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About this book

This accessible text offers a comprehensive analysis of the European Union (EU)-China relationship, as one of the most important in global politics today. Both are major players on the world stage, accounting for 30% of trade and nearly a quarter of the world’s population. This text shows how, despite many differences in political systems and values, China and the EU have developed such a close, regular set of interactions at multiple levels: from political-strategic, to economic, and individual.

The authors start with an historical overview of the domestic politics and foreign policy apparatus of each partner to show the context in which external relations are devised. From this foundation, each key dimension of the relationship is analysed, from trade and monetary policy, security, culture and society. The authors show the relative merits of different theoretical perspectives and outline what is next for this complex, ever-changing relationship. At every step, the success of each partner in persuading the other of changing their position(s) for key strategic interests is explored. What emerges is a multifaceted picture of relations between two sides that are fundamentally different kinds of actors in the international system, yet have many mutual interests and a common stake in the stability of global governance.

The first major text to offer an accessible introduction to the multifaceted nature of EU-China relations, this book is an ideal companion for upper undergraduate and postgraduate students on Politics, International Relations and European Studies courses.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
Formal relations between the European Union (EU) and China began in 1975 but took on greater significance only from the 1990s onwards with China’s opening up and reform policy. Both sides declared a strategic partnership in 2003. Fifteen years after this declaration, EU–China relations are undoubtedly one of the most important relations in the world, given that the two sides account for about 30 per cent of world trade. Furthermore, despite important differences in political systems and values, China and the EU have developed a very dense and regular interaction at multiple levels, from political-strategic and economic to people-to-people dialogues. From a diplomatic point of view, the relationship received a boost when Xi Jinping visited the EU institutions in April 2014 – the first such visit ever by a Chinese president. This occurred against the background of efforts between the two sides to further strengthen economic relations by negotiating an Investment Agreement.
Thomas Christiansen, Emil Kirchner, Uwe Wissenbach

Chapter 2. The Evolution of the EU–China Relationship

Abstract
EU–China relations officially date back to 1975 when diplomatic relations between the European Commission and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) were established, following China’s entry into the UN in 1971 and US President Nixon’s famous trip to China in 1972 and a first visit by a European Commissioner to China in 1973. During the Cold War strengthening relations with socialist but anti-Soviet China was part of the US (and Western) strategy to weaken the USSR. Until 1988 China was thus the only socialist country that had diplomatic relations with the European Communities (EC). We use EU throughout, but readers should be aware of the evolution from the European Economic Community, to the European Communities and finally the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty did away with the different pillars and legal entities as laid down in the Maastricht Treaty and with them the EU also legally superseded the previous EC.
Thomas Christiansen, Emil Kirchner, Uwe Wissenbach

Chapter 3. EU Institutions and the Making of EU Foreign Policy

Abstract
EU–China relations need to be understood in the light of the EU’s institutional structure and its foreign policy apparatus. The EU does maintain foreign relations with most states and international organizations, but – given its nature – this foreign policy differs substantially from those of nation-states. The EU’s foreign policy has particular qualities and certain limitations that deeply affect the way in which the Union relates to third countries such as China. There are, for example, a number of deeply engrained principles that the EU seeks to follow in its external relations: the linkage between values and interests; the support for ‘effective multilateralism’ and a rule-based international order; the tendency to rely on formal agreements and strategic partnerships (Keukeleire and Delreux, 2014). Some of these principles reflect the nature of the EU, itself a polity based on legal agreements among states, espousing a number of fundamental values. There is also the tendency for a large bureaucracy seeking to establish formal arrangements and administrative routines as a way of managing external relations, and the path-dependency of these, once set up, to evolve and proliferate.
Thomas Christiansen, Emil Kirchner, Uwe Wissenbach

Chapter 4. Chinese Institutions and Foreign Policy

Abstract
This chapter will explain China’s foreign policy (FP) – its principles, its making and how and why China’s FP differs from European (or US) ones. Awareness of the larger context of China’s world view and foreign policy helps us to understand EU–China relations. It can be said that China’s rise has left no country in the world unaffected, but that the speed and scale of that rise have surprised most. China is now an almost ‘indispensable’ nation (Wang, 2014: 1) in the international community because China plays an increasing role in the world economy, in global affairs and in multilateral governance for better or for worse depending on different interests and viewpoints. China’s role is therefore at the centre of global and also EU debates on human rights, trade, climate policy, development and global governance in many areas (Chapters 8–11). While China itself sticks to its deeply engrained defensive foreign policy principles it is increasingly confident in its global role. Hence it is important from the outset of this book to explain how China’s distinctive foreign policy is made and what its underlying objectives and ideas are and how they fit with those of China’s partners, especially the EU. This is not easy, as China’s foreign policy has a unique and rather opaque institutional and political structure. We have noted in Chapter 3 that for different reasons EU policy is unique, but in its specific institutional context divisions between member states and EU institutions tend to play out in the open, while in China the policy process is almost a black box into which we try and shed some light in this chapter. How China’s foreign policy is interpreted by its Western counterparts is another focus of this chapter reflecting on the narrative of and response to China’s rise. Bringing in historic and ideational dimensions is important to understand ‘where China is coming from’ in its relations with Europe and on its dramatic modernization path. We will analyse these main themes that define China’s multiple roles in the world (which are further elaborated on in other chapters).
Thomas Christiansen, Emil Kirchner, Uwe Wissenbach

