The European Union’s China Policy

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Sino-European relations, shaken by the events of Tiananmen (1989) and the subsequent imposition of economic sanctions and an arms embargo on Beijing, evolved since the mid-90s within a very constructive way. Since 1998, EU-China Annual Summits assemble European heads of state and government and Chinese leaders to discuss bilateral and global issues. From the signature of a Strategic Partnership in 2003 the two parts gave more importance to the bilateral relationship. This lead to the emergence of a growing tension in several aspects: trade deficit, intellectual property rights, the non-attribution of market economy status to China, the arms embargo, environmental regulations, human rights issues, namely regarding Tibet, and Taiwan. China and Europe are far from achieving a full partnership with common strategic aims, although they don’t face strategic competition. China has a very selective view of multilateralism, using it as an instrument to emerge as a great power: the EU is viewed as a counterweight to the United States and, at a smaller extent, Japan and Russia. On the other hand, Europe is constrained by the impact that its China policy may have on the relationship with the US; and by the conflicting agendas among EU member states, which keep bilateral policies (and, some of them, strategic partnerships) with China.

Keywords: EU, China, Strategic partnership

Carmen Amado Mendes |  Universidade de Coimbra

Carmen Amado Mendes is professor and coordinator of the International Office of the School of Economics, University of Coimbra (Portugal) and former head of the International Relations department. She received her Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies – University of London, United Kingdom; her Master degree from the Institut des Hautes Études Européennes – University of Strasbourg, France; and her Bachelor with Honours from the Higher Institute of Social and Political Sciences – University of Lisbon, Portugal. She was a founding member of the Observatory of China in Portugal; board member of the European Association for Chinese Studies and the organizer of the 2014 EACS conference in Coimbra; former president of the International Relations Section and member of the board of the Portuguese Political Science Association. She was visiting professor of the University of Macau, China; the University of Salamanca, Spain; and the University of Lyon, France. She was a Post-doctorate scholar of the Institute of Political Studies – Portuguese Catholic University of Lisbon; Auditor of the Portuguese Institute of National Defence; and a founder of the consulting company ChinaLink. She coordinated at the University of Coimbra a research project on the role of Macau in China´s relations with the Portuguese speaking-countries and a project on South-South cooperation of the Europe China Research and Advice Network, supported by the European External Action Service. She is the author of Portugal, China and the Macau Negotiations 1986-1999 (Hong Kong University Press, 2013) and several articles and book chapters on China’s foreign policy and Macau, available for consultation at: