作者:成朝庭(德中论坛研究所创始人)


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中欧投资协议其实由欧盟在2013年主动发起,因为欧盟认为中欧双方投资地位严重不对等。欧盟是高度开放的市场经济,对所有外国投资一视同仁;但中国市场则对外资限制重重,比如外资在汽车产业的投资必须与中方合资,金融和电信等领域壁垒森严,对国企的补贴严重伤害公平竞争等等。与美国一样,欧盟对此高度不满。中方对这种投资协议其实并不感兴趣,中方更想签的是自由贸易协议(如中国与东盟各国及日韩于2020年11月签署的RCEP),因为这对作为制造大国的中国更有利。然而,与七年前美国尚实行对华“engagement”政策时代大相径庭的是,如今中国面临来自美国的巨大压力,所处的地缘政治环境显著恶化。因此,中国迫切需要团结欧盟以分化美欧,不惜在谈判最后关头做出大幅让步,欧盟也顺势表态同意。舆论普遍认为中国的“统一战线”策略发挥了威力,取得了一场重大地缘政治胜利;而美国是第一大输家,因为欧盟从此更靠拢华盛顿的地缘政治对手;英国则是第二大输家,因为该国刚刚脱离欧盟,从而无法享受协议带来的红利。

 

欧盟内部存在对协议的批评声音,美国方面也极为不满。这些因素,欧盟和德法领导人都心知肚明,但在拜登新政府即将上台并誓言加强美欧合作应对“中国挑战”之际,欧方为何还是要执意签署这个“问题重重”的协议呢?为了回答这个问题,我们必须在全球视野下穿越历史的迷雾,认识到这是(欧亚)大陆体系和(美英)海洋体系两种地缘政治体系博弈的最新进展。

 

自1991年冷战结束以来,世界曾短暂进入美国主导的单极格局,即日裔美国学者福山所称的“历史的终结”。但是,由于美国实力的相对下降和中国的快速崛起,这个单极格局正在瓦解,世界各大力量正在重新集结,一个新的群雄逐鹿时代正在来临。当今世界地缘政治角逐场上的主要玩家是美欧俄中,可能还要加上日本和印度。而这些强权又大致可以划分为陆权力量和海权力量:美国、英国和日本都是典型的海权力量;印度因居于南亚次大陆,与亚洲大陆相对隔绝且三面环海,因此可基本划入海权力量;欧俄中则均是传统的陆权力量。

 

2016年的英国脱欧虽是全民公投结果,但从地缘政治视角看,英国与欧洲大陆分道扬镳,回归传统的美英特殊关系,却符合历史上一再上演的陆海博弈逻辑。目前来看,世界有可能再现经典的陆海对决,即欧俄中(欧亚大陆)vs. 美英日印(大西洋-太平洋-印度洋)。当然,由于历史的原因,欧洲大陆与美国还有千丝万缕的联系,欧盟国家内部还存在强大的亲美力量,即跨大西洋主义者。尤其是在价值观上,欧盟与美国仍然是同一阵营。但是,民粹主义者和民族主义者特朗普当选美国总统后的所作所为清楚地显示,美欧之间的裂痕在加深。特朗普有意无意地宣称北约已经“过时”,法国总统马克龙则发出了北约已经“脑死亡”的惊人论断,德法组建欧洲军从而逐渐脱离美国羽翼的呼声也已出现。

 

世事纷乱如麻,但目光如炬的战略家却洞若观火:已经到来的中美对抗,正在重现地缘政治学家心爱的陆海博弈,中国的“一带一路” 与美国的“自由开放的印太战略”正在欧亚大陆和印太地区的广阔舞台上,展开类似于大英帝国和沙俄帝国于十九世纪在中亚地区长达百年的“大博弈”。英国和日本作为欧亚大陆西东两端的海洋强国,一定会投入海权霸主美国的怀抱,延续其在地缘政治上制衡大陆的悠久传统。而欧盟尽管不太可能加入与其价值观格格不入的中(俄)阵营,但很可能也不情愿如英日两国一样跟随美国起舞,大概率会在两大阵营之间待价而沽。

