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A European strategic “third way?” The European Union between the traditional transatlantic alliance and the pull of the Chinese market


The European Union (EU), China, and the United States (US) are the three major powers in the world today, and the three have a special relationship of cooperation and competition. The Biden administration has reached out to European allies to create a common front to counter Beijing. While the EU’s China policy has hardened in recent times and increasingly resembles that of Washington, the EU has never confronted Beijing the way the US does. Europe does not want to have to choose between America and China, preferring a situation in which Brussels cooperates with Washington on issues of common concern related to Beijing while at the same time seeking closer commercial ties with China so as to support Europe’s export-driven economy. The eventual ratification of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), a deal—currently frozen—announced on 30 December 2020, before the inauguration of the new Biden administration, could be a litmus test for EU efforts at finding a “third way” between the US and China, giving meaning and content to Europe’s aspirations for “strategic autonomy.”