The Wuhan virus has ended the game China has been playing for the past three decades to rise from Marxist-rooted poverty to the world’s biggest manufacturer. Virtually all of the world’s advanced economies and many of the less developed countries now realize that China is not a trustworthy partner. Donald Trump may have been the first world leader to call the Chinese out, but he now has plenty of company: With a series of high-level summits culminating in a visit to Germany in the fall by President Xi Jinping, this was supposed to be the year of Europe-China diplomacy. Instead, Europeans are warning of a damaging rift. Diplomats talk of mounting anger over China’s behavior during the coronavirus pandemic including claims of price gouging by Chinese suppliers of medical equipment and a blindness to how its actions are perceived. The upshot is that Beijing’s handling of the crisis has eroded trust just when it had a chance to demonstrate global leadership. “Over these months China has lost Europe,” said Reinhard Buetikofer, a German Green party lawmaker who chairs the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with China. He cited concerns from China’s “truth management” in the early stages of the virus to an “extremely aggressive” stance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing and “hard-line propaganda” that champions the superiority of Communist Party rule over democracy.
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