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Rising Sinophobia in the European Union: A Balanced Perspective

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Sinophobia

This shift is not without basis, as it stems from a complex mix of geopolitical, economic, and social factors. It is crucial, however, to approach this topic with a balanced view, recognizing the roots of these sentiments while also considering the broader implications and the need for constructive engagement.

At the heart of the growing unease is the geopolitical rivalry. China’s assertive foreign policy, especially in regions that have historically been within Europe’s sphere of influence, such as Africa and Eastern Europe, has raised alarms within EU corridors. Additionally, the strategic initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative have been perceived as tools for increasing Chinese geopolitical influence, creating a defensive stance within the EU.

Economically, the EU faces significant challenges in its relationship with China. Trade imbalances are a major concern, with China often criticized for restricting market access to foreign companies while its own companies enjoy global outreach. There are also apprehensions about China’s role in critical European sectors, raising questions about economic dependency and security. The debate around 5G technology and the involvement of Chinese companies like Huawei has underscored these security dilemmas, linking economic issues directly with national security.

Europe’s increasing Sinophobia is also fuelled by serious human rights concerns. Reports of the treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, crackdowns on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, and the suppression of Tibetans have led to public outcry and a tough stance from European governments. These issues not only influence diplomatic relations but also shape public perception of China within the EU, which tends to focus significantly on these negative aspects.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in escalating negative sentiments. Originating in Wuhan, the virus brought about a wave of xenophobia that often indiscriminately targeted individuals of Asian descent, not just those from China. This surge in racially charged incidents has further complicated the socio-cultural dynamics within Europe.

While it is understandable why concerns about China are growing within the EU, it is important to maintain a balanced perspective. China remains a major global player and an essential partner in tackling global challenges such as climate change, public health, and economic recovery post-pandemic. The EU’s strategy does not reflect this duality; it seeks to disengage China on common interests.

Dialogue and cooperation remain key. The EU continues to engage with China through diplomatic channels and multilateral forums, aiming to promote a rules-based international order and respect for human rights. At the same time, Europe is working towards greater strategic autonomy to reduce dependency on Chinese imports and technology. However, such actions may not always be perceived as mare attempts for “autonomy” but rather as a subtle form of economic warfare.

In conclusion, the rise of Sinophobia in the EU is a response to real challenges but also poses a risk of oversimplifying a complex relationship. It highlights the need for the EU to strategically manage its interactions with China, balancing between safeguarding its interests and values while also engaging constructively on global issues. Navigating this relationship will require careful diplomacy, informed public discourse, and a commitment to upholding international norms and fairness in international relations.

A way forward is dialogue, collaboration, partnership and building of trust in mutually beneficial relations in an ever-increasing global world, instead of fear-mongering the public about the imaginary “Chinese threat”, which is usually done for political relevance and far-right vote.

Tomas Dūminis
Dr. Tomas Dūminis, the BR guest author is a scientist and has special research interests in Baltic Anthropology. He is a graduate of Queen Mary University of London.

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