Europe turns its concerns to China‘s growing clout as Xi visits

Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Italy and France next week amid a European Union firestorm over the dangers of rapidly growing Chinese trade and investments – particularly regarding next-generation telecom technology – and intensifying divisions among its members about how to deal with them.

Western media coverage has understandably focused on the unfolding Brexit drama in London, where British lawmakers failed to agree on a viable path forward. However, what went under-reported was that at the same time the EU took its most significant steps yet – though belated and insufficient – to address China‘s increasingly assertive and state-subsidized push into Europe.

After months of study, the European Commission released its “,” included the clearest and toughest language yet toward China in an EU document. After years of a more benign approach to Beijing, it branded China as “an economic competitor in the pursuit of technological leadership, and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance.”

That marks a major shift in thinking ahead of next Thursday‘s EU Council meeting in Brussels, bringing together all 28-member country leaders to discuss China the day before Xi lands in Rome. Although the document is couched in diplomatic language, calling upon the EU to “deepen its engagement with China to promote common interests at a global level,” its message is unmistakable on critical infrastructure and Europe‘s tech base.

“5G networks will provide the future backbone to our societies and economies, connecting billions of objects and systems, including sensitive information and communications technology systems in crucial sectors,” it says. “To safeguard against potential serious security implications for critical digital infrastructure, a common EU approach to the security of 5G networks is needed.”