China says Chinese-Russian naval drills beginning Wednesday aim to “further deepen” cooperation between the sides whose unofficial anti-Western alliance has gained strength since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The drills will be held off the coast of Zhejiang province south of Shanghai through next Tuesday, according to a brief notice posted Monday by China’s Eastern Theatre Command under the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army.
“This joint exercise is directed at demonstrating the determination and capability of the two sides to jointly respond to maritime security threats … and further deepen the China-Russia comprehensive new-era strategic partnership of coordination,” the notice said.
Setting aside decades of mutual distrust, China and Russia have stepped up such drills as part of their aligning of foreign policies to oppose the US-led liberal Western political order.
China has refused to criticise Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations, or even to refer to it as such, has condemned Western sanctions against Moscow and has accused Washington and NATO of provoking Vladimir Putin into taking action.
Russia, in turn, has strongly backed China amid the tensions with the US over Taiwan.
The ever-tightening relationship between the two Communist countries is urging Taibei to bolster its defence in a bid to avoid an invasion from Beijing forces.
But while Taiwan is looking at Ukraine as a potential scenario that could repeat on the Asian continent, Europe is yet to take the necessary steps to avoid such a war to begin.
According to Nathalie Tocci, director of the Istituto Affari Internazionali, while “the direct defence support Europeans can provide Taiwan is marginal”, “there is still so much else they could do”.
Writing for Politico, she added: “For one, there’s the impact of messaging. Europe has finally started taking China’s threat toward Taiwan more seriously, and the joint statement of United States President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron recently explicitly mentioned peace and security in the Taiwan Strait. Messaging like this should become the norm amongst European leaders.
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“As Europe confronts the poison of Russian and Chinese disinformation, it’s also become increasingly aware of the lessons and best practices it could share with Taiwan, which has been confronting the Chinese challenge for decades. Cooperation on disinformation should be enhanced.
“Additionally, while France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany have sailed and flown through the South China Sea to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight, these excursions remain few and far between — and generally, they don’t pass through the Taiwan Strait either. Not only should these become more regular, they should involve other member countries too.”
She continued: “Meanwhile, though the European Union has begun discussions with Taiwan over a bilateral investment agreement, these talks seem to be headed nowhere — especially since the bloc suspended ratification of its Comprehensive Agreement on Investment with China. Whether through a broad investment agreement or through sectoral agreements, the EU’s economic ties with Taiwan should be boosted and shouldn’t be held hostage to the increasingly fraught relationship with China.
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“Hopefully, the European Parliament’s trade delegation to Taiwan this week is a step in that direction.
“Finally, the EU and its member countries could be doing much more at the UN to actively contrast China’s distortion of the One China Policy too.
“Some Europeans might ask themselves why they should go to pains to support Taiwan, incurring China’s anger. The answer is that they should do so because not only is Taiwan strategic for Europe — 40 percent of Europe’s trade passes through the strait and the EU is the biggest investor in Taiwan — but, above all, the major lesson drawn from the war in Ukraine is that it’s far less costly to act to prevent war than cope with the repercussions once it erupts.
“Taiwan may be much farther away from Europe than Ukraine, but the consequences of war in Asia would be just as devastating for the Continent.”