The EU seeks to protect its technological and economic interests from China

The European Union is announcing measures this Wednesday to better coordinate the defense of its technologies and critical infrastructure to prevent China from falling into the hands of its geopolitical rival.

Russia's war against Ukraine has hit Europe hard, as its industry relies on cheap Russian gas, and the EU has sought alternative energy sources.

Now, twenty-seven want to avoid dependence on China, which dominates the production of green technology and basic raw materials.

“The change in EU-China relations is a driving force to take into account the issue of economic security, which is new for the EU,” said Mathieu Duchadel, director of international studies at the Institut Montaigne think tank.

The package to be announced today is part of a policy to de-escalate the relationship, rather than disengage from China, promoted by European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen.

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A draft of the plan, accessed by AFP, makes urgent reference to “risks to the EU's economic security” but affirms that it remains “a very attractive place for business and investment”.

“Geopolitical tensions and the pace of technological change call for more coordinated action at the EU level,” the draft says.

The plan includes five initiatives that include stricter rules on restricting foreign direct investment (FDI).

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It also focuses on better coordination of export controls, ways to develop research and dual-use (civil and military) technologies, and measures to strengthen research protection.

In October, the EU published a list of four critical technologies (advanced semiconductors, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and biotechnology) that present the most sensitive and immediate risks related to security and technology leakage.

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A working document consulted by AFP notes that “a significant part of investments in the EU are directed towards member states, which do not always have control mechanisms, and this creates vulnerability.”

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Niclas Poitiers, a researcher at the Bruegel think tank, pointed to a dispute between Lithuania and China in 2021-2022 over Taiwan.

“The big problem we have now is that each member state does what it wants in foreign policy, and coordinating these things is a big challenge,” he said.

However, not all EU countries support the Commission's efforts.

“The idea of ​​decoupling, de-risking and isolating the Eastern and Western economies is something we certainly do not support,” Hungarian Trade and Foreign Minister Peter Szijardo said on Tuesday.

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