Posts Tagged ‘EU-China’

And another piece on a previously written theme, this time looking at EU-China cooperation on security questions in particular counter-terrorism. For a semi-regular outlet that people in Brussels read called the EU Observer. More on this theme to come.

Can the EU and China work together on violent extremism?

10 year old Chinese cop

Chinese police. Countering terrorism and violent extremism is a growing priority for policymakers in Europe and Asia (Photo: Michael Mooney)

By Raffaello Pantucci
London, 1. Mar, 09:13

Sat in Brussels or Beijing, the threat of violent extremists is atop most policymakers’ considerations.

The definition of what constitutes a terrorist or violent extremist is something that is complicated by local considerations and concerns, but there is a growing policy question around whether there is any way for China and the EU to cooperate on such matters.

Whilst there are clearly issues in cooperating with China on some aspects, there are some practical measures that the EU and China could explore together to counter the threat from violent extremists.

At an ideological level there is a difficulty in the EU and China countering violent extremism globally together.

First, the reasons for violent extremism are different the world over. Domestically, the Chinese official view is very much that extremism and radicalisation are the product of external ideologies that have entered China and are causing problems.

Sat in Europe, the view is often rather that domestic problems are leading to disenfranchisement that is leaving people prone to exploring radical ideologies. The external ideology is in some ways secondary to the local “root causes” in dealing with the response.

This difference in analysis complicates the possibilities of cooperation, something that is rendered even more difficult when one considers the broad range of people and groups that China captures under the banner of terrorist: any anti-state group, from terrorist networks to dissident communities.

From a European perspective, people who are fighting for the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) are clearly terrorists while the World Uyghur Congress are dissidents. They do not immediately come under the same banner.

Nevertheless, notwithstanding external commentary, the discussion around these questions in Beijing is in fact a fairly sophisticated one, with some advocating for a more nuanced response than others.

Clearly, terrorists bent on murdering other citizens need to be stopped and finding ways of preventing them is something that preoccupies policymakers in European capitals and Beijing alike. Some European capitals have made greater progress in this struggle than others, and learning from these mistakes and approaches is something that others in Europe and China will benefit from.

These lessons are not all equally transferable, but some principles around community policing, community outreach, religious and minority tolerance and less kinetic approaches to counter-terrorism might help alleviate problems on both continents.

But while there are difficulties in cooperating at home, globally speaking there are a number of aspects to counter terrorism and violent extremism that could be worked on collaboratively.

For example, looking at parts of the world where there are problems of violent extremism, there is in some cases a correlation between underdevelopment and some of the root causes driving people towards terrorist groups.

Both the EU and China are probably already active in these countries, but coordinating efforts to address issues like education, employment, local development and so on might help mitigate some of the local root causes.

Looking at a more practical level, considering how to evacuate nationals from unstable locations threatened by terrorist groups in cooperative ways is a way the EU and China might start to plan together.

Such contingencies have already taken place – for example in Yemen – and Chinese ships have helped evacuate European nationals. Planning ahead might be a way to build trust and establish mechanisms that would be useful during the next inevitable crisis.

There is further possible cooperation that could be undertaken in terms of countering terror financing, the disruption of smuggling networks getting fighters or weapons to and from battlefields, and the sharing of threat information in third locations where both have nationals.

The problem with all of this is the practicalities of sharing intelligence – something that is complicated between close allies in Europe, let alone between the EU and China.

Intelligence sharing works best when driven by necessity: it is probably going to take a specific case to take place that threatens both Chinese and European nationals for the pathways and structures to start to be developed to foster such cooperation.

But keeping attuned to the possibility of such opportunities is something that policymakers and security officials on both sides should keep alert to as a way to engender greater practical cooperation on a threat that has killed both European and Chinese nationals.

Countering terrorism and violent extremism is a growing priority issues for policymakers in Europe and Asia. Be this in distant third locations or allies’ territories, the menace of terrorism is one that knows no pity or borders.

Understanding how the EU and China can cooperate on countering this problem whilst bearing in mind differences is key to dealing with a problem that menaces nationals from both countries in an increasingly equal manner.

Raffaello Pantucci is director of international security studies at Rusi, a London-based think tank.

