Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed “fundamental tensions” between Brussels and Beijing.
Rudd, now president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, says the emergence of the new coronavirus had also disrupted Chinese global strategy in attempting to replace their declining relation with the US via stronger ties with the European Union.
He told Euronews that the EU-China relationship had grown in significance in recent years.
“It had become more important as a result of the US-China trade war of 2018-19 and the prospect of greater decoupling between Washington and Beijing," said Rudd.
“China had rightly identified Europe as an alternative to the US in terms of trade markets, technology markets, access to technology - but also in terms of capital markets as well.
“Now, with the COVID 19 crisis, you see new fundamental tensions not just between Brussels and Beijing, but between European capitals and Beijing as well.
“This goes to the heart of the question of where the virus came from, how it was transmitted and (whether) China honoured all of its obligations to the World Health Organization under international health regulations."
Mr Rudd believes the virus has disrupted the careful planning that China was putting into place in terms of new international relations.
“(It’s) a major interruption to what was planned as an important element of Chinese global strategy from 2020 onwards, as they had anticipated a rift in the US-China relationship.
“Of course, our European friends will have to determine what would constitute their own long-term strategy of engagement or competition with Bejing."
Rudd said the choices and tensions Europe faced were not new.
“We in Australia have felt them for a long, long time," he said. "But the question of achieving a balance between these competing interests and values will be the essence of what Brussels and the European capitals determine as their future strategy [regarding] the People’s Republic [of China].”
He concluded that the current pandemic marked a paradigm shift in the EU-China relationship.
“I think the coronavirus crisis represents very much a new reality for the Europeans to confront as they consider their macro-relationship with China.”