A United Europe Can Stand Up to China

A United Europe Can Stand Up to China
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning speaks during a daily briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing, April 24, 2023 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

A rarely seen occurrence happened in Europe this week: a humbled China apologized to Europe. It has renewed the conversation about what could happen if Europe, armed with a unified China policy, went toe-to-toe with Beijing.

Beijing was forced to backtrack and rebuke its own ambassador in Paris, Lu Shaye, for remarks he made in an interview on French television over the weekend. In response to a question about the legal status of Crimea, which Russia invaded and unilaterally annexed from Ukraine in 2014, Lu claimed that none of the 14 countries that declared independence after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 “have effective status under international law because there is not an international agreement confirming their status as sovereign nations.”

France summoned Lu on Monday to demand an explanation, as did the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—for the Chinese ambassadors serving in their capitals. “If anyone is still wondering why the Baltic states don’t trust China to ‘broker peace in Ukraine,’ here’s a Chinese ambassador arguing that Crimea is Russian and our countries’ borders have no legal basis,” Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, tweeted. He demanded an explanation from Beijing on whether China’s position on the existence of his country had changed.

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