The EU-China partnership: balancing between divergence and convergence.

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The EU-China relationship is driven by two distinct underlying logics: a power-based one and a transformational one. The power-based logic is premised on a belief that because of anarchy, power politics and conflicts of interest cannot be entirely overcome. According to this view, intercourse between the EU and China will reflect their relative power positions and display concerns about relative gains, making cooperation between them more difficult. In contrast, a transformational logic reflects a more liberal/constructivist perspec- tive. It suggests that rules and shared norms can sharply reduce conflicts of interest and mitigate concerns about relative gains through the creation of trust and reciprocal social- ization, making enduring cooperation between the EU and China more likely. The EU- China relationship is thus clearly mixed, consisting of an array of cooperative and competitive elements. At any given moment, the relationship can be pictured as residing somewhere along a spectrum that extends from pure cooperation at one extreme to unrestrained competition at the other. Diverging trends, which are mutually reinforcing, are pushing the relationship toward competition, converging trends—also reinforcing each other—are promoting cooperation. The direction in which the EU-China partnership can possibly evolve—more competition or more cooperation—will be moulded by the relative strength of diverging and converging trends.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-294
Number of pages14
JournalAsia Europe Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019


  • EU-China relations
  • Convergence
  • Divergence
  • economic security


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