EU Relations

EU trade body sick of China’s doublespeak as patience runs out

Key sectors are still blocked or ‘saturated’ by Chinese companies before foreign firms are allowed to compete

Doublespeak is rampant in the inner circle of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

But the incessant “opening up” mantra in the world’s second-largest economy is starting to grate on foreign firms wrapped up in red tape.

As the situation deteriorates for EU companies, “promise fatigue” has become a constant complaint from the European Union Chamber of Commerce.

“For much of the last four decades, European business has been confident that China’s leaders were leaning heavily towards continued opening-up after having emerged from an era of seclusion,” a major EU report revealed earlier this month.

“Unfortunately, the last several years have challenged this confidence,” a synopsis of the 33-page European Business in China Position Paper 2020/2021 stated.

Human rights issues

Indeed, that critique illustrates the rising tension between the EU and China amid growing concerns about human rights issues in Xinjiang Province, Hong Kong and Inner Mongolia.

A lack of transparency about the origins of the Covid-19 crisis, which first surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, has only added to the distrust in Brussels.

“The European market is open, and European companies must have fair and equal access to the Chinese market in return,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said after last week’s EU-China video summit.

In short, the European Union has run out of patience in its quest for market access.

Key sectors are still blocked or “saturated” by Chinese companies before foreign businesses are allowed to compete. The financial sector is a classic example, the European Union Chamber of Commerce pointed out.

‘Closed-off sector’

“China’s closed-off banking sector allowed domestic financiers to fully saturate the entire market without the challenge of outside competition,” it said.

‘The eventual removal of the direct barriers to foreign banks was then hailed in Chinese state media as a monumental step towards China opening its economy,” the European Union Chamber of Commerce continued.

“However, the fact that the reform took place so late in the game made it more akin to letting foreign investors onto a railway platform only after the train had long since departed,” it added.

Welcome to doublespeak with Chinese characteristics.

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