 

早在美国力量如日中天的2003年,德法两国就与中俄保持一致,坚决反对美英攻打伊拉克,那时以德法为主导的欧盟在地缘政治上的战略自主性就初露端倪。在美中对抗日益成为当今国际关系指导范式的大背景下,欧盟内部谋求成为美中之外第三势力的呼声也已出现。此次达成一致的中欧投资协议,再次表明以德法为代表的欧洲大陆国家与美英海洋国家在地缘政治战略上并不是完全一条心,即便面对与“专制国家”合作的批评声音,他们仍然执意要签这个协议。

 

实际上,大陆体系和海洋体系的竞争是历史常态,但自近代以来,大陆体系总是弱势和失败的一方。拿破仑也搞过对抗海权霸主英国的大陆体系,对英国实行“大陆封锁”政策,但该政策最终失败并成为导致拿破仑帝国垮台的重要原因之一。希特勒统治下的纳粹德国几乎占领了整个欧洲大陆并东进向欧亚大陆纵深扩张,但美英海洋力量却不惜与其意识形态敌人苏联联手,彻底粉碎了希特勒统合欧亚大陆体系的努力。冷战期间与整个美欧跨大西洋体系对抗的苏联帝国,本质上也是陆权力量。从1950年代到1960年代初期,苏联东欧与中国在欧亚大陆上连成一片,大陆体系盛极一时。但苏联却因过度扩张而导致国力严重透支,加之僵化的意识形态而丧失制度活力,使得苏联建构的欧亚大陆体系最终不敌美欧跨大西洋体系,苏联自身也轰然解体,造成普京眼中“二十世纪最大的地缘政治灾难”。

 

今日世界似乎又到了新的陆海对决时刻,这一次轮到了由位居欧亚大陆东部的中国出面整合大陆体系,2013年问世的“一带一路”被广泛认为是背负这一宏大使命的地缘政治战略。而位于欧亚大陆西端的欧盟,正成为中国这个新兴陆权领袖大国和美国这个既有海权霸主之间的争夺对象。

 

在欧盟内部,仍然存在主张加强跨大西洋联盟的强大力量(比如德国国会外交事务委员会主席Norbert Röttgen和慕尼黑安全会议主席Wolfgang Ischinger),他们希望维持和强化北约,在跨大西洋体系的框架下与美英传统盟友密切协作,共同应对中俄这两个威权大国对西方优势地位日益严重的挑战。因此,他们对中欧投资协议这种将损害与美英伙伴关系的条约,一定会进行不懈斗争。实际上,该协议目前只是在双方领导人之间达成了原则同意,后续还必须得到欧洲议会及27个成员国议会的批准,这个过程将是旷日持久并困难重重的,数名欧洲议会成员和欧洲舆论界都表达了强烈不满。

 

另一方面,欧盟内部主张加强战略自主性,拒绝在美中对抗中选边站队的声音近年来也越来越有影响力,他们要求维持甚至发展与中俄之间的关系。至少在地缘政治和经贸利益上,他们认为必须与中俄合作,尽管他们也明白欧盟与中俄在价值观方面的主张格格不入。这派势力可称之为欧亚大陆派,包括德国总理默克尔和法国总统马克龙等影响力强大的人物似乎对此都表现出了兴趣。目前来看,欧亚大陆派还处于边缘地位,与跨大西洋派的影响尚不能相提并论。然而,跨大西洋体系的形成不过是二战的结果,迄今只有七十余年时间,与欧洲深厚的大陆传统相比,这段历史其实相当短暂。如今,欧盟开始认真考虑所谓的“战略自主性”,一个欧亚大陆体系 vs. 美英海洋体系的竞争局面也许在孕育之中,中欧投资协议的达成只不过是这一历史常态合乎逻辑的发展。

China-EU Investment Agreement from a geopolitical perspective: New developments of the new “Great Game” between continental system and maritime system

