EU-China Cooperation – Assessment of Key Policy Areas (Part I)

[Editor’s note: The 4th Media recently received a lenthty academic paper on the issue of EU-China Coorperation. We believe this paper is timely very appropriate. We believe this piece will surely help our global viewers see the China-EU relations from a European perspective. However, this academic paper is too long to post the whole content at once. So the article will be divided into three four parts in the following next two weeks. Best wishes!]

About the author of this paper

Attila Marjan is a Hungarian economist, PhD in international relations. Based in Brussels for fourteen years as diplomat and member of EU commissioners’ cabinets. Former public policy scholar of Wilson Center in Washington DC. University professor and author of books on EU affairs and geopolitics. Associate professor at the National University of Public Administration, Budapest.

 

Table of contents 

Introduction

  1. Historical context and the possibility of mutual understanding
  2. European know how transfer to China and Chinese views on Europe

III. EU-China relations – overview

  1. Multilateralism – geopolitics and international economic cooperation
  2. A new world order
  3. Multipolarity and multilateralism
  4. EU as partner and model
  5. Social policy
  6. Welfare state
  7. The European social systems
  8. EU-China cooperation and Chinese research on European social policies
  9. The Chinese social security system – facts, problems, solutions
  10. Regional policy
  11. EU-China cooperation in regional policy – overview
  12. EU regional policy and its financing
  13. China’s regional policy and its problems
  14. Lack of a single official organization specialized in regional management
  15. Failure to identify the optimal target region for regional policy
  16. Lack of effective financial support instruments
  17. Over-dependence on government and failure to include non-governmental actors
  18. Conclusions

References

 

Abstract

 

This paper has a general and also a sectoral angle to analyse EU-China relations. Apart from putting this relationship into a general historical and geopolitical context, it also elaborates on some key policy areas where European experience seems valid for China to design policies to counter some of its challenges. The paper therefore has a very broad range of topical coverage including a brief overview of the history of Sino-European relations, current day geopolitical issues, as well as social and regional policy issues. As far as the level of mutual understanding as a prerequisite to effective know how transfer and/or cooperation, is concerned, the paper argues that a lot remains to be done. Barriers are partly historical partly due to differences in general political features and partly because of cultural and ideological imprints. This holds true even if EU studies have a long history in China and China studies in Europe are getting ever more prominent in social science and IR. The paper looks into three topical areas for which it gives comparative analyses, pinpointing similarities and differences and possibilities for China to draw on the EU experience. As regards multilateralism in international relations, the EU is a key partner for China in building a multilateral global order, but the EU is not a fully suitable model to conceptualize multilateralism for three reasons: the EU is not a true hard power, the EU and the Chinese concepts of “multilateralism” have a significantly different meanings, and finally, the EU itself by definition has no nationalistic ambitions on the global scene. As regards social policies, the EU is an obvious model for inspiration, but the European social models themselves have become under pressure and proved unsustainable lately, so China is best advised to look at the more sustainable versions of the European social models, such as the reformed German or some features of the Scandinavian ones. Moreover Chinese studies on the European social systems has often been ideologically motivated, therefore often produced biased results. As regards regional policy, the EU system can be interesting for China to overcome the following shortcomings of the Chinese system: the lack of a single official organization specialized in regional management; the failure to identify the optimal target region for regional policy; the lack of effective financial support instruments; the over-dependence on government and failure to include non-governmental actors.

Keywords: China, EU, EU-China relations, multilateralism, EU-China regional policy, social policy cooperation

 

Introduction

 

This paper has a general and also a sectoral angle in its analysis of the EU-China relations. Apart from putting this relationship into a general historical and geopolitical context, it also elaborates on some key policy areas where European experience seems valid for China to counter its challenges. The paper therefore has a very broad range of topical coverage including a brief overview of the history of Sino-European relations, current day geopolitical issues, as well as social and regional policy issues. Chapters obviously differ significantly as regards the depth of the analysis and also in style. The paper, although aims to provide fresh evidence on the different fields it assesses, should in principle be considered as an overview and also as an introduction to a series of more elaborate papers focussing on the individual topical issues. The paper also wants to contribute to better mutual understanding by introducing some of the key geopolitical and political concepts of the two players, therefore it may be interesting for European and Chinese readers alike. Analyses of Sino-European relations are plentiful, as China is getting prominence internationally, research papers on China and China-EU relations (especially with a sectoral focus) are becoming abundant.

 

Nevertheless papers with a comprehensive or at least multisectoral research approach are scarce. Research of how European and especially EU policy solutions could serve as models for Chinese practice is even less frequent. One research evidence should be highlighted here, the paper Xinning Song published in 2010 (Xinning Song: European ‘models’ and their implications to China: internal and external perspectives)[1] nevertheless that paper more or less limits its ambition to catalogue existing research done by Chinese scholars on different EU policy areas. As Xinning Song explains[2] European Studies in China developed very rapidly in the last twenty years. The reason for is twofold: the EU-China relations have been growing wider and deeper so has economic interdependence, but also Chinese scholars and decision makers acknowledge the “relevance of European models to China’s domestic political and social development, as well as China’s external relations”.[3] He reviews Chinese EU studies in the following areas that were considered most relevant by Chinese academia and the political class: European party politics and the issue of democratic socialism; the European social policy and social security systems, EU regional policy, European foreign and neighbourhood policy, the European concept of effective multilateralism, moreover Europe as an example of peaceful rise, and finally “functionalism” i.e.: the step-by-step, sector-by-sector approach to reinforcing cooperation and how it can be applied to East Asian regional integration.[4] He also claims that Chinese would like to learn more from Europe than the United States, partly because they consider the EU as a “social power” as opposed to the US. Moreover the esteem of the European civilization is quite significant in the Chinese academic and political class.

