“China is the friend you need to have and the enemy you don’t want to have”

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The confrontation between the US and China on several fronts was strongly installed at the 56th Munich Security Conference. The trigger for the organizers for the discussion was: “How to stop the progressive loss of influence of the West against the rest of the world?”

The answers were not blunt but they reflected the state of international relations where Europe seeks to preserve the best aspects of its strategic alliance with USA while continuing to consolidate or expose themselves in their relations with China.

The meeting was attended by about 500 heads of Government and State, ministers, experts and special guests. It was held between February 14 and 16 in the German city.
Emerged in the post World War II, the conference became one of the events in which the West annually reaffirmed its status as a global leader. However, in recent years it has become another exponent of the crack that is opening up among historical allies.
While the administration of Donald Trump accelerated and deepened this disagreement, it is a process that has as a counterpart the growth of emerging powers such as Russia, China, Iran and Turkey.

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                    AFP 2019 / Daniel Leal-Olivas

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“The biggest confrontation there has been the issue of China, its companies, the Internet and the 5G”, summed up in dialogue with Sputnik Beatriz De León, expert in Security and Defense of the platform Spanish on defense policies Article 30.

US officials warned of the risk that Europe would imply for Huawei to provide this technology that will dominate the world in the coming decades and that would facilitate, as they warned, that the Asian giant access relevant information from countries.

“The US statement and the fervent way that even the Democrats were asking Europe ‘please, please, leave our 5G and don’t let Huawei and Chinese companies enter’, they seemed very strong to me,” de León said.

“The US puts pressure on Europe to make a decision that is quite irreversible, as it would be to stop using Chinese technology companies,” he added.
“China is the friend you need to have and the enemy you don’t want to have,” said the Master in Defense, Security and Crisis Management by the Institute for International and Strategic Relations in Paris.

“Europe is in a scenario that right now does not want to give in to US pressure, but obviously China is a risk,” added the expert, for whom, if the US is saying this is because “there is evidence that 5G and be framed with Huawei on strategic issues has a certain risk. ”

“China is the friend you need to have in economic terms and the enemy you have to avoid. Europe must make a decision sooner rather than later but it has to be taken alone, without pressure from either side,” De León reflected.

Sleeping with the enemy?

De León was asked if there is no contradiction between the US alerts about China and his own US spying to European countries through intelligence agencies and digital technology. Those facts “attracted attention but the only consequences there were in this regard is that Europe began to protect itself more,” he said. In the expert’s opinion, “there is more risk with Huawei and other Chinese companies because it is the Government that is behind them.”

De León recalled that “there is a lot of shared infrastructure” among Western partners and that is why “the US concern that Europe is protected, because if you fall and China has access to European intelligence, you have access to American intelligence” he added.
For De León, other actions of the first power evidenced the rift between these historical allies. “It has not been until this last year that the US began to make decisions that affect the security of Europe,” he said.
The withdrawal of troops from Syria unilaterally without counting on their allies, was when “we Europeans began to realize the dangers of not having a strong alliance with the US. Europe is really in a moment of pressure,” he said. .

For De León, however, “the threat of terrorism in the world is what really moves alliances.” In this regard, he said that the defense initiatives that the European Union is deploying outside NATO are not a reflection of a break in the medium or long term, but of complementarity.

“NATO remains a strategic alliance more than ever, but on the other hand Europe is armed with these challenges because it is clear that together with the United States they are not the same at all,” he concluded.

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