A lack of progress suggests Europe is still struggling to find a way to reconcile the rise of China as a global power with its aim of developing a more multilateral, rules-based world.
The EU wants China to act more multilaterally and shoulder responsibilities, in particular in the UN but also in the IMF and the G20. Europe long assumed that China would automatically converge as it developed. That assumption has not been borne out by the events of recent years and, in particular, by the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009.
Reform of the UN Security Council is still stalled and there is no genuine engagement with China on this. The EU did not seek an ambitious reform – in part, because to do so would raise the issue of a single seat for Europe and the divergence of interests between member states on this issue (see component 70). China is both posing as the representative of emerging countries and blocking Japan and India at the Security Council. The Human Rights Council is increasingly dominated by an anti-European alliance in which China figures prominently (see component 72).
At the G20, Europeans coordinated with China in 2010, but mostly simply to avoid protectionism. There were also fault-lines within the EU, with Germany siding with China to reject a US suggestion of numerical targets for current-account surpluses at the G20 summit in Seoul. Meanwhile, as they prepared for their 2011 presidency of G20/G8, the French tried to engage the Chinese on a reform of the international monetary system. China agreed to give more resources to the IMF but hasn’t yet endorsed any reform beyond an increase in its own voting rights. The conclusions of this year’s EU-China summit were devoid of specifics on these issues, suggesting that the EU is still struggling to find a way to reconcile China’s rise as a global power with its aim to create a more multilateral, rules-based world.