EU-China: Managing a Strained Relationship

    Research output: Working paperResearch

    Abstract

    When China cancelled the 11th EU-China summit to be held in Lyons, France in late 2008, it became evident that EU-China relations had soured. EU-China relations had developed considerably since the 1980s, expanding into areas of cooperation other than trade and economy. To facilitate and monitor the growth of the relationship, China and EU have institutionalised a series of dialogue mechanisms in which issues, general and specific, are discussed from the ministerial to working level. These sectoral activities form the most stable foundation of the China-EU political relationship. One of the most successful products of these dialogues is the EU and China’s cooperation in environmental and climate change issues. EU-China exchanges are not making similar progress on all fronts and issues such as human rights will continue to be obstacles in expanding China-EU cooperation. The importance of human rights is not simply ideological; there is a pragmatic aspect to the issue for European leaders. Being leaders of democratic countries, they have to be sensitive to public opinion. Another challenge to the EU-China relationship is the arms embargo issue. The EU had placed an arms embargo on China in 1989 in protest against the Tiananmen incident. The EU Commission has given priority to EU-China relations as it sees the relationship in not only economic and commercial terms, but also global strategic perspective in deepening EU-China relations. However, it is often difficult to coordinate and harmonize the views and interest of its member countries in relation to China. China is clearly irritated by regular confrontation with EU member states on human rights issues and European leaders’ meetings with the Dalai Lama. China is also confused by the number of actors involved in policy-making on EU-China relations on the European side. Given China’s perception of EU’s relative inability to be a world player, it is tempting for China to deepen relations with the US instead and leave Europe out of the equation for the moment.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationSingapore
    PublisherEast Asian Institute, National University of Singapore
    Number of pages12
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2009
    SeriesEAI Background Brief
    Number483

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