Defining a Sino-European Vision

BEIJING – How strong is the European Union’s strategic partnership with China? Indeed, does it even exist?

Many Europeans believe that China, one of the EU’s ten so-called strategic partners, behaves more like a competitor. And many Chinese, for whom the EU is just one of more than 70 strategic partners, complain that the EU’s policy toward China is more commercial than strategic.

Such grievances are rooted in different interpretations of the nature and purpose of strategic partnerships. Where China sees an enduring, comprehensive, and stable relationship that extends beyond everyday issues, Europe sees market access and better global governance, but lacks a clear long-term vision for the partnership. Unresolved issues – for example, the EU’s arms embargo on China, its unwillingness to grant it market-economy status, and the recent anti-dumping and countervailing-duties cases that it has brought against the Chinese – aggravate these divergent perspectives.

For China, the value of a partnership with the EU lies in three main areas. First, it offsets “Americanization” – that is, the influence of the United States over global economic development, and the spread of the American lifestyle and mentality. The EU’s global influence – won through its peace-keeping missions, diplomatic efforts, aid provision, and non-traditional security mechanisms – counterbalances US domination over the international community.