But the attempt failed. After China retaliated against European Union sanctions against four Chinese officials over human rights violations in Xinjiang, the deal was not ratified. In any case, the bloc is far from unified on what the economic and technological engagement with China should look like.
For Germany, economically dependent on China and essential for its trade routes to Europe, pragmatic cooperation seems a sensible path. But for other member states, China is more of a threat. Surprisingly, under Mr. Draghi, Italy effectively gave up on courting Chinese investment and turned more to America.
In recent months, Merkel has been stripped of the power she previously enjoyed. On multiple issues – rule of law, nuclear, defense policy and, above all, relationship with China – Europe is deeply divided, with little room for maneuver. Still, there’s no reason to think anyone else could do better.
Mr. Macron’s grand plans for Europe, from deepening monetary union to increasing military capabilities and technological independence, are not widely supported. His government’s assumption that the European Union is already a superpower comparable to both America and China seems not only illusory but also offensive in European capitals where guaranteeing America’s security is essential. .
Mr Scholz, for his part, will be subject to the same economic pressures that underlie Merkel’s approach to China. And he will surely find it difficult, as Merkel did, to impose his preferred direction – a deep economic relationship with China and a security relationship with Washington – across Europe. As for Mr. Macron and Mr. Draghi, they can make common cause on several issues but they are poles apart on America and China.
The reality, clearly stated, is that neither the German Chancellor nor the French government can lead Europe. The compromises that their predecessors made between themselves are no longer available. And in the absence of leadership, Europe is heading for one thing: stasis.