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Summary of a CICIR-EUISS workshop
The workshop contributed to producing an informal assessment of some of the most pressing challenges facing both the EU and China at the regional and global levels, including ideas that give substance and meaning to strategic partnership between the two actors. Particular attention was devoted to three themes: (i) Current trends and major challenges facing the Arab world, including the role that the EU and China can have in supporting the new governments in the region; (ii) EU and China perspectives on global governance and the security agenda, including disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and peacekeeping/peacebuilding operations; (iii) current challenges and future prospects for the Sino-European strategic partnership.
On the first theme, Chinese experts recognised the need to take into account the changes taking place in the Arab world. Supporting new governments was seen as necessary in order to stabilise the region. Chinese experts highlighted their concern about the situation in Libya and their preoccupations that the military intervention provoked a high number of casualties and went beyond the UN mandate to protect the civilian population. Both sides agreed, however, that the international community needs now to support the transition and ensure a peaceful outcome of the democratic revolutions. On the second theme, both Chinese and EU experts put forward ideas for enforcing their consultation and cooperation on disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. Moreover, it was remarked that China’s changing attitude towards peacekeeping operations can be germane for future collaboration with European countries in particular in Africa and the Gulf of Aden.
On the last theme, it emerged from the discussion that the approach of Chinese leaders regarding the EU has changed in recent times. CICIR experts argued that the EU is no longer a strategic actor. This shift in attitude is due to a growing dissatisfaction regarding the inability of the EU to reach a unified political stance and speak with a single voice. The result is a gradual shift of focus away from the EU level and towards individual EU member states, in particular the so-called big three: Germany, France and the United Kingdom, perceived by China as the only European countries with a certain strategic weight on the world scene. Moreover, it was highlighted by EU experts that growing Chinese investments in Europe coupled with purchases of significant amounts of Eurozone bonds now has the potential to increase Chinese influence over Europe. Europe’s economic weaknesses and debt problems, compared with China’s growing power and assertiveness, have the potential to lead to increasing imbalances in Sino-European relations in favour of Beijing in the coming years.