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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

EU and China: Friends, partners or foes?

May 24, 2009

What do you think?
Matisák
Národná Obroda (Slovakia)
May 23, 2009

Question:

1. If we compare there the role of China in the
world with the role of the EU who you think is a
bigger and important global player currently and
why and can future bring some changes?

2. Friends, partners or foes? Where do China and
the EU have clearly common interest and where are
the most problematic points in the relations?

3. How much are relations between the EU and
China influenced by the problems of human rights?
Because sometimes it looks more only like the
political ritual then the real political problem.
Usually Brussels criticizes something, the answer
of Beijing is it is take care of your business
and everything is almost the same as it was before.

Answers:

Gustaaf Geeraerts, Professor of International
Relations, Director of Brussels Institute of
Contemporary China Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

1. Whereas in my view, both the EU and China play
a crucial role in shaping a new international
order, China’s role is likely to be more
decisive. As was pointed out recently by David
Miliband, the British foreign secretary, China is
turning into the 21st century's "indispensable
power" with a decisive say on the future of the
global economy, climate change and world trade.
It is becoming ever clearer that China will be
one of the major poles in the international
system along with the US. Two decades of
impressive economic growth have boosted the
self-confidence of the Chinese leaders
significantly. In Beijing the notion that China
should start taking an attitude, befitting a
great power is gradually gaining ground.
Beijing’s foreign policy directs itself
progressively more towards other great powers in
the system. China is taking up ever more space
within various multilateral organisations and is
setting up diplomatic activities everywhere on
the globe. She no longer considers herself an
outsider that should crawl back into its shell
and steer well clear of a global political system
dominated by the West. Europe could emerge as a
third major player only if the EU and its
member-states learn to work together and to think strategically.

2. None of the three. As it stands, the EU-China
relationship is one between competitors that
treat each other as equals and respect each other
interests. The nature and sustainability of such
a competitive relationship is strongly dependent
on cool-headed calculations of costs and
benefits. Such situations can be described in
terms of ‘positive-sum games’ in which the
parties can both win if they succeed in
coordinating their choices and actions, and both
loose if they don’t. The central driver of the
relationship is ‘enlightened self-interest’, not
shared values. Hence, good communication and
transparent bargaining are essential in bringing
about effective solutions and mutually beneficial
outcomes for the parties involved. The summit in
Prague seems to indicate that while sticking to
the rethoric of a comprehensive strategic
parnership, China and the EU are moving more in
the direction of a “realistic” relationship. The
main driver is economic interest and shared
values come into play whenever possible. There is
a growing recognition of differences due to
distance, history, culture and politics.

3. Here again one of the main problems is that
the EU member states do not speak with one voice.
They take varying degrees of interest in human
rights. For example, some of the smaller
countries in Northern Europe take a strong
interest in human rights in China, as do formerly
Communist countries such as Poland and the Czech
Republic. But many other smaller states see China
mostly as a commercial opportunity. They are
reluctant to support statements on human rights
that could threaten business opportunities in China.

David Gosset, Director of Academia Sinica
Europaea, China Europe International Business School, Shanghai

1. From a Chinese perspective and beyond the
usual technical issues , there is fundamentally a
desire to be able to deal with a more cohesive EU
, able to play a global and independent political and strategic role.

2. One of the consequences of the tensions - what
I have called the "unnecessary quarrel" - between
the EU and China last year has been the idea of a
G2 between Beijing and Washington floated by some
analysts; this is a theoretical bipolarization
which can not help to solve the global problems.
On this, I just wrote a small piece |G-2 too
simple for reality":
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/KE16Dj03.html (WTNN: See below)

3. One needs in the coming months to upgrade
simultaneously the EU-China and the US-China
links. Our global village needs a EU-China-US
trio and not a G2. However, it will be a
difficult process. The Dalai-Lama will soon visit
Paris and it could again trigger some tensions
between France and China which of course will
impact the EU-China relationship. A constructive
triangulation between Beijing, Washington and
Brussels requires an open China, a cooperative
America and a cohesive EU, but would depend also
on actors free of past ideological barriers and
able to conceive cooperation where all the
potential synergy could flourish. Instead of
speculating on a G-2, the time has come to
initiate a strategic trialogue, a process which
would bring together top Chinese, American and European leaders.
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