of an American-led system and the arrival of an Asian century.”

“This is now happening in front of our eyes,” he said.

Borrell said the COVID-19 pandemic could be seen as a turning point in the power shift from West to East and that, for the EU, the “pressure to choose sides is growing.”


He said the bloc “should follow our own interests and values and avoid being instrumentalized by one or the other.”

Although China’s rise is “impressive,” Borrell said, current relations between Brussels and Beijing weren’t always based on trust, transparency and reciprocity.

The aggressive nationalism of China’s diplomats matches the swagger of Xi Jinping’s China, which is determined to deflect blame for the coronavirus.

May 4, 2020

Borrell said, “We only have a chance if we deal with China with collective discipline,” noting that an upcoming EU-China summit this fall could be an opportunity to do so.

“We need a more robust strategy for China,” he added, “which also requires better relations with the rest of democratic Asia.”

Speaking at the same conference, held by video-link this year because of the coronavirus, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas echoed Borrell’s call for greater transparency from China, an issue that has come to the fore over Beijing’s information policy during the early stages of the virus outbreak.


Germany takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU in July.