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The EU and the Rise of China: The Neglect of the Military Dimension

Claude Zanardi

Over the past decades, the shift of power towards East has been enhancing the relevance of Asia. A major driver has been China's rise made possible by its opening up policy and rapid economic growth. Its parallel military modernisation is significantly modifying the balance of power in Asia. While China's Ground Forces have been downsized, the other services have been allocated more resources to boost their programmes of weapon acquisition, indigenous weapons development and training. Thanks to these growing capabilities, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is increasingly operating outside its traditional theatre of confidence (e.g. contribution of the PLA Navy to the international counter-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden). The new Strategic Guidance for the Department of Defence (MoD) and the 'Pivot to Asia' of the Obama Administration recognise the strategic relevance of this power shift towards Asia.' And what about the European Union (EU)? Although the progress brought by the Lisbon Treaty (e.g. establishment of a European diplomatic service) and the upgrade of the EU-China relationship to a 'strategic partnership', the Sino-European relations remain mainly economical: their political and military dimensions have been neglected as well as the challenges that China's military modernisation poses to the EU.

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