How the world views Europe: Zhimin Chen on China


As part of our 'Reinvention of Europe' project, ECFR co-organised* a conference in Prague to examine how Europe is seen by other important global powers. Six eminent academics and thinkers gave their thoughts from the viewpoint of China, Turkey, India, Brazil, Japan and Russia. I recorded interviews with all six, which are being published as podcasts, and also gathering up the abstracts of the papers that each one presented in this short series of blog posts.

This first post looks at the Europe from the point of view of China, with Zhimin Chen of Fudan University in Shanghai. Click here to listen to the short podcast interview with him. Here is an outline of his thoughts:

Since the end of Cold war, Chinese policy makers, observers and general public have developed a quite positive and optimist view about the European Union. The smooth development of bilateral relations, the rapid advancement of European integration, and perceived convergences on key foreign policy issues (like multilateralism, the peaceful resolution of conflict, the central role of the UN and sustainable development) all contributed to this development.

However, over the past few years, the Chinese have begun to realise that their views of the EU have also involved wishful thinking. Some have begun to complain about difficulties in dealing with the EU, and conflicts in bilateral relations and on global issues. Anxiety has grown at the prospect of an EU in relative decline following the 2008 financial and economic crisis. This shift is evident in the writings of observers and changes in public opinion.

However, while the Chinese may be becoming more realistic in their views about the EU, that does not mean that the EU and its member states are no longer important to China’s foreign policy thinking. From a Chinese perspective, the EU is still China’s biggest trading partner, and it constitutes the largest grouping of developed countries, able to exert international influence through common policies as well as through the individual policies of the 27 member states. What China seeks in the future is to build the bilateral relationship on a more equal footing, and the rise of China gives Beijing more confidence to pursue that goal.

Click here for India's view of Europe with Rajendra K Jain - "Unlike in the past, India is determined to play an active interest in the framing of new rules so that they reflect and protect the needs and aspirations of one sixth of humanity."

Click for Turkey's view with Atila Eralp - "Has Turkey’s relationship with the EU departed from being seen as a normative goal or strategic vision, into a framework for a useful but ‘just another’ partnership in international relations?"

Click here for Japan's view, with Ryo Oshiba - "In Japan there is the notion of 'the lost two decades', and a debate on whether Japan is a global player or a middle power. A similar debate applies to Europe."

Click here for Russia's view, with Sergei Utkin - "the joint potential of the EU and Russia is regarded as essential in building sustainable alternatives to scenarios of Europe’s inevitable decline in the international arena."

* Thanks are due to the other co-organisers of the conference in Prague, the Insitute of International Relations, Prague, and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung


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