From connectivity to sanctions and from soft to hard power approaches: How the European Union and South Korea have been responding to the US- China competition
Tereza Novotna – 2022
This chapter examines the ways in which the EU (and South Korea) have been responding to China’s geopolitical and economic growth and how their reactions complement, or contradict, the policies pursued by the US, first under the Trump and then under the Biden administrations. Even though Donald Trump has been more vocal in his bid to oppose China, the chapter argues that there might be more continuity with the new administration than anticipated even if Joe Biden liaises more frequently with his partners in Europe and Asia. His accent on the alliances may, paradoxically, give the EU (and South Korea) more hard time to chart their own independent course. The second part of the chapter examines how the EU and South Korea interact with China’s policies towards Europe and Asia, including its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The chapter explores how BRI has been countered by various forms of connectivity by Brussels and Seoul who view them from different angles, how BRI fits within today’s geopolitical landscape and whether and where there is any space for creating synergies between the EU and South Korea but also with others to offset it. Furthermore, the chapter investigates how other types of EU policies from trade to sanctions have shaped the EU’s relationship with China and how Beijing responded to these EU initiatives. The chapter argues that a combination of soft- and hard-power approaches which Brussels have put forward may in the end work well for the EU and others, including the US. Throughout the text, where possible, the chapter indicates when and how North Korea could be included into the equation. To conclude, the chapter suggests policy areas where cooperation rather than confrontation between all the actors is possible, proposing the fields of health, international trade, climate action and people-to-people exchanges.