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Decision Time as EU Considers a New Policy on China
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The European Union should see China's rise as an opportunity to further its own development, clarify its interests, and reform outdated policies to avoid damaging economic and social relations through protectionism and conservatism.

Last year, there was a heated debate about the rise of China in the United States. This year, the China wind has blown to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The subject has recently gained momentum among European scholars. EU officials revealed that the EU is drafting a new strategy for China and will publish it soon. The EU is taking the opportunity to thoroughly review its China policy.

Last year the EU began a strategic dialogue with the US and they reached a consensus to delay lifting an arms embargo on China. This year, NATO has actively participated in Asia-Pacific Security Affairs. This seems to indicate that EU policy on China is similar to that of the US. The possibility was raised recently when the EU reacted similarly to the US in relation to China's RMB exchange rate and trade deficit issues. However, such similarities are not enough to prove that the EU view on China is the same as that of the US.

First of all, there are significant differences between the EU and the US in their values and strategic targets. The US pays more attention to promoting democracy while the EU treats stability as the pre-condition for democracy and progress. The EU and US are taking a different stand on the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. The US is obvious in its unilateralist approach, imposing its ideas upon others in its foreign policy. The EU tries to maintain its own interests through the promotion of the advantages of the EU concept. US scholar Robert Kagan argues that the fundamental dispute between the US and the EU is that the US still lives in the Hobbs modern world which is based on power and aggression while the EU has entered the post-modern world which seeks peace through dialogue and cooperation. It may not be an entirely accurate view, but it is reasonable.

The EU and the US also take a different view of China's military development. The US complains that China's military operations are not transparent and that China's military development constitutes a threat. The US and its allies intend to influence international opinion and form a strategic partnership with other countries to deal with China. The EU pays more attention to the military strength of the whole Asian region. It cares more about how any strategic change will affect Europe and it doesn't believe China's military development poses a direct threat to the EU.

Lastly, the EU and the US have different expectations for China's role in world affairs. The US hopes China will recognize and participate in the international order it dominates and submit to their control. By contrast, the EU hopes that China will become a constructive partner and promote global relations in a multilateral international order.

The US and the EU may share some attitudes towards China, but they also have a great many differences. This has enabled the EU to be objective and rational when considering an approach to the development of China.

In formulating a new approach to China, the EU should consider the following: reshaping triangular relations between China, the EU and the US to reflect differences in interest; moving beyond cold war thought and exploring the driving forces between China and the EU; stabilizing the strategic base between China and the EU; and clarifying their common interests to ensure they will benefit from China's growth.

There should be more economic and trade cooperation between China and the EU, as well as collaboration on Middle Eastern and African issues. They should communicate and cooperate on matters of global importance to avoid politicizing economic issues and complicating bilateral issues. They should learn from each other on development issues. China's sustained economic development will provide a good model for the EU while the EU's experience in management and culture will be good for China.

China's recent rise should draw EU interest in an attempt to further global development.

The article was written by Wang Honggang from China's Contemporary International Relations Research Institute and translated by People's Daily Online.

(People's Daily online June 9, 2006)

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