Advertisements

Starting the new year with a splash and a piece for the Financial Times BeyondBRICS, this captures an idea I have been working on for a while and am hoping this year to finally really develop. Lots more on my work with Alex in particular on our joint site: http://www.chinaincentralasia.com

Guest post: The route to better relationships with China lies along the Silk Road

Jan 8, 2014 9:26am by guest writer
By Raffaello Pantucci of the Royal United Services Institute

A gentle rapprochement is under way between China and the United Kingdom. After almost two years in a diplomatic freeze, David Cameron visited Beijing last month and made an effective play for more trade. For the UK, this is a moment to recalibrate its relationship and play a role in coaxing China towards becoming a responsible international stakeholder. One route to that end is through understanding and working with China’s ‘march westward’ strategy, which has at its heart the re-activation of the ancient Silk Road linking China to Europe.

Coined by prominent Chinese academic Wang Jisi back in 2011, the ‘March Westwards’ strategy is the external component of the ‘Develop the West’ strategy that Beijing advanced to bring prosperity and development to its historically underdeveloped and turbulent western provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet. Long-standing sources of instability for the central government, the regions were racked by particular violence in 2008 (Tibet) and 2009 (Xinjiang). The brutality of the Xinjiang violence was a wake-up call, with more than 200 reportedly killed on the streets of Urumqi, the provincial capital, as the chaos forced then-leader Hu Jintao to leave an international G8 Summit in L’Aquila to manage the situation.

Since then, a series of measures have been taken to try to force the region to prosper. Richer coastal provinces have taken responsibility for counties in Xinjiang, putting a percentile of their GDP and staff to work in the region. Chinese companies have been encouraged to invest in the province, while a local trade fair has been transformed into an international China-Eurasian Expo that has attracted regional heads of state, senior Politburo members and former leaders of the stature of Tony Blair. The Xinjiang government has made an active play in trying to court foreign investment into the region, undertaking trade missions around Europe while also building trade parks targeted at regional players such as Turkey.

But all of this investment will achieve nothing if Xinjiang has nowhere to trade with. This explains China’s push into central Asia. Once a bit player in the region, China is the ascendant power across central Asia with Chinese businessmen and workers crowding the streets of Bishkek, Dushanbe and Almaty. In Tajikistan, international financial institutions report that tenders for contracts are increasingly competitions between Chinese firms underbidding each other to rebuild the mountainous country. In Turkmenistan, the economy is focused on exporting its hydrocarbon wealth to China, the one country that has shown the agility and capacity to unlock its mineral wealth and is willing to engage with the authorities on their terms. Across the region, Chinese work-teams are rebuilding roads, railways and other infrastructure to re-wire the region’s infrastructure so that all roads lead to Beijing.

But the ultimate goal of all this is to reconnect China to Europe across the Eurasian landmass and to strengthen the physical link between Chinese producers and European markets. As Wen Jiabao affirmed in his speech at the 2nd China-Eurasia Expo, China’s aim is to transform Urumqi once again into the ‘gateway to Eurasia’. And it is here that the UK can find its natural role as the anchor at the other end of this route.

Sitting in Urumqi last year, a Xinjiang official who had been sent to the province from Beijing as a footsoldier in China’s regional strategy, told a visiting British delegation that Urumqi was ‘the closest big Chinese city to Europe’. From a Chinese perspective, a key part of this solution to Xinjiang’s problems is to nurture the economic link and encourage Europe to participate more actively.

This is an opportunity for British businesses to get into one of the underdeveloped parts of the Chinese economy, as well as tapping into a growing boom in central Asia. In some fields this will mean competing with Chinese companies but, in others, finding niche specialisms or technologies that British companies have and Chinese companies lack offers an opening into markets in both China and central Asia. Several British companies have found Xinjiang to be a profitable market. Some are providing equipment for energy companies, others are developers helping cities re-design themselves, others supply heavy building equipment to support China’s infrastructure boom across the region. Chinese competitors may exist in these fields but ‘brand China’ continues to be seen in a negative light both within and beyond the country. When other brands are available, people tend to prefer to go for them if they are affordable. And doubtless other opportunities exist.

