As Sweden and China’s fight continues, the EU is not showing signs of unity in regards to China and Sweden has once again emerged as the EU member state adopting the hardest stance against Beijing even though links between the EU and China are warming up this year.
In January the EU and China concluded in principle negotiations on an investment deal of major economic significance where Beijing agreed to work towards meeting global standards on forced labor and committed to an unprecedented level of market access for EU investors. Chinese President Xi Jinping will join an EU-China leaders’ meeting in Brussels this year which is another sign of growing links between the EU and China.
But Stockholm’s decision to call out Chinese Huawei as a security threat by name has made it an outlier among EU countries and brought it more in line with the US, which has clearly stated that it doesn’t trust Huawei and doesn’t think Washington allies should either.
Sweden’s fight with China started over human rights in 2015 with the detention of a Swedish-Chinese bookseller but has now escalated into a technology showdown after Stockholm called out two Chinese companies, Huawei and ZTE as security threats and banned them from supplying core 5G infrastructure. Sweden claims that the kit can be used for spying and Beijing is now raising the specter of retaliation against Swedish businesses such as IKEA and Ericsson.
Other European nations such as France, Poland, and Romania have also made steps to ban Chinese companies in their 5G networks – but few have been as categorical as Sweden in naming Huawei and ZTE as explicit security threats.
Sweden’s travails are of wider interest to the EU because they touch on important questions which many countries in the continent face, namely where to draw the line between often lucrative commercial deals with China and concerns over China’s human rights record and its history of spying on Western nations.
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