Earlier this week, we had a question come in from Carmen KM Kong to our Twitter page about the rise of China and whether or not Europe should feel threatened. With the Eurozone currently in the midst of a banking and sovereign debt crisis, and with John Bruton last week warning that failure to address this crisis will “accelerate the decline of Europe”, it’s understandable that there might be a certain degree of nervousness around Europe’s relative position in the geopolitical order.
Professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University is widely regarded as one of the most influential international relations scholars in the world, and possibly the most influential on American foreign policy. Debating Europe put Carmen’s question to him and asked if Europe was losing its influence to China internationally. In overseas development, for example, the European approach is seen to emphasise conditionality and encourage ‘good governance’, whilst the Chinese approach is seen to be more about investing in infrastructure and asking fewer tricky questions on human rights abuses. Is Europe still relevant?
The Chinese model of authoritarian development has certain attraction in Africa, but not much attraction in Latin America or other parts of Asia – India for example. And one notes that the authoritarian model that China uses depends upon an effective government. Many countries that might aspire to follow a Chinese model lack that effective government. So I don’t think the so-called ‘Beijing consensus’ will prove to be successful. In the long-term, therefore, I don’t think it will be a threat to the West.
What do the leaders of other countries think, though? Should Europe be worried about losing them as development partners to China? Debating Europe spoke to Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, and put Carmen’s question to him:
No, there’s no question whatsoever of China upstaging or replacing Europe. What is happening is simply that China is moving out. There are certain resources that China needs, and China is looking all over the world for those resources. Now, my only philosophy, which I preach, is this: Europe, America, they are our friends, our partners and our allies. And we will keep old friends. But there’s nothing to stop us from making new friends.
I think there’s no cause for panic. I believe that Europe should do what Europe can do best, without unduly panicking about China. Let me put it this way: any Nigerian or any African who wants to buy a very precise industrial machine will not go to China. He will come to Europe. But, if he wants to buy equipment for poultry or pigs or something like that, he will probably go to China. So that should not worry you. And I don’t believe that we should unduly worry about that.
What do YOU think? Should Europe be worried about the rise of China? Do you agree with former Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) John Bruton that China’s rise to power is a good reason for Europeans to deepen EU integration? Or do you think China’s rise could be an opportunity for Europe? Let us know your thoughts in the form below and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.