The European Union as a 'social Power'? The Case Study of European Commission Projects in China

Malgorzata Jakimow

This paper presents a unique and ground-breaking approach to the study of 'social power' strategy through critical investigation of the European Commission projects in China as tool of dissemination of European norms and values in its relations with China. The notion of 'social power' is comparatively new, and it developed from 'normative/civilian power', which emphasizes export of European 'norms' to non-European contexts. 'Social power' conveys more of a 'partnership' model of foreign relations, emphasizing that the European norms and values can be shared with China in non-imposing, 'soft' and mutually beneficial ways. The EC projects in China are a major avenue of asserting the 'social power' role of the EU in its relation with China, as the EC strategic Partnership paper from 2003 clearly saw the EU assistance for China's reforms as an essential tool of 'raising EU's profile in China'. However, despite the immense financial investments these projects incurred, there has been very little research conducted on the actual implementation of this strategy and its effectiveness through the EC projects. We know very little about the relationship of these projects to the 'social power' strategy, the actual impact of these projects on the Chinese model of development and their effectiveness in the dissemination of norms and values, particularly in the area of governance and welfare. Basing on the fieldwork materials and interviews collected among the EC public servants and implementing actors (NGOs and INGOs) in May 2012 and from February to June 2015 in China, this paper presents some preliminary findings on the content and implementation of the EC projects, how effective they are as a tool of the 'social power' strategy in the context of a powerful and assertive authoritarian state and what their actual impact is on the Chinese development model

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