The events of the Chinese spy balloon, which hung over America for days, has plunged relationships between the U.S. and China to a new low, and world leaders are afraid of what’s to come. Leaders in the European Union see the conflict as coming at the worst time, and believe the White House will put pressure on them to pick sides and join forces against China. EU leaders fear Biden will be distracted during a time when Ukraine will need the most support and Russia is preparing a new offensive. “We never expected 2023 to be easy, but this is off to a really tough start,” one European diplomat said. Then there is the American side, where Four-star Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan wrote in a memo last week, the U.S. and China “will fight in 2025,” adding, “I hope I am wrong.” Like many others, he pointed to China’s aspiration of taking Taiwan as the main reason why the two nations would to war with each other.
Ricardo Borges de Castro, head of the Europe in the World Program at the European Policy Centre, recently stated, “U.S.-China rivalry sharpens, there will be more pressure on Europeans, whose approach to China is very diverse, to pick sides.” “The reality is, if the world becomes increasingly dominated by two poles — U.S. and China — the EU and Europeans will need to pick sides for as long as Europe’s security and defense depends on the U.S. umbrella,” he added. “Washington will be busy with Beijing for some time now,” a senior EU diplomat said on Sunday. “It’s not good news for the EU because Russia is still the main concern.”
Heino Klinck, senior adviser to the National Bureau of Asian Research, has said that the U.S. may be less apt to provide arms to Ukraine if they believe that they will soon be in conflict with China. “In essence, we have depleted our own reserves of munitions in order to supply the Ukrainians,” says Klinck. “It’s demonstrated the fragility of our defense industrial base. And the fact that we have reportedly pulled munitions out of Israel and are planning on pulling certain types of equipment out of South Korea should demonstrate and convey the seriousness of this issue.”
Will the United States listen to their generals and start stockpiling arms for a potential invasion of Taiwan instead of supplying Ukraine? Leaders in Europe will fear this and are uncertain in how to proceed with China diplomatically.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, and French President Emmanuel Macron have upcoming meetings planned with Chinese President Xi. The heightened Chinese and American conflict, “means that we would now have to be watching how badly China reacts, and whether these [planned] trips will be treated as a propaganda success by Beijing in splitting up the transatlantic ties,” a European diplomat says. “While Washington D.C. enhances pressure against Beijing particularly on the technological front and in the Taiwan context, Brussels, Berlin and Paris show new hesitancy.”