The central means by which this conflict is being fought out is geoeconomics. Today, economic policy has become an essential instrument for projecting power. On the one hand, it serves to proactively exert political influence on third parties through the creation of dependencies. On the other hand, the industrial policy of the major blocs is aimed at defensively strengthening their own capacities to reduce their vulnerability to the foreign economic policy of third parties. The focus is primarily on those technologies, raw materials and products that are particularly critical in the course of the transformation towards digitalisation and decarbonisation - chips, semiconductors, battery cells, rare earths, solar modules and infrastructure, to name just a few examples.
China has been pursuing this strategy for several years with long-term planning and great consistency. With the "Made in China 2025" plan, the People's Republic is pursuing the goal of becoming the world's leading technology and industrial power and increasing the share of Chinese manufacturers of "core components and important basic materials" on the domestic market to 70 per cent. With the Belt and Road Initiative, China set out 10 years ago to create a network of economic interdependence across numerous third countries through investments, loans, raw material partnerships, trade agreements, and, above all, infrastructure projects.
The EU, on the other hand, has only recently woken up and still has a lot of work to do in the geo-economic competition, from which it cannot escape. Recently launched initiatives and instruments such as the European Chips Act, by which Europe wants to strengthen its resilience in the critical field of semiconductor technology, or the Anti-Coercion Mechanism, by which the EU seeks to protect itself against economic blackmailing, point in the right direction. However, they were launched late, still have to prove themselves in practice and are not yet enough to empower the EU in a way that it can shape the multipolar world according to European values and interests. Even in regions where the EU is already the largest economic actor, namely in its immediate neighbourhood, it is not very successful in exerting political influence in mutual interest.