This paper explores the relationship between the rhetoric of 'strategic partnership' in the EU's diplomacy towards China and the reality of EU-China relations in an increasingly multi-polar world. It argues that a strategic EU approach towards China is shaped by a number of important factors: the internal divisions between EU institutions, the different orientations of groups of Member States, the demands of international rules and regimes and the presence of other 'great powers' (especially the USA) in the construction of the EU's China policies. The paper will deal with four issues: (1) Strategic diplomacy and strategic partnerships in EU external policy post-Lisbon; (2) EU and Chinese approaches to strategic partnerships; (3) The increasing density and complexity of the EU-China relationship and the resulting diplomatic challenges; (4) The extent to which the EU's new diplomatic machinery has met the challenges posed by EU-China relations in an increasingly multi-polar world arena.
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