China's Normative Offer: the Case of 16+1 Cooperation

Una Aleksandra Berzina Cerenkova

China has been receiving continuous criticism from the EU regarding its non-adherence to the principles perceived as the EU normative ideals, that, for the most part, also lie at the core of the UN system, such as the human rights issue, the rule of law, democracy, geographical and social equality. During the era of Xi Jinping, however, significant attempts have been made by China to reshape the PRC-EU dialogue by formulating its own value agenda, most notable, within the 2014 China's Policy Paper on the EU, proposing partnership for peace, growth, reform and civilization, and stating that the current state of play does not satisfy China: "Given the differences in history, cultural tradition, political system and stage of economic development as well as the increasing competition between China and the EU in some sectors in recent years, the two sides have disagreements and frictions on issues of value such as human rights as well as economic and trade issues. China believes that these issues should be properly handled through dialogue in the spirit of equality and mutual respect and encourages the EU to move in the same direction."Rather than providing answers to EU's inquiries, China has taken active agency in shaping the China-EU communication, stressing, that the moral high ground that the EU has taken towards China is self-proclaimed and subjective, and providing a normative narrative to substitute the one of the EU, legitimized largely through selected Chinese pre-Republican traditional heritage. However, this alternative narrative is not only a counterargument within the China-EU controversy, but it also contains a claim for an alternative international consensus - PRC is striving for "formulation and reform of the rules of global governance." China is creating an alternative normative proposal and is ready to export it through such incentives as the Belt and Road initiative and the 16+1 cooperation framework.

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