We can safeguard ourselves against the influence of authoritarian regimes

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Miriam Lexmann during Extraordinary AFET Meeting (30 April 2020) in exchange of views with Mr Josep Borrell, Vice-President of the European Commission/ High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on the EEAS special report on the narratives and disinformation around the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Borrell,

Thank you for taking the time to join us today to discuss this important issue. 

The allegations of Chinese coercion and pressure on the EU with regards to the East StratCom report is truly worrying. As a community of 27 sovereign member states, we must not tolerate such meddling into our internal affairs by an increasingly adversarial authoritarian regime. 

I believe there are two ways we can safeguard ourselves against the influence of authoritarian regimes. 

Firstly, I am a strong supporter of the need to fight against disinformation, Russia, Chinese, and that of other authoritarian regimes. East StratCom is an important part of that. But we need to ensure a high-quality analysis backed by a solid methodology. I believe that a methodologically and analytically robust institution, coupled with more effective external communication, is a fundamental starting point in strengthening our fight against disinformation.

Secondly, we must rethink our broader relations with China. The CCP has built an Orwellian state that, just in the recent years, introduced mass surveillance, engaged in forced organ harvesting from prisoners, destroyed thousands of churches and sent over one million Uyghur Muslims to concentration camps. It is renegading on international agreements and behaves with increasingly brute force towards the people of Hong Kong, and constantly bullies Taiwan. Moreover, Cardinal Bo rightly argues that ‘it is the oppression, the lies and corruption of the CCP that are responsible’ for the pandemic. 

This opens fundamental questions about how Western democracies ought to engage with authoritarian states, and China in particular, in the post-COVID-19 world. And my question is, as a Union based on a set of values, what is going to be our strategy towards China, and how do we ensure a values-based policy that mobilises our leverages, such as international trade, to address the challenge coming from the CCP? 

Thank you

Photo: Martin Lahousse.

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