The China-EU investment agreement was actually initiated by the EU in 2013 because the EU believes that the investment conditions of China and EU are heavily unequal: the EU is a highly open market economy that treats all foreign investments equally, but the Chinese market is heavily restricted to foreign investments, for example, in the automotive industry, where joint ventures with Chinese parties are required, in areas such as finance and telecommunications, where barriers are high and subsidies to state-owned enterprises seriously harm fair competition, etc. Like the United States, the EU is highly dissatisfied with this treatment. China is not really interested in such investment agreement, and would rather sign free trade agreements (such as the RCEP, which China signed with ASEAN countries, Japan and South Korea in November 2020) because it is more beneficial to China as a major manufacturing great power. However, unlike seven years ago when the U.S. had an “engagement” policy towards China, China is now under enormous pressure from the U.S. and is in a significantly worse geopolitical environment. Therefore, China urgently needs EU and Beijing’s key objectives in making last-minute concessions to Europe is to drive a wedge between the U.S. and EU. Obviously, EU is not in the position to resist the temptation of Beijing. It is widely perceived that China’s “united front” strategy has worked well in the negotiation and achieved a major geopolitical victory, while the US is the first major loser, as the EU has since moved closer to Beijing which is Washington’s geopolitical rival, and the UK is the second major loser, as this country has just exited the EU and thus cannot enjoy the dividends of the agreement. 

Criticism of the agreement within the EU is actually very strong, and the U.S. is also extremely dissatisfied. The leaders of the EU, Germany and France are definitely aware of this, but why did they insist on signing this “problematic” agreement at the moment when the new Biden administration was about to take office and vowed to strengthen U.S.-European cooperation to deal with the growing “Chinese challenge”? In order to answer this question, we must have a global perspective, and go through the fog of history to realize that this is the latest development in the game between two geopolitical systems: the (Eurasian) continental system and the (Anglo-American) maritime system.

Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the world briefly entered a unipolar pattern dominated by the United States, or what the Japanese-American scholar Francis Fukuyama called “the end of history”. However, due to the relative decline of U.S. power and the rapid rise of China, this unipolar pattern is disintegrating, and the world’s major powers are regrouping, and a new era of great power competition is dawning. The main players in the world’s geopolitical arena today are the U.S., Europe, Russia and China, with the possible addition of Japan and India. These powers can be roughly divided into land power and sea power: the United States, Britain and Japan are typical sea powers; India is located in the South Asian subcontinent, relatively isolated from the Asian continent and surrounded by sea on three sides, so it can be basically classified as a sea power; Europe, Russia and China are all traditional land powers.

Although the Brexit in 2016 was the result of a referendum, from a geopolitical perspective, the UK parting ways with the European continent and returning to the traditional Anglo-American special relationship are in line with the logic of the competition between land powers and sea powers, which has played out again and again throughout history. As it stands now, the world is likely to reproduce the classic land-sea competition, i.e. Europe-Russia-China (Eurasia) vs. the U.S.-UK-Japan-India (Atlantic-Pacific-Indian Ocean). Of course, due to historical reasons, the European continent is still inextricably linked to the United States, and there are strong pro-American forces within the EU countries, i.e. transatlanticists. Especially in terms of values, the EU and the U.S. are still on the same side. However, the actions and behaviors of populist and nationalist Donald Trump after his election to the U.S. presidency clearly show that the rift between the U.S. and Europe is deepening. Trump intentionally or unintentionally declared that NATO has been “obsolete”, French President Macron surprisingly asserted that NATO has been “brain dead”, and calls for Germany and France to form a European army to gradually break away from the wings of the United States are also growing.

The world is in chaos, but strategists with a keen eye can identify the increasingly clear trend: the coming confrontation between China and the United States is reviving the geopolitical scientists’ beloved game between land power and sea power, with China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) and the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” (FOIP) of the U.S. playing out on the vast stage of Eurasian continent and the Indo-Pacific region, similar to the century-long “Great Game” between the British Empire and the Tsarist Russian Empire in Central Asia in the 19th century. Britain and Japan, the two maritime powers at the western and eastern ends of the Eurasian continent, are bound to join the the dominant sea power--the U.S., and continue their long tradition of checking continental powers. Although the EU is unlikely to join the Chinese (& Russian) block, which is incompatible with its values, it is reluctant to follow the U.S. like Britain and Japan, and would probably wait for an attractive offer between the two blocks. 

