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Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP via Getty Images

The leader of the European Parliament's first official delegation to Taiwan says the EU is slowly waking up to the threat posed by the Chinese government — but is held back by companies, particularly in Germany, that act as "lobbyists" for Beijing.

Driving the news: Raphaël Glucksmann, a French human rights activist who has quickly become one of Europe's most influential voices on China, told Axios in a wide-ranging interview that he is seeking to "break the taboo inside the European institutions" on engaging with Taiwan.

  • Glucksmann, 42, dismissed the notion that this month's visit — which drew a stern warning from Beijing — was a "provocation," and argued that stronger EU support for Taiwanese democracy will actually deter China from launching an invasion.
  • "We should not be terrorized and paralyzed by the fear of authoritarian regimes' reactions to our policies," Glucksmann stressed.

Flashback: Glucksmann and four fellow European parliamentarians were placed on Beijing's sanctions blacklist in March for their advocacy over the genocide in Xinjiang.

  • He told Axios that as a human rights activist, he considers it a "medal of honor" to be sanctioned by "the worst human rights violator in the world."
  • In response to the sanctions, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to freeze ratification of a major EU-China investment deal.
  • Glucksmann says that was a watershed moment for EU relations with China, and there's "no chance" the deal will ever be passed. He's pushing for the EU to upgrade its trade ties with Taiwan in its place.

In the interview, Glucksmann warned that if the EU's executive branch wants to be "chickenshit on Taiwan," the European Parliament will hold it accountable by refusing to ratify other trade priorities.

  • Glucksmann says one major barrier to stronger European action on China is Germany, where political leaders dating back to the 1990s have bet big on economic ties with China and companies like Volkswagen act as "ambassadors of Chinese interest."
  • Negotiations for the shape of the next German government are currently ongoing. Glucksmann is hopeful that the presence of the Greens in the governing coalition will push Germany to take a more "principles-based approach" to China.

What to watch: Glucksmann said how the EU responds to the China challenge will be a "litmus test" for whether the bloc can be an "adult player" independent of the U.S.: "If we don't manage to be stronger in our relations with China, then it means that Europe will remain weak forever."

Go deeper: Europe's China critics embrace Taiwan

Go deeper

Axios Investigates

Exclusive: Airbnb hosts Xinjiang rentals on land owned by sanctioned group

Data: Axios research, Airbnb, Australian Strategic Policy Institute's International Cyber Policy Centre; Map: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Airbnb has more than a dozen homes available for rent in China's Xinjiang region on land owned by an organization sanctioned by the U.S. government for complicity in genocide and forced labor, an Axios investigation has found.

Why it matters: The listings expose Airbnb to regulatory risk under U.S. law. They also land yet another American tech company in the crossfire between the U.S. and China.

Supreme Court appears likely to roll back abortion rights

Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed likely to weaken abortion rights and perhaps to let states ban the procedure altogether.

The intrigue: The court seemed likely to throw out the framework established in Roe v. Wade, but it wasn't clear whether a majority of the justices were inclined to overturn the court's precedents entirely.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated 44 mins ago - Economy & Business

How to meme a painting

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

How can a physical artwork become an NFT? One new company has just spent $12.9 million on a Banksy in an attempt to try out a new way of converting the real into the virtual.

Why it matters: The art market globally sees volume of about $60 billion per year, almost all of which is trade in physical objects. Art-world insiders including former Christie's c0-chair Loïc Gouzer are on the lookout for ways to monetize physical paintings without necessarily giving up physical ownership of them.