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Bernhard BARTSCH, Claudia WESSLING, (eds.) with , Marc JULIENNE, John SEAMAN

From a China strategy to no strategy at all: Exploring the diversity of European approaches A report of the European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC), July 2023

While there is now new momentum in the relationship between Europe and China, considerable variation remains in approaches across the continent, from clear-cut strategies to more ambiguous policies, complicating a common European position.


In the ninth report since its inception in 2014, the European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC) gathers analysis on 24 countries plus the European Union to map these different approaches. The chapters of the report tackle a range of questions that weigh on the cohesiveness of a broader European strategy:

  • National China strategies: Where do member states and other European countries stand?
  • Mechanisms: How do European countries coordinate and share information on China?
  • EU tools: Which national instruments exist for implementation?
  • Risk analysis: Which approaches do countries take?
  • Working with China: In which Chinese institutional frameworks do countries participate?
  • Spotlight on Taiwan: What activities exist in this contested space?

Ten years after Xi Jinping took the helm in China, European countries have become more aligned on how to deal with this aspiring world power. However, approaches towards China vary depending on the intensity of relations, the extent and nature of economic dependence as well as attitudes towards the authoritarian government in China. Some have devised national China strategies, some prefer a less public, more decentralized approach, while others do not consider China an important issue for their national politics. The chapters of this report explore this broad diversity.

France: An ambiguous China policy with no clear roadmap

In the report, Ifri’s Marc Julienne explains that France’s China policy is difficult to grasp because it has no clear and centralized roadmap. Diving into the tenets of France’s China policy, Paris intends to preserve economic interests as long as possible, while acknowledging the profound transformation within the Chinese Communist Party. The French China policy is intertwined with the European one, and Paris is even proactive in Brussels to build up new defensive mechanisms. Beyond the bilateral relationship, France is trying to find its own way within the US-China strategic competition, alongside its American ally, but trying to avoid dangerous escalation. Still, the lack of an explicit doctrine and the blurry official communication has led to misunderstandings with partners and allies, and to coordination loopholes within the government.


Discover this and all ETNC reports on the network's website: https://etnc.info/

ETNC 2023 - From a China strategy to no strategy at all: Exploring the diversity of European approaches
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