12 March 2020

ThinkChina Analysis: ”America First”; Denmark’s Strategic Navigation in the Era of US-Chinese Rivalry

US-Chinese great power rivalry already raises difficult questions for Denmark given its position as a close treaty ally to the US. Having worked hard over the past decade to cultivate strong and diversified relations with China, Denmark is now struggling with how to maintain its Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) in the face of growing pressure from the Trump Administration. Recently, the Danish government has pre-empted Chinese investment plans in Greenland and effectively barred Huawei from being part of the 5G infrastructure in Denmark, while also adopting a somewhat more vocal line with respect to Chinese human-rights violations. Although distancing itself from specific Trump Administration policies and proposals, notably on climate change, free trade and the status of Greenland, the Danish government continues to see US global leadership as vital to Danish national interests. In finding a way to navigate the US-Chinese rivalry, Copenhagen is prevented from leaning too much towards Brussels given its national opt-outs from the EU.

Key takeaways:
  • While Denmark officially enjoys a "Comprehensive Strategic Partnership" with China, this term would more aptly capture the nature of Denmark's relationship with the United States.

  • Copehagen's partnership with Beijing is rather narrow and instrumental, and we have recently witnessed a shift towards a somewhat more China-critical political atmosphere in Denmark.

  • The Danish government still prefers not to politicize its differences with Beijing. However, this might change as Denmark seems increasingly susceptible to American pressure in the burgeoning US-China great power rivalry.

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