There is of course an important human rights component to this discussion that needs to be addressed. Many object to China’s disregard for human rights in its ‘counter-terrorism’ strategy in Xinjiang, a concern only further heightened in central Asia. While care needs to be made, this also offers a further angle for British engagement. The UK’s CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy may have its faults and deficiencies but is a widely emulated model whose division between pre-emptive and reactive measures offers a useful structure through which to try to engage with political violence. Clearly, the approach and relative weighting of different aspects of the strategy needs to be carefully calibrated in every situation – but the Chinese are in the midst of a re-structuring of their counter-terrorism response with Xinjiang at the heart of their concerns. Engaging now offers a moment to influence the situation positively.

The UK’s history with China has been dominated by the seas. Hong Kong was the final bastion of British seafaring dominance of China, a history that still hangs heavy in the Chinese mindset. A new approach is needed that instead looks to China’s Eurasian heritage to rebuild a British, and European, policy towards China.

Raffaello Pantucci is a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.

 

An op-ed for an online outlet I used to contribute more to, the EU Observer. This looks at Central Asia in the wake of Catherine Ashton’s visit there. The idea of China and Europe doing more together in Central Asia is the focus of a longer piece that should be landing soon. UPDATE (2/12/12): Off the back of this article, I was interviewed for this long Los Angeles Times times piece about Ms Ashton’s visit to Central Asia.

Soldiers on guard in Turkmenistan (Photo: d_proffer)

OPINION
Central Asia: Europe’s Asia Pivot?
28.11.12 @ 09:58

BY RAFFAELLO PANTUCCI

BRUSSELS – World media has been abuzz with America’s “Asia Pivot” and President Barack Obama’s groundbreaking trip to Rangoon.

But while the visit signals the importance of Asia as a strategic focus for Obama’s second administration, the same cannot be said of Europe.

This week’s visit by Catherine Ashton to Central Asia offers a possible key that could both refocus Europe on an area it has long ignored, as well as helping shift its relationship with China onto a more practical basis.

European leaders talk of paying attention to Asia and have long cultivated a “strategic partnership” with China, but there is little evidence of much of this having any relation to what is happening on the ground.

Instead, Europe remains on the sidelines as a whole new region emerges on the global stage.

It does not need to be this way. Europe has as much of a claim to be involved in Asian affairs as the United States – it just needs to find the right key.

While the regular Asian-European meeting (Asem) offers a forum in which Europe can talk with East Asian powers, it has yet to really live up to its full potential.

The EU-Central Asia ministerial this week offers an underexplored avenue that Europe could use to re-engage with a region that is crying out for outside assistance, as well as engaging with China on its neglected flank.

Central Asia is one of the ignored regions of the world.

Stuck between China and Russia and adjacent to Afghanistan, it has been relegated in global attention. Insomuch as it does figure in current strategic thinking, it tends to be as an extension of Afghanistan, with the current focus largely being on which nation to use as a staging point for leaving in 2014.

If thinking goes much beyond this, then there is some awareness that the region is rich in energy resources and is primarily Russian speaking.

But a new narrative is emerging regionally, with an old Russian-centric order increasingly being nudged aside through gradual Chinese investment.

Focused on developing its westernmost province, Xinjiang, into a gateway for Eurasia, China has built roads, rail and other infrastructure to help develop the region and connect it better to China.

The idea is not just to connect Central Asia to China, but rather to connect China through the region to Russian and European markets.

China and Europe’s visions and interests in Central Asia broadly align.

Both are eager for the region to develop and become prosperous, to see the natural wealth in the region as something to their benefit.

There are slightly different priorities underlying these decisions: for China it is key in developing its west, while for Europe more abstract regional “security, governance and energy” are the issues laid out in strategy papers.

But both recognise the potential danger of Afghan instability spilling across borders, with European member states engaged militarily in Afghanistan and both the EU and China implementing or announcing police training missions in Afghanistan.

As 2014 approaches and the need for greater focus on Central Asia is going to grow, a breach opens into which Europe has an opportunity to have its own “Asia Pivot” focused instead on China’s western flank.

This would be welcomed by Beijing, which would be eager to see Europe connecting across their common landmass, and would be welcomed by the regional powers that are eager to have as many international partners as possible.

Europe’s aim should be not just to continue to do the development work and infrastructure projects that it has long done, but rather to focus on developing its economic and trade links to the region.

Beyond this, it should develop its regional security programs aimed at helping improve border security and supporting counter-narcotics efforts.

Clearly there is a delicate balance that needs to be struck here with regards to human rights – but simply lecturing is not going to get the answers or responses that we want.

