Protect Europe from China without breaking up. Cooperate but without letting your guard down. It is the difficult balance that the EU has against other powers, especially China. The country is not mentioned in the communication that the European Commission approved this Wednesday to identify the critical technologies that it wants to safeguard from the clutches of the Asian giant, but the decision is part of a process that the EU has initiated in the search for a autonomous relationship with China that allows it to coexist and compete while minimizing risks and reducing dependencies.
Brussels has identified four especially sensitive technological areas that the 27 will have to analyze and establish specific measures for their protection that may end in restrictions on their sale to third countries. These are semiconductors (microelectronics, high-frequency chips…), Artificial Intelligence (language processing, object recognition, data analysis, etc.), quantum technology (computing, cryptography…) and biotechnology (techniques genetic modification, new genomic techniques, directed genetics and synthetic biology).
“Europe is adapting to the new geopolitical realities, ending the era of naivety and acting as a true geopolitical actor,” said Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton on the social network He subsequently assured that the measure is not taken “against anyone” and gave as an example the ‘chip law’ with which the EU mobilized capital with the aim of producing 20% of the world’s chips. The idea was to gain autonomy in that field against China and Russia.
This is the first step in the development of the European Economic Security Strategy that the European Commission presented last June, three months after the president, Ursula von der Leyen, established the rules of the game in which she wants to frame the relationship with China. Along those lines, for example, she has announced an EU investigation into China’s subsidies for electric cars, which are bursting into the European market. It was a demand from France that has raised suspicions in Germany. And how to relate to Beijing divides the 27.
On what basis has the European Commission defined these technologies as crucial? In the potential of their capabilities to transform reality, in the risk they pose for security (that they can be used for military purposes), or the risk that they will be used to violate human rights. A quite practical example is robotics: it can be used to build drones that end up on the battlefield.
And what will happen now with these four technological areas? The European Commission’s intention is for the EU to establish a series of specific safeguard measures towards these technologies, which could be export control, for example, or the guarantee of protection of the know-how when it is European, but community sources assure that they may also be decisions that have to do with their promotion and association for their promotion.
Brussels considers, however, that there are six other areas that must be taken into account, although they do not fall into the category of “imminent risk.” It is about advanced connectivity, navigation and digital technologies; advanced space sensing and propulsion technologies, including hypersonics; energy, including nuclear fusion; robotics; advanced materials, manufacturing and recycling technology, according to Bloomberg.
Community sources maintain that all great powers, such as the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom or Australia, have similar lists of critical technologies. But where they have been looking with the most concern for a long time in Brussels is China. During his last visit to the country at the end of September, the economic vice president of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, insisted to the Chinese government on the need to establish “more balanced” trade relations. And the EU’s trade deficit with China amounts to almost 400 billion euros.