From the 13th to the 15th of September, the heads of state of all European countries will meet with the Chinese government in Leipzig. This will not only be with regard to intensifying trade relations, but rather will be about building a new global partnership, ensuring the EU is not ousted from the table of the great powers of the future. The deterioration of the EU’s relationship with the USA under Donald Trump has made it necessary to find another partner to coordinate the shaping of its own global interests with. The topics of the summit are therefore varied and include not only economic relations, but also foreign and security policy and – unsurprisingly – digitalization and digital cooperation, as well as climate protection and human rights. The summit is based on strategic position papers which already began in the EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation from 2013 and have since become increasingly concrete at annual meetings. This year the summit will include all heads of state and government from China and the EU rather than just representatives, as was the case in previous examples.
The central point of the agenda relates to future trade between the EU and China. After the USA, China is the most important trading partner for the EU, while the EU is the most important trading partner for China. Both share economic conflicts with the United States, which in turn is the second most important global trading partner for China. The summit also aims to put pressure on the United States and to strengthen the significantly deteriorated position of the EU and China with regards to strengthen them against the United States. The new trade relations will be expressed in the mutual opening of new markets, as well as in the EU’s efforts to strengthen and advance China’s position in the WTO. This is important as China’s relationship with the WTO is not free of conflict: the US, in particular, uses references to human rights time and again to weaken the Chinese position in the WTO and set conditions to force China to adapt to American production condition. The background to this is the competitive disadvantages that arise for the USA and partly also for the EU through laws on occupational safety and health and the existence of, albeit weak, unions. In 201 an EU-China working group with a focus on the WTO was set up to strengthen China’s position without any actual adjustment. As the dismantling and softening of workers’ rights is also progressing in Europe, it can be guessed that the cooperation between the EU and China will not improve Chinese working conditions. Cooperation between Europe and China is therefore not only an immediate attack on every effort for reform in China, however small, but also on working conditions in Europe.
Foreign and Security Policy
Another central point of the meeting will be the coordination of a common foreign and security policy. Here too it has become clear that the United States is not an unconditionally reliable partner for Europe. In order not to be dependent on military cooperation with the USA, European interests will in future be pursued in collaboration with China. One of the aims here is to intensify military cooperation in Africa. Both China and the EU are in the process of further colonising the African continent; in addition to securing rare earths as resources, the aim is also to establish their own production facilities in the African countries. On the one hand this serves to minimize costs for large European corporations that want to produce without European conditions of labour safety and rights, and on the other hand, it also serves the operation of necessary infrastructure in Africa by Chinese corporations. The development of infrastructure and the outsourcing of production result in a common interest in taking military action, if necessary, against all armed groups that endanger their own interests. In addition, protection against so-called “piracy”, such as in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, plays a central role in securing Europe and China’s own economic transport routes.
However there is more at stake here. In the preparation for the summit, for example, the EU expressly praises Chinese support in the conflict with Iran over uranium enrichmen while indicating its support for China in conflicts and problems in the Asian region, with both declaring the intent to work together for peace worldwide. Another example mentioned in the preparation illustrates what exactly is meant by this: Afghanistan is mentioned as a successful project of international commitment to peace. Anyone who looks at the consequences of such an intervention can see here that this peace is mere propaganda. In fact, the United States and Europe have left behind a region deeply marked by violence, which is again largely under Taliban tyranny.
Digitization and Cybertechnology
The EU and China are already working together on matters of digitization and cybertechnology. This is a matter of content exchange, rather than just regarding the involvement of Chinese companies in the European market (such as Huawei in the introduction of the 5G network). The EU-China Cyber-Taskforce meets annually for this purpose. What this concerns becomes clear when you look at the EU’s preparatory paper. It states that the “EU-China Cyber-Taskforce provides an opportunity to exchange views in areas such as government structure and strategy, standards for good governance in cyberspace and confidence-building measures in cyberspace”. What an exchange of “views in areas such as government structure and strategy” suggests are discussions on the Chinese Social Credit System, in which the Chinese government not only permanently monitors all people in China, but also rewards socially desirable behaviour through general social control, while sanctioning socially deviant behaviour. Any exchange, as it is claimed, is in any case only one-sided, in that the EU can look at and listen to what already exists in China; the EU is far behind China when it comes to matters digitalisation and cybertechnology. This is one of the reasons for the interest in more intensive cooperation with China, which can claim a prominent position for itself in the field of technology –in this case technology explicitly designed to control people and guide their behaviour.
Climate protection and human rights
Climate protection and human rights are also on the agenda of the EU-China Summit. However, both are no more than scrap paper; both serve to allow the media to gloss over the actual intentions of the summit. From the EU’s perspective, the demand for human rights is ridiculous, if only because the EU itself is currently pushing forward at a great pace with dismantling its already weak existing human right. This can be seen clearly in the way it is currently dealing with refugees at the EU’s external borders or in refugee camps, not to mention the injustices of the past, and in the authoritarian restrictions on almost all basic rights and freedoms in the context of the Corona pandemic. For China on the other hand, there is no reason whatsoever to be lectured by the European Union; the success of the Chinese economy is seamlessly linked to its exploitative and hostile conditions of production, which make it possible to export goods to the whole world at unrivaled knock-down prices. New Chinese regulations regarding climate protection or, for example, the obligation for companies to ensure that the individual suppliers of goods also respect human rights, were the first to be rolled back in the case of the Corona pandemic.
The Leipzig Summit
Planning to hold the summit in Leipzig is tantamount to a gesture of dominance by the German government, which, following the G20 summit in Hamburg, wants to show that it is possible to hold a summit even if it is held in a city that has a reputation as a “left-wing stronghold”. For the Saxon state government under Prime Minister Kretschmer and Leipzig’s Lord Mayor Jung, it is simply a matter of reviving Saxony and Leipzig as an economic location, as well as expanding the police security apparatus supported by federal resources. The expansion of the economic location goes hand in hand with the sell-out of cities, communities, open spaces and living space, which is already leading to ongoing displacement in larger cities, including the associated deterioration of social relationships and the lives of – particularly poorer- individuals, as well as the continuing influx of wealthy people into these cities. In order to safeguard this development against a further impoverised underclass, the security apparatus is increasingly being expanded. The summit as an event is symbolic of this. In addition to the aforementioned points that justify an attack on the summit from all parts of the world, there is a further local significance. The Saxon Ministry of the Interior justifies the holding of the summit as follows: “Especially in times when almost all events are cancelled or postponed for the coming weeks and months and companies from the tourism, hospitality, trade fair sectors etc. are hit particularly hard, the state government considers it the right sign to stick to this event. As a trade fair city and venue, Leipzig is well practiced and experienced in holding international and high-level meetings and events. In this respect, the state government has every confidence in the federal government to take the interests of Leipzig’s city society sufficiently into account when selecting venues for events.”
No to the summit!
More than anything else, the EU-China Summit means a further escalation of the top-down struggle. Poverty and prosperity are to be further redistributed in favour of the economy and ruling elites. We will not stand idly by and we will attack and fight the summit to the best of our ability. Despite a short time to prepare, despite the Corona pandemic and all the confines it brings with it:
We call on all of you to come to Leipzig from September 13th to 15th and attack the summit with us! No rest for the rulers – not here in Leipzig and not elsewhere! No to the EU-China Summit!