The EU-China Relations: Rhetoric versus Reality

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Series Details No.108, December 2008
Publication Date 15/12/2008
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Notwithstanding the recent cancellation of the EU-China summit, the amount of EU political and diplomatic energy and resources invested into expanding relations with Beijing is second to none on the EU’s external relations agenda. Through the so-called EU-China ‘sectoral dialogues’ Brussels and Beijing have over recent years institutionalized cooperation and exchanges in areas such as energy, environmental protection, nuclear nonproliferation, intellectual property rights and many others. As regards international politics and security, Brussels and Beijing have set up a number of regular dialogues seeking to identify common interests and approaches to international issues and crisis. So far the good news.

The bad news is that the many problems on the bilateral agenda will continue to remain unresolved: above all, the growing trade deficit in China’s favor, persistent and numerous market access obstacles in China and alleged violations of European intellectual property rights costing European business 20 billion Euros per year. Tangible EU-China cooperation in international politics and security will remain the (rare) exception as opposed to the rule. In fact, the more the EU and China seek to cooperate, the more the fundamentally different approaches towards and priorities of respective foreign and security policies come to light.

The EU’s overall policies towards Beijing are often uncoordinated due to quasiabsence of day-to-day policy coordination between the EU Commission and the EU Council. The EU is not speaking with one voice to Beijing and given the number of actors, interests groups and institutions involved, it probably never will.

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ISPI: Policy Brief: The EU-China Relations: Rhetoric versus Reality [PDF]

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