 

The first institutions for European studies in China in the 1980s were the Institute of Western European Studies at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the European Documentation Centre at Fudan University in Shanghai, and the China Association for Western European Studies. At the beginning most of the studies focused on individual Western European countries rather than on the European integration as a whole. In the late nineties, European studies in China got a new impetus when the EU and the Chinese government launched the first EU-China Higher Education Cooperation Programme (1997–2001) as one of the major objectives of the programme was to promote European Studies in China. More than a hundred Chinese and European universities and research institutions, as well as a thousand Chinese and European scholars took part in the Programme. Moreover about twenty new centres of European Studies were established at Chinese universities and research institutes. EU studies (including political science, economics, law sociology, international relations, history) has not only started to flourish but also became deeper, more strategic and better organized.

 

The present paper puts EU-China relations and potential fields of know how transfer in a historical and also a socio-economic framework with a multidisciplinary approach and selecting three areas of focus considered most pertinent (multilateralism, social policy and regional policy). The choice to select these three domains was motivated by the conviction that these are the key areas for Chinese policy making to successfully accomplish the two most important political imperatives for the country:

the successful geopolitical integration of China in the global order and

– the successful management of internal imbalances (regional and social) that could otherwise destabilize the country.

There are obviously other areas outside the analysis of this paper where the EU experience could be relevant, such as soft power projection[5], or the issue of “peaceful rise”[6], consumer rights, corporate social responsibility, corporate governance and environmental protection. Even the Franco-German historical reconciliation is referred to sometimes as a process worthwhile to study for China for reconsidering its relations with Japan. But these are considered less strategic moreover already with the selection of three focus areas the present paper has a very broad range of topical coverage including a brief overview of the history of Sino-European relations, current day geopolitical issues, as well as social and regional policy issues also giving an overview of selected EU policies which can especially be helpful for Chinese readers. Although it aims to provide fresh evidence on the different fields it assesses, should in principle be considered as an overview and also as an introduction to a series of more elaborate papers focussing on the individual topical issues.

 

As far as the level of mutual understanding as a prerequisite to effective know how transfer and/or cooperation, is concerned, a lot remains to be done. Barriers are partly historical partly due to differences in general political features and partly because of cultural and ideological imprints. This holds true even if EU studies have a long history in China and China studies in Europe are getting ever more prominent in social science and IR.

 

China’s rise seems to herald a new global order therefore it is not only important to know how China’s policies develop, but also should be seen as a key opportunity for Europe to influence Chinese strategies and policies. There is a fundamental uncertainty as regards the future global order – several theories compete at this point. There seems to be a point on which al commentators seem to agree: there is a new global order emerging in which China will play an important role. The paper aims to give an overview of these competing and sometimes contradictory views.

 

As regards multilateralism in international relations, the EU is a key partner for China in building a multilateral global order, but the EU is not really a suitable model to conceptualize “multilateralism” for three reasons: the EU is not a true hard power, the EU and the Chinese concepts of “multilateralism” have a significantly different meanings, and finally, the EU itself by definition has no nationalistic ambitions on the global scene. As far as China’s future participation in the global order is concerned there are characteristics in present time China politics that warrant optimism as opposed to the fears of the emergence of a hostile bi- or multipolar order. Notwithstanding the fact that China is a hard power,

it wants to be part of the world order, its interest dictates that;

– it does not define itself against an enemy;

– it has been and is willing to embrace capitalism;

– it has no agenda or intention to export ideology.

These characteristics render China’s geopolitical strategy clearly distinct from the former Soviet Union. China also has a traditionalist approach to international relations, where in principle the “no interference with national sovereignty” is the key bottom line which is mostly motivated by the sense of insecurity of a non-democratically elected government.

 

As regards social policies, even if there is no EU-level social model and even policy coordination on this issue is rather week at European Union level, the EU is an obvious model for inspiration, especially some of the EU member states’ practices. Nevertheless European social models themselves have become under pressure and proved unsustainable lately, so China is best advised to look at the more sustainable versions of the European social models, such as the reformed German or some features of the Scandinavian ones. Moreover Chinese studies on the European social systems has often been ideologically motivated, therefore often produced biased results. The key issues with the Chinese social security system is underfinancing, insufficient coverage, geographical fragmentation and inefficient institutions.

 

As regards regional policy, the EU system can be interesting for China to overcome the following shortcomings of the Chinese system: the lack of a single official organization specialized in regional management; the failure to identify the optimal target region for regional policy; the lack of effective financial support instruments; the over-dependence on government and failure to include non-governmental actors.

 

I would like to express my gratitude to Xi Chen, my student at the National University of Public Service in Hungary for her truly valuable work on the regional policy chapter of this paper.

 

<Continues in Part II>

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