China is exploiting the EU's divisions and treating the 27-state bloc with "diplomatic contempt" on issues ranging from trade to the Dalai Lama, according to the authors of a new policy report by the European Council on Foreign Relations, a leading pan-European think-tank, in close cooperation with Asia Centre at Science Po. Even though China is the EU's second largest trading partner, EU policy still has roots in a time when China was a developing country rather than a diplomatic competitor. Following the failure of the EU to put united demands to China at the G20, the authors believe it is essential that the EU strikes tougher bargains with Beijing and uses the levers at its disposal- otherwise it will be outmanoeuvred at next month's EU-China summit in Prague.
This analysis comes in the Power Audit of EU-China Relations,the first ever pan-European study of EU-China relations. It is written by John Fox, ECFR Senior Policy Fellow; and Francois Godement, ECFR Senior Policy Fellow, Professor and Director of the Asia Centre at Sciences Po, based on extensive fieldwork and interviews in all twenty-seven member states.
Fox and Godement argue that a policy of "unconditional engagement", in which the EU grants China economic benefits in the hope that this will lead to democratic reform, has failed to achieve advances since it was introduced in the mid-eighties. And jostling for influence in Beijing between member states - especially France, Germany and the UK- means that they have refused to support each other on contentious issues such as meeting the Dalai Lama.