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How Hong Kong’s protests weaken Xi Jinping’s strongman image

How will Xi Jinping get out of the quandary he has put himself in? That is the puzzle presently discussed among observers of Beijing politics, Chinese and non-Chinese alike. This is the burning question behind protests in Hong Kong and Europe should be discussing it.

Over decades, the People's Republic has moved away from the one-man-dictatorship of Mao's days. Deng still had supreme authority, but he set in place the mechanisms of collective leadership, which were later fine-tuned during Hu Jintao's rule. Then, in November 2012, Xi as the new secretary-general of the Party came in and claimed for himself the head of not only the Party and the state, but also of the Central Military Commission and a number of newly created “Commissions” that steer all of the crucial government institutions. Xi likes to compare himself to Deng, but his subjects increasingly compare him to Mao. A man

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EU Strategic Partnerships: Shallow political summits, active technical dialogues?

This paper provides a global picture of the structured dialogues that underpin the ten strategic partnerships of the EU. It goes, for each partner, into the details of the bilateral relation, disclosing the list of technical meetings that take place on a regular basis between the European External Action Service (EEAS) or the Commission Directorates, and each individual partner. These official meetings have been established over time.

Individual snapshots are provided for in annex, disclosing the “internal structure” of the ten strategic partnerships. They show, for each partner, how many of these technical dialogues are at work behind the scene, and on what specific issues.

From agriculture to human rights to customs or intellectual property rights, the list of dialogues reveals large differences in quantity, frequency, and quality between the partners.

After presenting the

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A subtle change in Merkel’s tone on China

On the surface, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s seventh visit to China was business as usual. The usual deals were made – for example, Volkswagen and its state-owned Chinese partner FAW agreed to build two new assembly plants in the east coast cities of Tianjin and Qingdao. Accompanied by the usual delegation of business leaders, Merkel went to Chengdu, the capital of the south-western province of Sichuan, and visited an existing Volkswagen production plant there. The Chinese government has been promoting Chengdu as a major hub for investment and a leader in urbanisation. German companies such as Volkswagen seem to think they can cash in and repeat inland the success they have had on the coast.

In fact, German business seems to be getting even more demanding. In a draft document leaked during the trip, the Chinese-German Economic Advisory Committee (DCBWA), an organisation that lobbies

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How North Korea’s neighbours view the nuclear threat

At the end of June, ECFR conducted a week-long discussion round between a group of Europeans and Asians in Tokyo under the title, How do Asians see their future? Not unexpectedly, on most issues different participants had very different answers to the question. However, the rise and future of China loomed large over the discussions.

Participants responded to a poll on the likelihood of conflicts in Asia, and the results showed that people were concerned about the potential for war between China and Vietnam and between China and Japan. But the greatest risk to Asia, according to Asian participants in the discussion, is North Korea. They feared that provocation could be followed by melt-down, which would lead to an intervention by China. Europeans placed North Korea as the second greatest risk to Asia.

The idea that North Korea is one of the greatest risks to Asian security is not

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China’s rule versus the power of rules

This post is part of a series on the issues discussed at the ECFR Annual Council Meeting in Rome (12-13 June). You can find more content and audio from the council meeting here

On 13 June 2014, during the ECFR Council MeetingChina’s rule versus the power of rules was discussed between Robert Cooper, former Counsellor of EEAS, Teresa Patricio Gouveia, Trustee of the Board of Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and Volker Stanzel, former German Ambassador to China and Japan. The discussion, moderated by Lluís Bassets, Deputy Director of the Spanish daily El País, focused mainly on the threat of violent conflict in Asia, and whether China could trigger a serious crisis. The consensus on the likelihood of war, putting the Asian order at stake, highlighted the dimension of the  consequences for Europe, and the urgency for Europeans to deal with the present escalation of tensions. Europe’s

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