The negative perception of China in Western countries results in the interpretation that imperial ambitions are hidden behind the investment power of Chinese companies, which results in constant attempts to keep the power of official Beijing under control, mostly without visible separation of political and economic goals.
Concern about the lack of reciprocity is constantly expressed on both sides of the Atlantic – the administrations of American democratic and republican presidents have led this relationship to the highest level of apprehension for decades, while the countries of the Old Continent support economic relations through distinct investment projects and interstate cooperation, remaining concentrated to the mere need to stay unwavering in giving priority to democratic values, in the spirit of which the key points of bypassing China should not be overlooked.
In a situation where some form of failed economic cooperation recognizes the risk of geopolitical confrontation, it is necessary to emphasize that it restricts to a lesser extent from the place taken by China in relation to the position of the West, where the leading investor from the East comes to a hostile environment.
At the same time, there each European capital chooses more intensive economic cooperation with Beijing, despite increasingly visible efforts to name China’s relationship within the EU as a common threat, and therefore to form a common Western block as a result of creating a common action. The formation of such a bloc, however, is far from the European agenda, mostly due to dissonant tones among EU members who are not ready to easily give up the benefits of cooperation with the Middle Kingdom.
Although the withdrawal of production from Chinese industrial plants has not happened despite many announcements, European and American governments have ceased to see China as a place where cheap labor tirelessly produces sneakers and phones, as trying to create a joint strategy to strike back at the unstoppable dynamics of the development of artificial intelligence, telecommunications equipment and 5G infrastructure become more visible.
Such a groundbreaking China does not fit in with the typical American and European thought patterns of rivalry that once existed with The Soviet Union, where it was not difficult to recognize the purposes for distancing or suspending cooperation.
In China, there is only one segment in front of which the capital-driven West closes its eyes from time to time – the form of government and the notion of human rights, due to which they are not able to consider that country as an ally in any field except the commercial.
The American answer to the Chinese question is reflected in the belief that the values of one civilization are those that another should accept since they have proven to be good. Several US presidents and presidential candidates, in their comments on US-China relations, persistently assured the global audience that economic liberalization would be followed by political ones, i.e. that Chinese economic growth would undoubtedly be accompanied by the strengthening of human rights and freedoms.
From the emergence of civilization until today, no empire in history has managed to achieve so much economic, military, and political authority over the rest of the world the way that the United States did in just 232 years, that is, from the day George Washington became the first American president.
The history of China lasts for millennia, and its wider population did not feel much benefit until the end of the 20th century, and just at the time when the American nation was experiencing a flourishing of democracy, the Chinese people were struggling with the consequences of the Opium War. Yet, in just a few decades at the turn of the 21st century, hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of the deepest poverty and transformed into the most numerous and stable middle class on the planet.
The Chinese dictatorship and the attitude towards the role of the individual in society for the Western world, especially for the EU, which arose with the idea of fighting totalitarianism, are incomprehensible and unacceptable to the same extent that it is inconceivable in China that Western democracies shape social media.
Western countries, and especially EU members, are becoming increasingly aware that China is not creating its plan to be in the European market in the form of a relationship with a single entity, but to avoid a blockade by building bilateral relations with governments that have never recovered enough from the crises from the end of the first decade of this century, in which the measure of support to the economy included the selfless rescue of the banking sector, which irrationally strengthened its own position and therefore caused the crisis.
At least this post-crisis moment sheds light on the EU’s real priorities – in the absence of a single bloc and a common response to external factors, while the heterogeneity most clearly reflected in the Greek euro-crisis, there is the belief that Brussels is the place to go and cry over any country’s China-related problems are more than naive.
Moreover, Montenegro has just appeared on that scene with a binary interpretation of the world, the division into East and West in one single section where it has disappeared over the previous decades – the investments.
Of course, Brussels and Washington, as well as all other centers of the Western world, will welcome Montenegro’s discontent if it recognizes possible indicators of China’s aspirations to shape the world according to its sociopolitical model, where it would have the right to veto power while making economic or security-related decisions.
However, being united on the political, but not on the economic level, in general, sends a sincere message that could be read between the lines in the European response to the Montenegrin request for help with the highway loan – “we have our own problems, too”.
The Montenegrin version of this text is available here.