Oxford Debate: Which Way for Europe on China?
Motion: Europe should side with the U.S. on China
ZURICH, JUNE 26, 2023 – In our first ever live version of an Oxford Debate – one of our most popular formats – four European China experts debated crucial questions facing Europe: Noah Barkin, Philippe Le Corre, Simona Grano, and Marina Rudyak discussed the motion "Europe should side with the U.S. on China".
The Main Arguments:
Siding with the U.S. is the only realistic option for Europe
Under Xi Jinping, China has grown into a formidable challenge towards the security, freedom, and economic well-being of Europe, the U.S., and likeminded countries in Asia and elsewhere. Japan, Australia, and even long non-aligned India are all leaning towards the U.S. because they are deeply worried about what is going on in China. Europe should do the same and work hand in hand with the U.S. and its partners to develop a collective approach to China. The only other options for Europe are: siding with China, or going at it alone, pursuing non-alignment. Both are unrealistic.
Europe should keep engaging with China, however
China views the U.S. mainly as an adversary that is out to contain China's rise, while the U.S. sees China mostly as a threat to its sole superpower status.
As for Europe, China is still interested in cooperation. Europe should grab that opportunity and create a more balanced relationship with Beijing based on it being one of the poles in the multipolar world we're living in.
The European voice is needed to balance the U.S. tendency to overreach ideologically. We cannot solve the world's big issues without China, so Europe has to put the brakes on, be the adult in the room and push for dialogue about how the rules-based order can accommodate China. Because Xi Jinping's China is not going to go away anytime soon.
At the same time, Europe needs to enhance its defense capabilities, its foreign policy, and its security to enhance its autonomy towards China.
Neutral bystanding is impossible
As long as the US provides security for Europe and remains a much bigger trading partner for both the EU and Switzerland than China is, it is necessary to work with Washington to protect common political and economic values in the systemic competition that’s playing out right now.
This doesn't mean decoupling from China. It means de-risking, a European approach now adopted by the Americans. Also: siding with the U.S. doesn’t mean blindly following the American approach. It’s about developing a common strategy with likeminded countries around the globe. Europe cannot do this alone, as the issues are bigger than us.
About Oxford Debates
The Oxford Debates at Asia Society Switzerland are a format to address ‘big’ questions that have no one answer or solution but are inviting many conflicting views. Four renowned experts in the field form teams of two, one team arguing for the motion, the other against it.
The Oxford-style format is broken down into four sections: opening remarks, rebuttals, a moderated question-and-answer session, and closing remarks. Before and after the debate the audience is polled whether they agree with the motion or not. The voting breakdown is not shared publicly until the end of the debate. The greater percentage change between the first and second votes determines the debate’s winning team.
Disclaimer: Positions presented in the debate do not necessarily represent the speakers’ views
Europe should side with the U.S. on China
Arguing for the motion:
Noah Barkin is a Senior Advisor in Rhodium Group’s China practice, based in Berlin, where he focuses on Europe-China relations and transatlantic China policy. He is also a Visiting Senior Fellow in the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and creator of the popular "Watching China in Europe" newsletter. Previously he worked as a bureau chief, regional editor and Europe correspondent for Reuters, based in Berlin, Paris, London and New York. He has also written for The Atlantic, The New York Times, Foreign Policy and Politico, and been quoted in publications including The Economist, Financial Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Noah is a regular speaker and moderator on European foreign policy issues and the author of a book on the euro. He has been a visiting fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin and the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies in Washington. A native Californian, he has a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and French from the University of California at Berkeley and a Master's degree from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.
Simona Grano is Senior Lecturer at the University of Zurich and Director of the Taiwan Studies Project at the same institution. She completed her Ph.D. in Chinese Studies at Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Italy in 2008. Since then she has held research positions and taught China Studies and Taiwan Studies at her alma mater, at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and at National Cheng'chi University in Taiwan. She is a research fellow of the European Research Center on Contemporary Taiwan (ERCCT), in Tübingen, Germany and a research associate of SOAS, London.
Simona is the author of Environmental Governance in Taiwan: a new generation of activists and stakeholders, published in 2015 by Routledge. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of Civil Society, Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, China Information, Asiatische Studien, Taiwan in Comparative Perspective, Orizzonte Cina. Her latest edited volume: China-US Competition: Impact on Small and Middle Powers' Strategic Choices, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in December 2022.
Arguing against the motion:
Philippe Le Corre is Senior Fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute’s Center for China Analysis and a Senior Advisor on Geopolitics to Asia Society France. He is also a Visiting Professor at ESSEC Business School and a Lecturer at the French Military Academy of Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan, also affiliated with the French Institute for East Asia (IFRAE-Inalco). Since 2017, he has been a Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, focusing on China-Europe relations, Chinese overseas investment and transatlantic relations. He is a former Fellow with The Brookings Institution and The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Philippe previously served as Special Advisor to the French Defense Minister and has also worked as a journalist in East Asia for many years. He is the author of several books including China’s Offensive in Europe (Brookings Press, 2016), Quand la Chine va au marché and Après Hong Kong. He is a contributor to The China Questions 2 (Harvard University Press, 2022) and to various other edited volumes.
Marina Rudyak is an assistant professor at the Institute of Chinese Studies at Heidelberg University and currently an interim professor for Chinese Society and Economy at the University of Göttingen. Her research focuses on China's international development cooperation, China’s relations with Russia and Central Asia, and the international discourse system of the Chinese Communist Party. Previously, she was a programme manager for the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) in Beijing and Bishkek. She is a co-founder of the Decoding China Dictionary (www.decodingchina.eu), which analyses how key terms of international cooperation are understood differently in the Western and the official Chinese discourse. She studied Chinese Studies and Law in Heidelberg and Shanghai and received her Dr. Phil. on China's foreign aid from Heidelberg University.
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