Engagement may help reduce security concerns and will enable better practices to be instilled regionally. All of which would ultimately also align with Beijing’s regional interests, offering a window for a new and productive discussion between Brussels and Beijing.

It could finally provide some meat on the bones of its “strategic partnership” with China, offering a practical outcome beyond the regular summit meetings.

Over a century has passed since Halford Mackinder presented his idea of Eurasia as the “geographical pivot of history” to the Royal Geographical Society in London.

The idea at its core remains sound and is the key through which Europe should orient its own “Asia Pivot” today.

Focusing on Central Asia as a region in which it can try to engage with China offers a new avenue to develop its key relationship in Asia and to focus on an area that is going to be increasingly important to Europe.

Europe needs a way to stay relevant in Asia – focusing on its connective tissue across the Eurasian landmass offers a currently underexplored vehicle.

Raffaello Pantucci is a visiting scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS). His research can be found at chinaincentralasia.com

Another EU-China piece to come out around the Summit this time for the Oriental Morning Post (东方早报) – as usual, published Chinese above, English submitted below. Am also going to follow up a bit on this subject, and am still awaiting for longer pieces I have written on this topic to see the light of day. In the meantime, the Summit takes place today and seems to be focusing on economic affairs.

中欧关系为何更有优势

“中欧关系也许没有中美关系和中国海上关系之中那些安全因素的存在,但这应当被理解为一种优势,而非缺点。”

第15次中欧峰会将在今天举行。这是中国与其最大贸易伙伴每年一次的会晤。然而现在看来,人们并不会对此有太多的关注,他们的目光更多聚集在美国和中国东面邻国的纷争上。这似乎是在提醒我们:这一在国际事务中将可能起到至关重要作用的大国关系不幸地被遗忘了,在东亚事务的全球视野中,更让人们继续沉迷的只是中国与其邻国的那些事。

中国与欧盟关系建立时间并不长。尽管欧洲各主权国曾与中国有过悠久、有时并不非常愉快的历史,但欧洲联盟与中国正式建立关系只有37年,这大约是在欧盟创立24年、新中国建国26年之后。欧盟的最早阶段是由法国、联邦德国、意大利、比利时、卢森堡和荷兰六国在“二战”后建立的“欧洲煤钢共同体”(ECSC),而欧盟最初也被视作为防止战争再次爆发的一种机制。

如今,这一梦想正在前进。欧盟正在试图建立共同外交安全认同,以这一形象进入世界。从2004年起,欧盟就成为了中国最大的贸易伙伴,中国则是欧盟的第二大贸易伙伴。双边贸易额目前已经达到了惊人的4287亿欧元,国际服务贸易也增长到了426亿欧元。中国和欧盟每年召开峰会,双方有定期的高层经济战略对话,以及超过50多个领域的对话机制,涵盖各种事务。

除了对话之外,中欧双方还经常在世界舞台上进行合作。比如中欧船只共同巡航索马里,打击海盗;今年年初,双方宣布启动灾害风险管理联合项目。除此之外,中国和欧洲民间有着非常普遍的交流。很多中国朋友告诉我他们非常喜欢去欧洲(而且不仅仅是因为欧元现在较弱的关系)。这正是我同其他30多位同事当时一起来到中国的初衷:促进两国人民的接触。之后,我们中的很多人都选择了继续留在中国。

尽管有着种种良好意愿,中欧之间的战略关系似乎总是在黑暗中徘徊不前。中美关系的高调互动和隐藏的军事敌意总让每个人都觉得一场新冷战可能开始,因此中欧关系也蒙上了阴影,不被更多人重视。

这是件不幸的事。因为事实上,欧盟和中国都是希望能够在世界舞台上发展多边行动的大国,如果没有它们,很难想象这个世界将如何来解决很多非常重大的问题。这两大力量已经携手做了很多工作,为之后打下了扎实的基础。人们普遍倾向认为,欧洲在亚洲并不是一个战略力量,因为其没有强大的军事部署,但实际上,这正能让欧盟得以跳出现在的纷争框架。在一个理想的世界里,欧盟可能扮演一个双方皆可信任的中间人角色:它同中国、日本和美国都有着紧密联系,因此可以成为潜在的“劝和者”。欧洲在亚洲没有战略安全部署这点因而应该被视为是个优势,而非牵绊。

