Europe’s Place in Sino-U.S. Competition

Europe's Place in Sino-U.S. Competition

by Liselotte Odgaard
January 21, 2020

This chapter investigates Europe’s role in and responses to U.S.-China competition and assesses whether great-power competition for influence is fostering greater European unity and policies that put European interests first.



U.S. and Chinese pressure on Europe to choose sides and become a great-power dependent have encouraged it to move toward greater unity across a wide spectrum of issues, ranging from trade and industrial policy to Indo-Pacific security and defense. High levels of popular support for the EU have strengthened efforts to carve out an independent position that allows the EU to cooperate with both Washington and Beijing. European policies are increasingly based on interests rather than values, enabling Europe to accommodate the rise of authoritarianism. Putting European interests first also facilitates the diversification of the region’s partners. A more self-reliant, interest-based Europe could contribute to international stability by motivating the U.S. and China to be more willing to compromise.

  • Europe continues to prefer transatlantic cooperation over other partnerships due to common interests in preserving a liberal world order. Provided both sides acknowledge that their policies are often complementary rather than competitive, transatlantic relations will remain cooperative.
  • Europe will continue to cooperate with China on reforming and preserving multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization and pursuing diplomacy-based conflict resolution. At the same time, it will establish defensive mechanisms against unfair Chinese trade and industrial practices.
  • The EU is adopting a more united position in policy areas such as trade, defense, industry, technology standards, export controls, external and internal security, and multilateral institutions, making its footprint across a wide range of economic and security issues larger than ever.

Liselotte Odgaard is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.


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