Chapter 5. The Political Dimension of EU–China Relations

Abstract
Ever since the start of EU–China relations in the 1970s, the economic factor has dominated the relationship and is likely to continue to do so for the immediate future. Political aspects only started to develop as a distinct profile in EU–China relations in the mid to late 1990s. They have progressed rapidly since, especially after the establishment of the strategic partnership in 2003. It is the aim of this chapter to explore the effectiveness of the EU in its political relations with China. To put it differently, to what extent are EU–China relations converging or diverging in the area of political relations? While in practice it is not easy to separate the political from the security aspect, for analytical reasons a distinction will be made, as far as possible, in this chapter along those lines. In other words, the emphasis in this chapter will be on the political dimension of EU–China relations, while a more specific examination of the security aspects will follow in Chapter 8. Among the political aspects covered will be EU concerns over Chinese barriers to democracy, freedom of expression, adherence to the rule of law, respect for human rights, the extensive use of the death penalty, and the use of torture. The focus will be on bilateral political EU–China relations rather than on the stand both take with regard to global governance, which will be the subject of Chapter 10. Particular emphasis will be given to the 2003 EU–China strategic partnership and developments thereof, as these represent the main epoch of EU–China political relations, together with a review of the role of the High-Level EU–China Strategic Dialogue. The main references of the chapter will be drawn from key official EU and Chinese documents and statements.
Thomas Christiansen, Emil Kirchner, Uwe Wissenbach

Chapter 6. The Economic Dimension of EU–China Relations

Abstract
Economic relations, and above all trade between the two sides, have long been central to EU–China relations. Trade liberalization is of course at the heart of the EU’s own integration process, and the competence to manage trade relations with third countries is a powerful, and exclusive, competence of the European Union. Ever since China’s opening to the global economy from the 1980s onwards, trade between Europe and China has grown massively, and China’s joining of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 – a move that was strongly supported by the EU – has further accelerated this process. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, this trading relationship had become not only a dominant feature in bilateral relations between the EU and China, but indeed a critical aspect of the global economy as a whole.
Thomas Christiansen, Emil Kirchner, Uwe Wissenbach

Chapter 7. The Societal Dimension of EU–China Relation

Abstract
For economic and political cooperation between two or more countries to flourish, an understanding, if not appreciation, of their respective societal characteristics and cultures is important. Society and culture are particularly relevant in EU–Chinese relations, as the latter has the remarkable record of 5,000 years of uninterrupted history, while the former draws its inspiration in part from the ‘cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe’ (Lisbon Treaty preamble). As studies on national security culture demonstrate (Kirchner and Sperling, 2010), historical factors affect foreign policy behaviour and have a direct impact on the type and extent of interactions between countries at the international level. Citizen diplomacy can be considered an alternative problem-solving strategy, underpinning the role that non-state actors may play in mitigating difficult interstate relations and helping to resolve deep-rooted conflicts that political leaders and the private sector cannot solve alone (Fulda, 2013: 2).
Thomas Christiansen, Emil Kirchner, Uwe Wissenbach

Chapter 8. The Security Dimension of EU–China Relations

Abstract
In security terms EU–China relations are usually described as a one-sided affair, implying that the EU is an inferior partner because of an apparent lack of actorness and/or manifest military capabilities. While there is some truth in this perception, it hides two important countervailing factors. One relates to the fact that this view all too often compares or equates EU actorness and capabilities with that of other states, such as the United States; hence it unduly raises the bar too high when assessing the EU as a security actor. The other factor relates to the habit of viewing security strictly in military terms and neglecting the non-military EU capabilities.
Thomas Christiansen, Emil Kirchner, Uwe Wissenbach

Chapter 9. International Development Policy and EU–China Relations

Abstract
Contributing to global sustainable development is a declared common objective of both the EU and China, for example in the shared UN Framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations, 2015b). Their means to achieve this common objective differ in many ways, which this chapter will examine together with the historical, ideological and geopolitical reasons. The chapter will also review EU–China attempts to identify common ground bilaterally and within the framework of global development institutions.
Thomas Christiansen, Emil Kirchner, Uwe Wissenbach

Chapter 10. China and the EU in the Global Context

Abstract
Both the EU and China are relative newcomers to global governance and both are, to some extent, still looking for their rightful place in this sphere. Both have considerable economic strength to affect global governance. Whether their combined economic strength can be harnessed to promote mutual goals and strategies in the pursuance of prosperity, peace, security and stability at the global level and whether the effectiveness of existing international organizations can be assured remain complex questions that continue to divide the scholarly debate on the subject. For some observers, China ‘will use its growing influence to transform the international system and bring its rules and institutions more in line with the country’s identity and national interests’ (Geeraerts, 2013: 497). The counterargument is that ‘if Europe and China continue to believe that the world is becoming multipolar and that multilateralism is the way to deal with global issues, then it is likely that the two actors will play greater responsibility and increasing global roles’ (Van der Putten and Chu, 2011: 200).
Thomas Christiansen, Emil Kirchner, Uwe Wissenbach

Chapter 11. Conclusions and Outlook

Abstract
The previous ten chapters of this book have made clear how dense and complex the EU–China relationship has become over recent decades. It has been an organic growth driven by many actors, institutions and interests on both sides, as well as by world events, rather than by a strategy designed with an overall purpose in mind. Nevertheless, the policies on both sides have been fairly consistent despite many changes in the global environment. Their normative differences related to values, and the tensions between the EU’s preference for multilateralism and China’s strict interpretation of sovereignty have remained – the EU will have to deal with an illiberal China while seeking to promote a liberal world order and advancing globalization, sometimes together with China (Chapter 5).
Thomas Christiansen, Emil Kirchner, Uwe Wissenbach
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