Stanley's blog

China-EU: A Common Future
Edited by Stanley Crossick and Etienne Reuter
World Scientific Publishing – see post of 17 January
reviewed by David Martin, MEP

As the Olympic flame burns its troubled way towards Beijing, the debate around the consequences and benefits of closer cooperation with China follows in its wake. Relations with China are a political minefield for leaders the world over; isolation by western powers risks encouraging Chinese isolationism and hostility, while engagement appears to condone systematic violations of rights and freedoms in favour of economic gain. The EU, being one of the largest global trading arenas and a union of 27 western democracies, is a cacophony of complex opinions on what form EU-China relations should take and be developed.

As the title suggests, the essays in this book make a convincing case for closer cooperation. They rightly encourage a vision of relations between the two entities that looks beyond trade and promotes further issues on which the EU should seek dialogue with Beijing. Pressing concerns such as global terrorism, climate change and energy policy demand engagement with China and call for a multifaceted foreign policy towards the emerging global power.

Indeed, it is in reading the contributions from both Chinese and European scholars and political personalities that the possibility and potential benefits of such a common strategy become clear. Be it Andrew Small’s engaging analysis of the US-China relationship or Glyn Ford’s thorough breakdown of the dilemma China faces over North Korea, one is in no doubt that the book’s contributors are experts, committed to developing Sino-European relations, at their most assertive.

That is not to say that we are presented with a work compiled by blinkered Sino-files. Obstacles to further engagement such as human rights and political freedoms are dealt with using a constructive approach, which is essential in seeking lasting and positive change. Economic concerns are also highlighted, notably the need for China to fulfil its WTO obligations regarding market access in services and counterfeiting.

We are left with the conclusion that China needs to demonstrate its commitment to a stronger Brussels-Beijing relationship as much as we need to begin promoting the EU as a cohesive and serious potential partner. Central in solidifying our relationship with Asia’s future power is a sense of mutual understanding. The book calls for trust building between Europe and China on every level of civil society. The sentencing of human rights activist Hu Jia is a worrying step in the wrong direction.

To achieve a common trust, Europe needs to be prepared to take cooperation forward. Beijing on the other hand needs to make concerted efforts to facilitate multi-level dialogue and recognise legitimate concerns over human rights as the opportunities offered by the Beijing Olympics approach.

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