Chinese foreign minister sees only limited diplomatic gains from European trip

Chinese foreign minister sees only limited diplomatic gains from European trip

  • Wang Yi calls on EU to resist US efforts to decouple economically from China
  • But tour is filled with signs of diplomatic ‘promise fatigue’ with Beijing and Europe’s own wariness of dealing with China

Wrapping up his first overseas trip during the coronavirus pandemic, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called on Europe to resist US efforts to decouple economically from China and to renounce the unilateralism promoted by US President Donald Trump.

But Wang made only limited diplomatic gains in talks that were weighed down by “promise fatigue”, analysts said. He secured a meeting in France with President Emmanuel Macron, but in Germany there was no public event with Chancellor Angela Merkel or any officials from her Christian Democratic Union party.

As the US withdraws from the World Health Organisation – which, it says, enabled China’s mishandling of the coronavirus – Wang promoted China as a multilateral player during his eight-day trip, which also included Italy, the Netherlands and the non-European Union nation of Norway.

Wang also called on Europe to work together in reviving the economy after the pandemic, drawing attention to the fast-rebounding official economic figures released by China, the world’s second biggest economy.

Noah Barkin, an EU-China specialist at Rhodium Group, a policy research firm, noted the growing sense of “promise fatigue” among European governments, despite frequent Chinese references to multilateralism.

“It has been nearly four years since Xi [Jinping] preached the virtues of multilateralism in Davos and Europe is still waiting for deeds to follow,” he said.

For example, he noted, “Berlin and Brussels have been pressing Beijing to agree to joint climate action for nearly a year without results.”