The novel coronavirus has provided the European Union a unique opportunity to rebalance its relationship with China—if only it could get on the same page about it.
When EU member states needed face masks during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, they couldn’t get any, because China had shut down its factories. The crisis illustrated the dangers of depending on a single country for medical equipment. And it’s prompted some politicians to push for the bloc to accelerate its long-term strategy of becoming more autonomous in key sectors, including digital infrastructure, space and defense, raw materials, and pharmaceuticals.
That would mean shifting supply chains away from China, procuring base materials from elsewhere, and generally trying to make Europe’s economy depend as little as possible on China—a process known in the US as “decoupling.”