进一步的现实是,这个世界并非完全被军事安全主导。对于人们的日常生活而言,经济关系和贸易关系要更为重要。从这方面来看,欧盟对于中国的重要性起码和美国平起平坐。中国正处于经济转型阶段中,其与欧盟之间的经济关系将随着时间推移愈发显现重要性。我们已经看到欧洲经济衰退对于中国产生了负面影响。美国市场被证明很难让中国企业轻易进入,而欧洲依然还是大门敞开。这一点可以从最近中国建设银行董事长王洪章准备在欧洲投资150亿美元的计划中看出。

我的观点是:欧洲对于中国至关重要,而本周的峰会将会进一步证明这点。最近所有人的目光都仅仅投射在中国对美和对其邻国的外交政策上,这不会为我们带来任何益处,只会创造更多矛盾。我们必须拥有更广阔的视野,更重视这一将给中国带来蓬勃发展的双边关系。中欧关系也许没有中美关系和中国海上关系之中那些安全因素的存在,但这应当被理解为一种优势,而非缺点。(李鸣燕 译)

 

Thursday marks the 15th EU-China Summit, or China’s annual meeting with its largest trading partner. And yet, it is likely that the Summit will pass without much attention with people instead focused towards America and ongoing tensions with China’s eastern neighbors. This unfortunate state of affairs highlights how a relationship with the potential to play a major role in international affairs is being left to the side while neuralgic obsessions between China and her neighbors dominate the global perception of East Asian affairs.

The EU-China relationship remains a relatively young one. While individual European member states have long and sometimes ambiguous histories with China, the European Union itself only established formal relations with China some 37 years ago, about 24 years after the foundation of a European Union and 26 years since the foundation of the People’s Republic. First established in the wake of the Second World War as a Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) between France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands the European Union was initially conceived as a way of guaranteeing that the wars that had dominated much of Europe’s history could never happen again.

Nowadays this dream has evolved further and the EU is trying to forge a common foreign and security identity to try to project itself in the world. And key amongst foreign relationships is China. Since 2004 the EU has been China’s largest trading partner and China has been the EU’s second. Currently, bilateral trade stands at a massive 428.7 billion Euros with a further 42.6 billion Euros in trade in services. The EU and China meet annually for Summit’s, have regular high level economic and strategic dialogues, and over 50 specific sectoral dialogues that meet regularly to discuss a wide variety of topics. Beyond dialogue there are a growing number of instances in which Chinese and Europeans are working together on the world stage. In the waters off Somalia, Chinese and European vessels together patrol for pirates, and earlier this year, the two announced the creation of a ‘Joint Project for Managing Disaster Risks.’ And beyond this, back and forth exchanges between European’s and Chinese are commonplace: many Chinese friends tell me of how much they enjoy going to Europe (and not just because of the weak Euro!), whilst I first came to work in China along with 30 others under the auspices of a project to improve contacts between China and Europe. And a number of us have chosen to stay on afterwards.

But for all this goodwill, the strategic relationship between China and Europe seems to constantly languish in the dark. Vastly overshadowed by the US-China relationship whose high level interactions and undertone of military hostility keep everyone imagining a new Cold War, the EU-China relationship is one that seems to slip past unobserved.

This is unfortunate, as the reality is that the EU and China are both large powers with a preference for multilateral activity on the world stage and without whom it is hard to imagine that the world will fix many of the large problems that plague it today. They do a growing amount of work together already, and the foundations are in place for more. Whilst the tendency is to dismiss Europe as a strategic power in Asia due to the absence of a large security presence, the reality is that this places it in a position where it can stand above the current tensions. In fact, in an ideal world, the EU could act as something of an honest broker between the two sides – with close links to China, Japan and the US, the EU could potentially play a role in helping calm relations. The very absence of a large European strategic security presence in Asia is something that should be seen as an asset rather than a hindrance.

The further reality is that the world is not solely dominated by security tensions. In fact, far more important to people’s daily lives are economic relations and trade – and in this aspect, the EU is as important, if not more so, than the US to China. China is in the midst of period of economic adjustment and its large economic relationship with the EU is something that is going to play an important role in laying out how this develops over time. We can already see how the downturn in Europe is having a negative effect on China. The American market has proven to be a difficult nut for Chinese firms to crack, while Europe remains far more open – something most recently seen in China Construction Bank Chairman Wang Hongzhang’s comments about seeking to invest some $15 billion in Europe.

