The EU and China: The historical genesis of a new “strategic axis” in world politics

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In September 2004 David Shambaugh, of George Washington University, published a small article under the heading: “China and Europe: The Emerging Axis.” In his view, one “of the most important, yet least appreciated developments … has been the dramatic growth in ties between China and Europe” (Shambaugh 2004, 243). He pointed, firstly, at the strong growth in trade relations; the EU also became the largest foreign supplier of technology and equipment, in the form of direct investment, but also through a number of joint technology projects. The EU-China Framework Program became the world’s largest common research project. As to political cooperation, numerous meetings have been institutionalised, among them, at the top level an annual EU-China Summit. The contacts have resulted in a number of agreements, for instance on group tourism. According to estimates 100,000 Chinese Students went to European universities and colleges in the 2003/4 academic year, considerably more than the 60,000 in the US. Also the Chinese Communist Party has established many exchanges with European political parties. Twenty separate dialogues and working groups covered a variety of issues, from human rights to textile trade. Each meeting generated the elaboration of proposals and negotiations of tangible programs – “thus marrying the respective bureaucracies and fusing them with common purpose.” The multitude of all these interactions has often been confusing and overlapping, “but the totality of exchanges is impressive.” To be sure, there were also points of frictions such as the European arms embargo (introduced after the Tianmen massacre in 1989), but Shambaugh saw it as highly likely that the relationship between EU and China would continue to grow and develop. “Over time it will become a new axis in world affairs, and will serve as a source of stability in a volatile world” (Shambaugh 2004, 248).
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAalborg
PublisherInstitut for Kultur og Globale Studier, Aalborg Universitet
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011
SeriesCCIS Research Series

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