The European Union embarked on a trade deal with China believing that engagement with Beijing was the best way to alter its behavior and make it a committed stakeholder in the international system. But that was seven years ago.

The deal was quietly sealed in the final weeks of last year. By then, China had changed and so had the world. The trans-Atlantic relationship has been damaged by President Trump, with new doubts in Europe about American constancy and in America about Europe’s ambitions.

The timing — with a newly aggressive China seen as a strategic rival to the United States and just weeks before Joseph R. Biden Jr. becomes president — has opened the European Union to questions and criticism, from analysts and particularly American officials, that perhaps the deal was a diplomatic and political error.


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