As early as 2003, when the U.S. power was at its peak, Germany and France aligned themselves with China and Russia and firmly opposed the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, and the strategic autonomy of the German-French-led EU in geopolitics was beginning to emerge. Against the background of the U.S.-China confrontation becoming the guiding paradigm of today’s international relations, there is a growing call for the EU to become the third polar outside the U.S. and China. The China-EU investment agreement shows once again that the continental European countries, represented by Germany and France, and the maritime powers (the U.S. and UK) are not entirely on the same page in terms of geopolitical strategy. Even at the risk of cooperating with “authoritarian states”, the EU still insists on signing this agreement. 

In fact, the geopolitical competition between the continental system and the maritime system is a historical norm, but since modern times, the continental system has always been the weaker and losing side. Napoleon has engaged in a continental system against the then maritime hegemon--Britain, and pursued a “continental blockade” policy against Britain, but the policy eventually failed and became one of the major reasons for the fall of Napoleon’s empire. Nazi Germany under Hitler’s rule occupied almost the entire European continent and expanded eastward to the depths of Eurasian continent, but the sea powers--the U.S. and the UK--were willing to cooperate with their ideological enemy--the Soviet Union--to completely crush Hitler’s efforts to unify the Eurasian continental system. The Soviet Empire, which fought against the entire transatlantic system during the Cold War, was also essentially a land power. From the 1950s to the early 1960s, the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China were linked together in Eurasian continent and reach their peak in terms of geopolitical power. However, the Soviet Union’s over-expansion, which led to severe overstretching of its power, and its rigid ideology, which led to the loss of institutional dynamism, made the Soviet-built Eurasian continental system ultimately no match for the U.S.-European transatlantic system, and the Soviet Union itself collapsed, causing what Putin sees as “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century”.

Today’s world seems to have reached a new land power-sea power duel, this time, China, which is located in the eastern part of the Eurasian continent, is trying to unite the continental system, with the “Belt and Road Initiative”, which was launched in 2013, being widely considered as a geopolitical strategy to achieve its ambitious goal. The European Union, located at the western end of Eurasia, is becoming the subject of a battle between China, the rising land power, and the United States, the established hegemon of sea power.

Within the EU, there are still strong forces advocating a stronger transatlantic alliance, they want to maintain and strengthen NATO and work closely with traditional allies of the U.S. and UK within the framework of the transatlantic system to address the growing challenge to Western dominance by the two authoritarian great powers--China and Russia. The transatlanticists must therefore fight relentlessly against a treaty like the EU-China investment agreement, which would undermine the partnership with the U.S. and UK. In fact, the agreement has only been agreed in principle between the leaders of China and EU, and must be subsequently ratified by the European Parliament and the parliaments of the 27 member states, this is a process that will be protracted and difficult. Several members of the European Parliament and European public opinion have expressed their strong dissatisfaction.

On the other hand, voices within the EU have been growing in favor of strengthening strategic autonomy and refusing to take sides in the U.S.-China confrontation, they are calling for maintaining and even developing relations with China and Russia. At least in terms of geopolitical and economic interests, they believe that they must cooperate with China and Russia, although they also understand that the EU is totally different from China and Russia in terms of values. This faction can be called the Eurasianists, and influential figures such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, seem to be showing interest in it. For the time being, the Eurasianists are still on the periphery and cannot match the strong influence of the traditional transatlanticists. However, the transatlantic system was formed only as a result of World War II and has only been in place for more than seventy years, a history that is actually quite short compared to Europe’s deep continental tradition. Now that the EU is beginning to seriously consider its so-called “strategic autonomy”, a competition between Eurasian continental system and Anglo-American maritime system may be in the making, and the conclusion of the EU-China investment agreement is simply a logical development of this historical norm.