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Tim RÜHLIG, Björn JERDÉN, Frans Paul van der PUTTEN, John SEAMAN, Miguel OTERO-IGLESIAS, Alice EKMAN

Political Values in Europe-China Relations A report of the European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC), December 2018

What role do political values play in Europe-China relations 70 years after the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

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In its fourth annual report, the European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC), of which Ifri is a founding and coordinating member, examines how political values – namely democracy, human rights and the rule of law – shape Europe-China relations today. China experts from seventeen leading European research institutions have compared how these values inform the foreign policies of European states and the EU toward the most powerful autocracy in the world, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and how the PRC influences the debate on political values in Europe.


The results display four different patterns of behavior among European countries: vocal and active; active and discreet; passive; and passive and potentially counteractive.








The report finds that three factors are of particular importance in making sense of differences in behavior among European countries:

  • First, while there has been a general downgrading of the importance of political values in the approaches to China by most European states, younger democracies have been more affected by this trend.
  • Second, states with a higher per capita gross domestic product tend to be more active in the field of political values in their relations with China. Close trade relations with China also correlate with a higher level of activity in this field.
  • Third, Chinese pressure has led some European states to reconsider their level of activity in promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Even so, they have not taken political values entirely off the agenda.

Despite China’s increased efforts to promote its image abroad, in all the countries analyzed the general public and large sections of the political elite and media hold negative views of China’s political system.


Chapters of the report:


1) The role of political values in Europe-China relations

Tim Nicholas Rühlig, Björn Jerdén, John Seaman, Frans-Paul van der Putten, Miguel Otero-Iglesias and Alice Ekman


2) Belgium’s multilayered China policy: A case of principled pragmatism?

Bruno Hellendorff


3) The Czech Republic’s values-based policy towards China reconsidered

Rudolf Fürst


4) Discreet diplomacy: Denmark’s pragmatic stance towards China

Andreas Bøje Forsby


5) Political values in France-China relations, 2018: The start of a policy shift under Emmanuel Macron

Alice Ekman


6) Germany’s promotion of liberal values vis-à-vis China: Adapting to new realities in political relations

Lucrezia Poggetti and Kristin Shi-Kupfer


7) Sino-Greek relations: Marked by values or opportunism?

Plamen Tonchev


8) Absent political values in a pragmatic Hungarian China policy

Tamas Matura


9) Political values in Italy’s China policy: A “constructive approach”

Nicola Casarini, Lorenzo Mariani, and Fabio Angiolillo


10) Latvia: A pragmatic approach without making significant concessions to China

Una Aleksandra Bērziņa-Čerenkova and Māris Andžāns


11) Human rights promotion and the changing role of political values in Netherlands-China relations

Frans-Paul van der Putten


12) Political values in Norway’s relations with China: Standing ground or giving in?

Hans Jørgen Gåsemyr


13) Poland’s modest approach to a values-based China policy

Justyna Szczudlik


14) Portugal-China relations: Political values play second fiddle

Carlos Rodrigues


15) Political values: A sensitive issue almost absent from Romania’s relations with China

Iulia Monica Oehler-Şincai


16) Political values in Spain-China relations: Empathy, discretion and patience

Mario Esteban and Miguel Otero-Iglesias


17) The prudent proponent Sweden’s normative China policy

Viking Bohman and Anna Michalski


18) UK-China: Broadening the values agenda

Tim Summers


19) Political values in EU-China relations: Towards a “principled” or a “pragmatic” approach?

Tim Nicholas Rühlig


Democracy European Union (EU) Rule of Law China Europe