The point is that the EU is important to China, and this week’s Summit will be further affirmation of this. Of late there has been a tendency to focus almost exclusively in the Chinese foreign policy mindset on the United States and security tensions with neighbors. This state of affairs will lead nowhere good and merely provide fodder for further tensions. A broader vision needs to be taken and one that takes into account a relationship that has brought prosperity to China. EU-China relations may lack the emotive security tensions that characterize US-China and China’s tense naval relations, but this is something that should be interpreted as an advantage rather than weakness.

Raffaello Pantucci is a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) and an expert of the Europe China Research and Advice Network (ECRAN).

A new op-ed for the Global Times timed to come out alongside the EU-China Summit taking place in Brussels. The title is a bit at odds with the text I feel, but there we go. Also, their Chinese edition published my earlier article for them on EU power in Asia, for those who want to practice their Mandarin, check it out here. On another note, I have been honoured by the Diplomatic Courier magazine and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy and chosen as one of their ‘Top 99 under 33 Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.’ Many thanks to them for putting me in such a distinguished group of friends and peers.

EU-China ties fall short of expectations

Global Times | 2012-9-18 20:25:03

By Raffaello Pantucci

Eight years have passed since noted sinologist David Shambaugh declared “Over time the EU-China relationship will become a new axis in world affairs.” As the 15th EU-China Summit is being held in Brussels, it is useful to pause and take stock of where the Sino-EU relations stand and to think ahead about what the relationship is likely to hold for the next administration in China. Since the giddy heights of 2004, the EU-China relationship has continued to flourish, though often its public face has been at odds with its private one.

First, the good news. Since 2004 when the EU became China’s largest trading partner and China the EU’s second, trade has continued to flourish. In 2004 total bilateral trade was 125.84 billion euros ($164.88). Nowadays, these numbers have grown to 428.7 billion euros in trade in goods, with a further 42.6 billion euros in services. And the EU clearly continues to remain a key target market for acquisitions by Chinese investors. On the eve of the summit, China Construction Bank Chairman Wang Hongzhang announced that his bank was looking to spend somewhere in the region of $15 billion on investments in “UK, Germany or France.”

Second, people-to-people exchanges continue apace. In 2010, there were some 120,000 Chinese students in Europe. That same year, some 2.5 million Chinese visited Europe in total. And coming the other way, China has long been a preferred destination of European tourists, and there are growing numbers of European students at Chinese universities, researchers at Chinese institutes, and European-owned restaurants and stores. When Chinese look to quality brands, it is luxury from Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada or Zegna they look for.

Third, China and the EU are doing increasing amounts of things together on the world stage. The most obvious example is the anti-piracy mission off Somalia where European and Chinese ships serve together to protect international shipping. Elsewhere in Africa, work is developing, but in November 2007, both sides committed to “more practical cooperation by the two sides through their respective existing cooperation mechanisms with Africa so as to contribute to Africa’s peace, stability and sustainable development.”

But it is not all wine and roses. There are tensions between the two: On Syria in particular a lack of consensus has led to blockage in the UN Security Council. While both agree climate change and environmental degradation is something they agree is negative, responses vary. And for all the trade back and forth, there remains a lack of trust between the two on certain trade matters and intellectual property rights questions.

It would also be disingenuous to not observe that the public rhetoric in the relationship has also taken a beating over the years. This got particularly bad in 2008 when protests in Europe around the Olympic torch relay resulted in a backlash against France in particular. But it is worth noting that even as the rhetoric got hot, trade between the EU and China remained strong – in fact, EU exports to China grew from 78.4 billion euros in 2008 to 82.4 billion euros in 2009.

Such tensions are normal within such a large and complex relationship. Recently, there has been a tendency to focus on the Beijing-Berlin axis as though this was the only relationship that mattered between the EU and China. The reality is that Germany is the largest economic player in the EU, a position that has been emphasized by the recent downturn that has affected others in Europe worse than Germany. So it is only natural that they should end up playing an outsized role in the EU’s relationship with one of its biggest trading partners.

As we approach the end of one chapter in EU-China relations, we have clearly not yet lived up to the high bar set by David Shambaugh in 2004. However, we have made considerable progress in a positive direction and laid strong foundations that can be built on by subsequent administrations.

