Experts: China struggles with its image in Scandinavia

During a talk organized by ICDS, top experts from Sweden, France, and Germany recently discussed China’s power in the EU. The panel elaborated on several issues and the Swedish expert Jerker Hellström, Director of the Swedish Center for China Studies, said that while core interests and non-interference have broadly been achieved, China has not managed to promote a positive image in Scandinavia or the rest of Europe.

Jerker Hellström is former Deputy Director at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs Office for Strategic Analysis and he shared his insights about China’s four main areas of interest in Scandinavia. These included defending their core interests and non-interference with Chinese domestic policies, improving perceptions of China in Scandinavia, using Scandinavia as a “door-opener” to the rest of Europe, and acquiring new technologies.

China is an enormous economic partner for the EU, but the country also has a long history of disregarding human rights, market distortions, and intellectual property rights violations. The panel, therefore, discussed what the tangible interests of China in the EU are, how successful China has been at achieving its interests in the EU, what threats economic cooperation with China poses for Europe, and how the EU can protect itself from the potential threats of this cooperation in the future.

The panelists agreed that it can be difficult for governments to speak up against China when necessary because they are protecting their economic interests. Jenker Hellström noted these difficulties, saying, “It is easier to be tough on China when you are not in the government.”

The panelist continued by giving three suggestions on how to mitigate threats posed by Chinese power in Europe. Firstly, “European states should be more careful with giving information to ‘the state that is determined to change us’ to protect the local European companies from Chinese knowledge extraction and technological acquisitions.”

“European companies should also keep in mind the potential risks associated with having a significant portion of their market share in China and diversify as much as possible to different countries.”

Lastly, “Civil societies in European states need to be vigilant to avoid government capture. A positive trend of grass-root democratic pushback and a sense of distaste is growing already against China’s authoritarian drive. This trend should be welcomed.”

Read the full article from RKK ICDS and more on the subject here.

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