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Towards a Common European Policy on China? Economic, Diplomatic and Human Rights Trends since 1985

Article by Dr Reuben Wong, Associate, EU Centre and Assistant Professor at Political Science Department, NUS, published in Current Politics and Economics of Asia Volume 17, Issue 1, 2008, pp 155-181

This paper analyses trends in European Union economic, political and human rights policies towards China since 1985. It advocates that policies between the European Commission and those of EU member states have gradually adopted more convergence if not coherence over the years, and is today no longer hostage to national or historical rivalries. Dr Wong uses the larger nations of Germany, France and the UK as the key state level actors in his discussion, which takes place in the larger context of the Europeanisation of EU foreign policy. The author argues that economic and trade priorities and ‘silent’ diplomacy, such as those adopted by Germany towards China, had reaped economic success. This is among the factors that have influenced the other EU nation states in their China policy. However the EU member states are also increasingly relying on a pan European card, such as the Trade Commission, to side step political or domestic pressures, or to tackle trade issues such as trade imbalances and disputes. He suggests that all three states have been steadily building their own political and strategic relationships with China since the 1985 European Community and China Trade and Cooperation Agreement, barring temporary “setbacks” such as Tiananmen or arms sales to Taiwan. The projection of the key states onto EU policy, coupled with emerging European-China collaborations, such as in aerospace, and networks such as the Asia Europe Meeting, have influenced decision making in Brussels itself. The impact can be seen in the EU’s unwillingness to co-sponsor the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) issues and in the toning down by individual member states in their critique of China. This article and other papers by the same author can be found below.