The author is a visiting scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and an expert of the Europe China Research and Advice Network. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

A short piece I wrote a little while ago for the Europe China Research and Advice Network (ECRAN), focusing on the EU and China’s diplomatic links. For more about ECRAN, please go here, while to know about this specific project, please go here. More on this topic for ECRAN to come in the next few days as we gear up for the EU-China Summit.

 

Diplomatic Links

Raffaello Pantucci

Current Status

There is no shortage of diplomatic relations between the EU and China. According to the EEAS count there are over 50 dialogues current running under three major pillars (strategic, economic and sectoral, and people-to-people), with the annual EU-China Summit at its apex. Additional high level conferences include senior business dialogues, a recently established minister-level energy dialogue, a party political forum between European Parliamentary parties and the Chinese Communist Party, as well as lower level interactions across the board through executive branch interactions, Track II meetings (often including think tanks), and a whole array of other forms of contact. In addition, EU- level interactions with China are further repeated at the national level as Member States maintain their bilateral relationships with China. And sitting atop this, there is the diplomatic interaction between the EU, EU Member States and China in international institutions like the United Nations, G20, or the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). This high level and regular interaction at so many levels is testament to not only a close relationship, but also to the preference both sides show for multilateralism in international affairs.

The stated EU goal of this wide array of interactions is to provide an ‘effective tool for further widening and deepening EU relations with China.’ However, it is not always clear exactly how effective they have been. European diplomats involved in this process have highlight successes in getting Chinese movement on particular issues during specific economic or trade dialogues – something independently confirmed in the statements issued after meetings. But in other exchanges, for example the human rights dialogue, it is unclear whether the Chinese side is very cooperative. There have, for example, been reports that some European NGO participants due to engage in a human rights legal seminar did not have their visas approved to enter the country. Given the depth and complexity of the relationship, issues like this are perhaps unsurprising, but there is a need to focus and move beyond this wide-ranging discussion towards a practical relationship that enables the EU and China to advance their interests in international affairs through deeper interaction.

Part of the problem with moving the relationship in this direction lies on the Chinese side where the preference is for gradual progress and rumination. China and the EU interact a great deal at a diplomatic level, but the results do not appear publicly as fruitful as the China-US relationship where the annual strategic and economic dialogue is often welcomed with international fanfare and every senior Sino-American interaction becomes a global spectacle. However, despite appearances, the reality is that neither the US nor the EU are able to get much movement out of China when it does not wish to move. While relations at a working level between the US and their Chinese counterparts may be more in-depth than those with Europe, it is rare to get China to change its ways on an issue due only to diplomatic pressure or interaction.

Why diplomatic links matter

Diplomatic relations between the China and EU – two of the largest human and trading bodies on the planet – are clearly central to international affairs. A strong and proactive bilateral EU-China relationship is something that will be central in helping the world lift itself out of the current economic crisis and handling future problems that may arise.

The thrust behind much of the EU’s diplomatic interaction with China is to advance self-interest, but also partly to buy into Robert Zoellick’s notion of China becoming a more ‘responsible stakeholder’ in global affairs. However, China is only just beginning to accept this notion and generally remains beset with domestic issues that its leadership says should take precedence over international affairs. China will only become engaged when its direct interests are affected and it feels that it can justify its actions before the Chinese public. These are not criteria that necessarily coincide with European diplomatic aims. For example, Europe is very concerned and active diplomatically with regard to the ongoing unrest in Syria and the Iranian nuclear programme. These are both issues in which China has a stake although it is not moving at the speed or in the direction that Europe would necessarily like. And when there is evidence of movement on the Chinese side, it is not at all clear whether it is European diplomacy that has directly achieved these shifts.

There is nevertheless quite a clear confluence in preferred methods of dealing with issues between the EU and China, both of whom prefer non-confrontational methods of dispute resolution and are focused on conflict prevention. While some Member States have in recent years focused on the hard end of diplomacy in international affairs, at an EU level the emphasis remains diplomacy and dialogue – something that generally accords with China’s approach.

