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The EU's Strategic Approach to Relations with China: Partnership, Containment and Management in a Changing Leadership Context

Michael H Smith

This paper focuses on the EU's strategic approach to relations with China and the potential impact of leadership changes, in the light of three key factors. The first is the shaping forces that surround the EU's approach to the relationship. The second is the aims of the EU in the relationship: partnership, containment or management. The third reflects the forms taken by the relationship: comprehensive or sectoral in scope, multilateral, inter-regional and bilateral in level. It is proposed that the EU's policies have been most effective at the bilateral and sectoral level, where the emphasis has been on management of the relationship, and less effective at the inter-regional level and the comprehensive and multilateral level, where the focus has been partly on containment and partly on 'grand strategy' and the pursuit of a comprehensive partnership. These arguments are given added force by the potential impact of leadership changes in the EU and China, and particularly by challenges to the credibility of the EU's leadership in global institutions and negotiations. Empirical evidence from the current and recent development of the relationship will be considered as a means of testing this central proposition.

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