“It is vile in nature and has an egregious impact,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin declared Thursday. “A word for the relevant side: Do not underestimate the Chinese people's determination, will, and capacity to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
China’s relationship with the European Parliament has taken a sour turn in recent months. European condemnation of China’s atrocities against Uyghur Muslims resulted in a trans-Atlantic move to impose sanctions on EU and British lawmakers. China hawks in the European Parliament countered by pulling back on a major EU-China investment deal, a rebuke compounded Thursday with the endorsement of trade talks and a proposal to rebound the “European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan” as the “European Union in Taiwan” — a nuanced name swap, given China’s hostility to any sign of political engagement between Taiwan and other governments.
“If the European Union would make such a step, it would be a huge deal, but I doubt it would be possible,” a Baltic official told the Washington Examiner following the vote. The official also said, "It reflects the thinking of many European politicians, so that’s a very serious signal.”
China has turned trade relationships to geopolitical advantage in a handful of ways, not least of which has been to impede transatlantic unity on issues that U.S. leaders and Western intelligence officials regard as security threats from Beijing. Chinese officials had sustained some setbacks in recent years, even before their censorship of early pandemic warnings provoked global outrage, which has enhanced the European desire for good relations with Taiwan.
That interest was reflected in the proposal to abandon the “economic and trade” terms in the current office’s name.
“Countries usually have an economic office, which shows that they have no intentions of any kind of political relations with Taiwan,” the Baltic official stated, acknowledging that even cities can have international trade offices. “For China, if the European Union has an office — not a trade office, but a European Union office — that means that the European Union elevates those relations to the political level. That’s a red line for China.”
Wang, the Chinese foreign ministry official, implied that deference to Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over the island, a democratic society that the Chinese Communist regime has never ruled, is “the political foundation of China-EU relations.”
Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, late on Tuesday raised concern over Beijing's escalating military activities in the Taiwan Strait. He sharply ramped up the bloc's rhetoric in Taiwan by saying China's threats to the self-ruling island "may have a direct impact on European security" — partly because Taipei's microchips are "indispensable" to Europe's digital development.
The speech marks an end of the EU's usual diplomatic reserve over the sensitive issue of Taiwan.