Diplomatic relations are a key tool of statecraft, allowing states to interact at a formal level in defined ways that allow for grievances to be aired, agreements reached and positions clarified. Given the crucial importance of the bilateral EU-China economic relationship, it is vital that diplomatic interaction between these two parties continue on the right path. The specific EU-China diplomatic relationship (as opposed to individual Member State bilateral relationships) is particularly important as it provides European states with the gravitas to speak to China as a peer. A nation of Denmark’s size (5.5 million) is better able to guarantee that it will be heard if it speaks within a body representative of more than 500 million citizens (i.e. through the EU). Formal discussions in which the EU is seen as the lead actor are elevated in importance and encourage the Chinese side to be more willing to engage in a practical manner. Currently, this coherence seems insufficient, meaning that it has proved difficult to advance relations into a more practical phase.

This report has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of ECRAN and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.

An article for another new outlet, the Global Times, the more nationalist of the English language newspapers published in China. We are going to see if it comes out in the Chinese edition. While not a subject I have written much about of late, it is one I remain engaged in (EU-China relations) and this specific piece was inspired in reaction to this piece Global Times published  a couple of weeks ago that seems to suggest that Asia is solely the remit of the United States. The broader theme of a need to widen the discussion on Asian affairs is one that features in some of my China-Central Asia research and is something I will return to. Also, look to see some more writing on this topic appear around the upcoming EU-China Summit in September.

Europe’s soft power gives it significant role in Asia

by Raffaello Pantucci

Global Times | August 27, 2012 20:40

Illustration: Sun Ying
Illustration: Sun Ying from here

In the article “European powers no longer have role across Pacific” published on August 15 in the Global Times, Robert M. Farley argues that Europe and NATO are not Pacific powers. But this is predicated on a number of false assumptions. First, that trade and economics are irrelevant, second, that hard power is the only effective way of expressing yourself in the region, and third that in our globalized and increasingly multipolar world, there can be spheres of influence where others should not meddle.

The EU is China’s largest trading partner, with annual trade in 2011 of $567.2 billion, an 18.3 percent increase year-on-year. And while the US may do more trade with the two next largest East Asian powers, Japan and South Korea, the EU’s figures are not insignificant. According to American and European data, in 2011 the US did $194.6 billion in trade with Japan and $100.1 billion in trade with South Korea versus respectively $143.6 billion and $84.4 billion for Europe.
This economic power not only demonstrates why Europe has a keen interest in the region, but also highlights how hard power is not the only way to stay relevant in East Asian and Pacific affairs.
And anyway, the EU does have hard power capacity. Admittedly, the EU lacks the military clout of the US, but it is not a weakling either.
Recent conflicts in North Africa have demonstrated Europe’s capacity and willingness to project military power, and these build on a growing European tendency toward consolidation of hard power. The UK and France have put aside historical enmities to develop an ever-closer defense relationship, and over time this tendency will only increase.
That having this muscular power present in East Asia is the only way to be heard seems a very dangerous assumption to make, one that plays into the hands of hawks who see looming conflict at every turn.
The security situation in the region is tense, but surely the solution to this is to find ways to calm things down rather than ratchet them up. That Europe lacks the baggage of hard power in the region could aid in acting the role of honest broker that might be able to help soothe tensions.
This leads to a final point about the current global order. The whole point of globalization is not only that we can now get everywhere easily and talk to people on the other side of the globe without any difficulty, but it also means that the concept of spheres of influence where single powers have total domination has also passed. No longer can powers say, this is my turf and no one else has a stake.
Similarly in East Asia. While much of what happens in the region seems to be fundamentally a tussle between the US and China, the reality is that European trade will be badly affected if things in the region take a turn for the worst. We end up having an order that is confused and unclear and to speak of strictly defined spheres of interest seems antiquated.
None of this is to advocate an aggressive European return to Asia, but rather to highlight that to simply dismiss Europe as an Asian power on the basis that it does not have as many soldiers or aircraft carriers in the region is to be too hasty. The EU is looked up to by ASEAN members who see a model to emulate, European soft power is hard to miss among the floods of Asian tourists enjoying European capitals and, as illustrated, Europe has a very strong economic interest in regional stability.
To presume that the US is the only power to listen to or that matters when focusing on Asian affairs is to play into the hands of those who only see hard power and tensions.
Europe has always been fundamentally an economic power and as the globe’s economic focus shifts eastward, we will see this power and influence increase, something that will benefit everyone.
Europe has a keen interest in Asia and it is one that will only grow as the world moves beyond the current economic crisis.

The author is a visiting scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn