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EU strategy towards China

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EU strategy towards China


To present the developments over the past years in the European Union (EU) and in China and the new setting for EU-China relations since 1998.

2) ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 15 May 2002, EU strategy towards China: implementation of the 1998 Communication and future steps for a more effective EU policy [COM(2001)265 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


This communication recalls and confirms in a comprehensive and coherent manner the objectives of the EU policy regarding China defined in 1998. In its 1998 Communication entitled "Building a comprehensive partnership with China", the Commission set out the following objectives:

  • engaging China further in the international community through an upgraded political dialogue;
  • supporting China's transition to an open society based upon the rule of law and respect for human rights and democracy;
  • integrating China further in the world economy by bringing it more fully into the world trading system and by supporting the process of economic and social reform under way in the country;
  • making better use of existing European financial resources;
  • raising the EU's profile in China.

Although it considers that these objectives remain valid in the long term, the Commission believes that the existing instruments should be improved and fine-tuned in order to take account of the developments since 1998 and to make EU policy more effective. This Communication therefore provides a comprehensive and forward-looking review by the Union of its objectives and of the dialogue and cooperation mechanisms in place for implementing EU policy towards China. It also suggests ways of developing EU-China relations by defining concrete and practical short and medium-term action points for EU policy.

Engaging China further in the international community

Political dialogue with China has been already been strengthened through regular meetings of foreign ministers, ambassadors and senior officials. There is also agreement to hold regular talks at expert level on selected issues.

In order to take account of the fact that China is a growing economic and political power, it is appropriate to involve it in the management of most major global issues, such as arms proliferation, trafficking in human beings, the fight against organised crime or environmental degradation.

Specifically, the Commission proposes continuing the political dialogue at political director level on a half-yearly basis and scheduling half-yearly troika dialogue expert meetings with China in areas such as Asian affairs, non-proliferation and disarmament. It also proposes establishing regular dialogue of troika political counsellors in Beijing with the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs on selected regional and international issues.

The Commission recommends carrying out a regular evaluation of the outcome and effectiveness of this political dialogue, and enhancing it as necessary by establishing a framework of regular meetings.

This enhanced political dialogue must give priority to:

  • human rights concerns;
  • combating illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings;
  • combating organised crime;
  • regional issues (reconciliation between the two Koreas, cooperation with regard to Burma, negotiated solution to the territorial claims in the South China Sea, the Taiwan issue);
  • disarmament and limiting arms proliferation and exports;
  • promoting multilateral dialogue on security (preventing conflicts at regional and international level).

Supporting China's transition to an open society

This involves making the human rights dialogue with China more effective and results-oriented. It is important to identify ways of assisting China in implementing the recently ratified United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and to encourage China to ratify the UN Covenant on Political and Civil Rights.

In addition, the Commission plans to continue implementation and preparation of Community human rights programmes addressing the rule of law and legal reform, economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, and democracy.

Integrating China further in the world economy

In the area of trade, the Commission highlights the importance of ensuring the correct implementation of the commitments made by China within the framework of the World Trade Organisation. There must be close cooperation between the EU and China in order to promote the development and liberalisation of world trade. In this respect, it is important to support the activities of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China and EU and Chinese companies in their EU-China Business Dialogue initiative.

The EU must also continue to encourage China's process of economic and social reforms. In particular, China must be assisted in establishing an effective social security network and developing its education system and human resources through programmes targeting universities, civil servants, young professionals, lawmakers and the media.

Moreover, the Commission calls for greater dialogue on key sectors such as the information society, the environment, energy, science and technology, enterprise policy, industrial standards and certification, customs, maritime transport, securities markets and competition policy.

Making better use of existing European resources

In this area, the Commission advocates strengthening the long-term programming of aid for China by finalising the Country Strategy Paper (CSP), which defines the overall objectives and key areas of intervention and the mechanisms of coordination with the beneficiary country and other donors. This paper must take account of the EU's general policies and, in particular, the development policy, the main aim of which is to reduce poverty.

On the basis of this strategy paper, support activities must concentrate on the following priority areas:

  • support to the economic and social reform process with a view to assisting China's efforts to ensure regional and social cohesion, reduce poverty and promote gender equality;
  • promotion of sustainable development;
  • encouragement of good governance initiatives and promotion of the rule of law.

In order to achieve these objectives, the Commission plans to continue to focus on flexible projects in areas where the EU has a comparative advantage. This flexibility must also govern project design, allowing for annual adaptations of activities carried out and the budgets allocated to them.

Finally, the devolution of the project management cycle to the Commission's Beijing Delegation must help to optimise the effectiveness of EU-China cooperation.

Raising the EU's profile in China

This involves improving all aspects of the EU information policy regarding China in order to promote mutual understanding and facilitate exchanges of information. The Commission aims to enhance knowledge and awareness of the European Union in China, in particular by using modern information technologies such as the Internet.

Other initiatives may also be envisaged, including use of the EU Visitors Programme to encourage Chinese decision-makers to come to Brussels and the Member States, and the creation of associations and networks of alumni of EU programmes.

Finally, the Commission highlights the need for coordination and cooperation between the EU Member States and the Commission's Beijing Delegation when organising cultural events.

4) implementing measures

The political dialogue with China has been formalised through an exchange of letters at ministerial level, which set out a framework for regular meetings on political and technical issues. The meeting programme set out in the Communication has been implemented. The high-level talks on illegal immigration have also continued.

The European Union has continued to express its concern regarding the human rights situation in China, particularly in the context of the EU-Chinese human rights dialogue and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Council has pointed out in particular that this dialogue is only acceptable if it translates into progress on the ground. An EU-China inter-university network to assist with the ratification and application of United Nations human rights covenants has been established and is responsible for organising seminars bringing together experts in the field. The cooperation programmes in the field of human rights have all continued, while cooperation to prevent torture is under consideration.

Since China's accession to the WTO in December 2001, the Commission has very closely monitored China's compliance with its commitments, notably within the framework of the sectoral dialogue with the China. Continuing this work is one of the Commission's main aims with regard to China in the years ahead. In parallel, the EU has renewed its support for this process through a new cooperation programme totalling EUR 15 million.

Comprehensive dialogue on the information society, the environment and energy has been launched, while dialogue on science and technology has been revived. An agreement on maritime transport was signed in December 2002. In March 2003, the Commission received a negotiating mandate from the Council with a view to concluding an agreement with China that would make it possible to involve it in the Galileo programme. A Galileo representative office was opened in Beijing in April 2003.

Finally, a new 2002-2006 cooperation strategy with China was adopted in 2002. Under the 2002-2004 National Indicative Programme, a total of EUR 150 million has been set aside for cooperation measures, particularly in the fields of economic and social reform, sustainable development and good governance.

5) follow-up work

As confirmed by the Council discussions in March 2002, the general and long-term objectives set out in the Communication of 15 May 2001 continue to be valid for the most part. However, the Commission is in the process of updating the EU's strategy towards China, published in 2001, with a view to adapting it to the developments over the past two years, especially China's access to the WTO and the arrival of a new generation of communist leaders in Beijing. On the European side, the launch of the euro, the progress of the CFSP and the ESDP, and the prospect of enlargement of the Union to include 10 new Member States are important developments that influence relations with China. More generally, there have been significant developments in the international situation since 11 September 2001.

The updated Communication, which should be published in 2003, aims to take account of these changes in order to enhance EU-China relations in the years ahead.

Last updated: 25.04.2003