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The (Disjointed) Ideational Foundations of EU-China Relations

Emil Kirchner, Thomas Christiansen

This paper emphasizes the significance of the EU-China relationship both in terms of each of the two partners, but also in the context of the emerging multi-core world order, in which both the EU and China are expected to play an important, albeit distinctive, role. The paper charts the enormous contribution that Europe and China have made to each other's prosperity, welfare and competitiveness in recent decades, leading to a formal recognition of a strategic partnership between the two. It will highlight the domestic impact that each has on the other as well as the role both play in the context of global governance issues such as, for example, the world trade negotiations or the search for a global regime to combat climate change. On the basis of this assessment, the paper then goes on to develop a framework conceptualising the ideational foundations of EU-China relations. In particular, this involves addressing: (a) the question of how and why the relationship between the EU is 'strategic', and elaborating on the meaning of 'strategic' in this context; (b) the differing assumptions and attitudes each has about the nature of statehood, the principle of sovereignty and other key concepts relating to the functioning of the international system; (c) the different self-perceptions and world views of the EU and China, with the former seeing itself more as a Kantian (other-oriented) actor in the world system, and the latter perceiving itself more as a Hobbesian (self-centred) actor; and (d) the potential clash between a European Union committed to multilateralism and China seeing the world in terms of an emerging multipolar order

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