Finland

Is US trying to influence Finland’s foreign policy towards China

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As per a recent research carried out by Finnish researchers Jyrki Kallio and Bart Gaens of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, US has been trying to build pressure on Finland to reform its foreign policy towards China. In their paper, ‘Finland’s relations with China and the US’, published by European Think-Tank Network on China (ETNC), the two emphasised that, “Trade is a key factor in Finland’s relations with both China and the US. Looking at statistics, the US occupies a more important position than China in terms of investments, but the role of China for the Finnish economy as a trading partner is extremely important.”

They highlighted that unlike China, US has been trying to convince Finland to take anti-China stand as it considers the latter to be part of its ‘sphere of influence’. They wrote, “On Finland’s part, this sentiment is shared by the government, which considers the US a key partner in security and defence.”

Kallio said that US influence seemed to be working on the European nation as the Finnish government, municipalities and universities have started altering their view of China as more of a security threat than an opportunity. “Small players such as municipalities, businesses and universities are much more likely to be scared off by pressure if they encounter it,” Kallio said. Besides, the Finnish researchers mentioned that in an unprecedented move, “the US embassy visited a university in Finland and called on it not to increase cooperation with China”.

US-China rivalry has led to major trade and diplomatic war with two trying to from allies. William Couch, head of public affairs at the US embassy in Helsinki, denied the reports on US trying to build influence on Finland. He told Yle that no one at the Helsinki embassy focuses exclusively on China. But he did accept that the US’s advisory message of the threat posed by China was a key part of US diplomatic ties.

“Our diplomats communicate about these concerns around the world, also here in Finland,” he added. Couch said that the communist nation was trying to impact Europe and the United States ties by using cyber campaigns and misinformation. “The Chinese threat is undermining democracy internationally. It is only natural that we are alert to threats against our freedom,” Couch commented via email.

Last week, while attending German Marshall Fund, a virtual event, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the European nationsto support Washington in itsrelations with China in order to implement an effective resistance policy towards Beijing. With regard to development of the EU’s bilateral ties, Pompeo said,”this isn’t the United States confronting China, this is the world confronting China.” So far the European nations have opted for a middle path, with an attempt to mitigating trade relations while hesitating to escalate tension between either of the two superpowers.

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