by Marcela Ganea
The current pandemic reveals the countries’ resilience but it is also reshaping economic sectors. It’s a confusing moment in history but experienced minds see how China, with a strong political leadership, remains economically competitive, believes Liviu Muresan, head of the Bucharest-based EURISC think tank, who has been working with several major Chinese institutes, such as China Institute for Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), Shanghai Institute of International Studies (SIIS) and China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), over the last 25 years.
According to Liviu Muresan, if we keep in mind some ideas expressed during the Munich Security Conference in February 2020 such as China’s being a potential driver of more Westlesness and the appeal to the countries to admit the increasing need for cooperation between the West and the East if they want the world globalized and without borders, we can predict that China may become a New European Power, alongside the US as European Power, or Russia as European Power.
In terms of economic power reflected in its global reach, all the latest economic and financial reports contradict the initial estimations saying that China would incur huge loss after the covid19 crisis. It looks that despite some decline in exports, China is a very good economic position and many non-European countries will turn to China for recovery help.
Liviu Muresan sees China’s role changed in the global supply chain, it is not sure whether it will preserve its status of global factory and its current economic ties and significant economic exchanges, but its resilience and adaptability will allow China to build new economic bridges and maybe to become the global leader in development, research and innovation. Education seems to be the focus. In 2018, China had the biggest number of academic articles published in international databases. A significant number of Chinese students, well trained, both in China and abroad, will become tomorrow’s experts in many key fields.
At the same time, the USA are decoupling from the world, and some Western countries seem to be withdrawing from the global stage, as the Munich Security Conference emphasized in February 2020, while China is always ready to help and implement joint projects.
According to Muresan, “The private R&D economic sector has the ability to mobilize human and financial resources much better than the public sector and China thinks this cooperation between the public and the private is beneficial. After the pandemic, China will have to respond to new global realities, we cannot be sure how countries will continue the regionalist and globalization trends, some countries will not be prepared to face the post-pandemic time. China will think the unthinkable. We’ll live new realities in “an unpredictable whirlwind” of institutions, alliances, strategies, and China will initiate some of them, as it has done so far, especially along the Belt-and-Road corridors. China will use the current opportunities to make its presence more visible in Europe, in a construction of a “Great Bridge” from the Great Wall to the Atlantic. Actually, China is seen as a country that always cares, willing to help and to design joint exceptional projects”.
Liviu Muresan knows that the Danube River Strategy, for instance, has been contemplated as a prospective component in regional and sub-regional projects within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, covering key sectors from transferring knowledge from one region to another to huge infrastructure projects. The Danube River means 110 million people and one fifth of the EU area, 13 nuclear plants along the Danube, and the Danube-Black Sea channel, an industrial and economic hub. The existing policies could be used to coordinate the activities of private economic actors and synergies could be created between the Belt and Road, the 17+1 and the Danube Strategy, while not forgetting the 7+1 in the Mediterranean area.
We should not forget that a cooperation mechanism has been already put in place – the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), an intergovernmental process, launched in 1996 in Bangkok, to amplify the dialogue between Asia and Europe. The ASEM partners include the EU Member States, Norway, Switzerland, the European Commission, the ASEAN Secretariat and 20 Asian countries.
Recently, Josep Borrell, the top EU diplomat, as well as Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, have recognized the “new Chinese reality”, and the future German EU Presidency, starting July 1st 2020, will have a word to say regarding the potential of cooperation with China.
In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, countries should become more pragmatic, and, hopefully, think more about economic advantages. “A geopolitical formula of a Chinese-European Union may come out in the end as a new manifestation of globalization which could be beneficial for European countries. This is where the potential of China’s becoming a New European Power arises”, believes Liviu Muresan, head of the Bucharest-based EURISC think tank.