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How Europe Can Live with China

With the United States abandoning one global commitment after another, Europe must develop its own strategy for managing China's geopolitical rise. The best approach will be to strike a balance – underpinned by realism – between engagement and competition.

STOCKHOLM – In an age of escalating tension between the United States and China, will the European Union still have room to maneuver in pursuit of its own interests? That will be a key question for EU policymakers in the years ahead.

The Sino-American conflict has already become a central issue in the run-up to the US presidential election this November, because President Donald Trump’s administration has clearly decided that bashing China is one way to divert attention from its own failings. But even if Trump loses to his presumptive challenger, Joe Biden, the bilateral confrontation will continue to escalate. Within the US political and foreign-policy establishment, actively looking for ways to curtail, stop, or even reverse China’s geopolitical rise is a bipartisan pursuit.

Yet, even with the most aggressive policies, it is doubtful that the US – or anyone else – could achieve that goal. China’s per capita GDP (adjusted for purchasing power parity) is roughly one-third that of the US or most European countries. But in terms of the overall size of its economy, it is quickly catching up to the US and the EU.