U.S. allies are growing increasingly vocal about their willingness to push back against China on the global stage, falling in line with Washington’s desires to rein in Beijing despite continued differences on how to move forward.
European allies, in particular, say they are moving more aggressively to address concerns about attempts by Chinese companies, like Huawei, to dominate the rollout of advanced 5G mobile networks as well as on humanitarian issues, ranging from China’s actions in Hong Kong to Beijing’s alarming treatment of the country’s Uighur minority.
But some of them are advocating a less brash, less hostile approach than what they see coming out of Washington.
"It's easy and it gives you a good feeling inside if you use strong words, but we also know that this approach is often one that blocks every contact and every possible influence,” German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told attendees at this week’s virtual European Union Defense Forum.
Kramp-Karrenbauer also stressed the need to confront China on difficult issues by remaining engaged, as opposed to pulling back.
"If we see that China is trying to increase its influence in international organizations, not to further multilateralism but to push its own interests, then we must not weaken the international organizations,” she said Wednesday, in an apparent criticism of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization. "On the contrary, we must engage stronger there."
Other officials stress the need for more U.S.-European cooperation on China, especially in the area of technology.
"We should work closely on this,” Radek Sikorski, chairman of the European Parliament’s European Union-U.S. delegation, told the forum Thursday. “A two-front war [for the U.S.] with Europe and China, at the same time, is a bad idea.”
The comments from European officials come as top U.S. officials have warned repeatedly that U.S.-led efforts against Beijing are only going to intensify.
“You’re going to see a significant rollout of measures with respect to China in the coming days and weeks,” White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien told reporters Wednesday, pointing both to Chinese tech companies and Beijing’s growing security crackdown in Hong Kong.
“What the Chinese Communist Party is doing isn't just in Hong Kong, it's affecting all of you. It's affecting how we operate in the United States,” he said. “We can't let that happen.”
O’Brien’s warnings followed similar remarks a day earlier from FBI Director Christopher Wray, who called China a threat to “our health, our livelihoods and our security."
"China is engaged in a whole-of-state effort to become the world's only superpower by any means necessary," Wray told a small audience Tuesday in Washington. “When China violates our criminal laws and international norms, we are not going to tolerate it."
VOA's Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.