The European Union’s China policy : convergences or divergences?
Robert Schuman Centre Policy Briefs
Robert Schuman Centre Policy Briefs : 2021/32 (July 2021)
European Union, foreign policy, diplomacy, security, China
The re-emergence of China as a great power and the emerging US-China competition have marked the return of great power rivalry in world politics, with wide-ranging implications for Europeans. In particular, three overarching trends have shaped the ways in which Europeans have confronted China’s rise. First, in the context of the shifting centre of strategic gravity of world politics from the Atlantic to the Asia-Pacific, the gradual retrenchment of the United States (US) from Europe since the end of the Cold War – coupled with growing doubts about the credibility of US commitments to the continent – has incited Europeans to provide for their own security.1 Furthermore, sustained by expanding economic, military and technological capabilities, the PRC has displayed an increasingly assertive foreign policy both in the Asia-Pacific and in Europe since the 2010s, which impinges on a broad range of European diplomatic, security and economic interests.2 Third, the rising global competition between the United States and China has become a structural feature of great power politics in the 21st century, with ramifications across different regions, including Europe.3 In short, stuck between a rock and a hard place, Europeans increasingly doubt the robustness of their US ally’s commitment to their security while grappling with China’s expanding clout and influence in the larger context of mounting Sino-American rivalry – and they are therefore compelled to define their own position regarding it.