EU-China relations: how strategic and autonomous is the EU?

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Strategic autonomy is yet again in vogue in the Europe stirring controversies among member states and leaders. Some have welcomed the resurface of the debate, whereas in some other quarters, confusion at best and alarm at worst are among the reactions. Still unclear what the EU means by the concept and even more so whether it is capable of achieving it. Contrary to the recent past, current debates about strategic autonomy do however go beyond security and defence to encompass trade, finance and investment. Taking Harknett and Yalcin’s definition of strategic autonomy as the struggle for self-reliant autonomy that describes how great powers respond to the anarchic conditioning of international politics, we assess the EU’s ability to act autonomously vis-a-vis China, which in 2019 the EU identified as ‘strategic competitor’. We argue that notwithstanding the ambitious goals and high-floating words, the EU is still far from being strategic and autonomous.

Keywords: Strategic autonomy, EU, China

Eva Sali| Fudan University

Eva SALI recently graduated with a PhD degree in International Politics from Fudan University in Shanghai, China. Her thesis, written under the supervision of the distinguished IR prof. SHIPING TANG, explored the international politics and food security nexus. Eva holds an MA in EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies from the College of Europe (2015-16), as well as a double MA in International Relations from LUISS University in Rome and Université Libre de Bruxelles (2015). Her BA in Communication, Media and Culture was earned from the Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences in Athens, Greece. Eva’s research interests revolve around great power competition, the EU-China relations, resource security and the water-energy-food-climate change nexus. Professionally, she has gained considerable experience in political communication and policy making.