EU Relations With China — Factsheet

The Euro­pean Union is com­mit­ted to pur­su­ing its engage­ment in Chi­na and to strength­en­ing its part­ner­ship with that coun­try, as demon­strat­ed by the thir­teenth EU-Chi­na Sum­mit which will take place in Brus­sels on 6 Octo­ber 2010, back-to-back to the ASEM Sum­mit. The People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na will be rep­re­sent­ed by Prime Min­is­ter Wen Jiabao. The EU will be rep­re­sent­ed by Her­man Van Rompuy, Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, and by José Manuel Bar­roso, Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion.

The par­ties are expect­ed to dis­cuss the fol­low­ing issues: 

  • EU-Chi­na rela­tions, notably how to strength­en the Strate­gic Partnership; 
  • glob­al issues, in par­tic­u­lar glob­al gov­er­nance, cli­mate change, ener­gy; and
  • region­al and inter­na­tion­al issues such as recent devel­op­ments in Afghanistan and Pak­istan or non-proliferation.


People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na, with approx­i­mate­ly 1.340 mil­lion inhab­i­tants, has the largest pop­u­la­tion in the world and occu­pies a posi­tion of geo-strate­gic impor­tance in the Asian con­ti­nent as well as in the Pacif­ic sphere. At a glob­al lev­el, Chi­na main­tains an essen­tial role with­in the G20

EU diplo­mat­ic rela­tions with Chi­na were estab­lished in 1975 and are gov­erned by the 1985 EU-Chi­na Trade and Coop­er­a­tion Agree­ment and sev­en oth­er legal­ly bind­ing agreements. 

Fol­low­ing the finan­cial cri­sis, Chi­na has re-emerged as the world’s third econ­o­my and the biggest exporter in the glob­al econ­o­my, but also an increas­ing­ly impor­tant polit­i­cal pow­er. EU-Chi­na trade has risen dra­mat­i­cal­ly in the last decades and the EU remains China’s biggest trad­ing partner. 

Strate­gic Part­ner­ship

In 2003, an EU-Chi­na com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic part­ner­ship was launched, fol­lowed in Octo­ber 2006 by a Com­mu­ni­ca­tion enti­tled “EU-Chi­na: Clos­er Part­ners, Grow­ing Respon­si­bil­i­ties” and a pol­i­cy paper on Trade, aim­ing for a close and com­pre­hen­sive part­ner­ship with Chi­na, bilat­er­al­ly and in the mul­ti­lat­er­al con­text. Chi­na released a White paper on rela­tions with the EU in 2003; its first-ever White paper on rela­tions with a for­eign partner. 

In Jan­u­ary 2007, nego­ti­a­tions were launched on a new EU-Chi­na Part­ner­ship and Coop­er­a­tion Agree­ment (PCA), intend­ing to reflect the full breadth and depth of the EU Chi­na Com­pre­hen­sive Strate­gic Partnership. 

At the twelfth EU-Chi­na Sum­mit (30 Novem­ber 2009 — Nan­jing) a wide range of glob­al issues were dis­cussed: cli­mate change, the finan­cial cri­sis, ener­gy and resource secu­ri­ty, food secu­ri­ty, the envi­ron­ment and pub­lic health secu­ri­ty. The two sides reaf­firmed their active com­mit­ment to peace and sus­tain­able devel­op­ment of the world, as well as to the peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of disputes. 

Trade Rela­tions

Since bilat­er­al ties between the EU and Chi­na were estab­lished thir­ty five years ago, trade rela­tions have expand­ed from €4 bil­lion in 1978 to €296 bil­lion in 2009. Today, the EU is China’s most impor­tant trad­ing part­ner, while for the EU, Chi­na is sec­ond only to the Unit­ed States. Europe’s imports from Chi­na have grown by around 16.5% per year for the peri­od 2004–2008. In 2009, the EU still import­ed €215 bil­lion worth of goods from Chi­na; thus Chi­na remains Europe’s biggest source of man­u­fac­tured imports. 

Ener­gy and cli­mate change 

The EU and Chi­na estab­lished a Part­ner­ship on Cli­mate Change at the 2005 EU-Chi­na Sum­mit. The focus of the Part­ner­ship is on con­crete action: the progress and deploy­ment of clean ener­gy tech­nol­o­gy. One major objec­tive is the devel­op­ment and demon­stra­tion of advanced, “zero emis­sions” coal tech­nol­o­gy based on CO2 cap­ture and geo­log­i­cal stor­age. On the 6–7 Novem­ber 2008, the 7th EU-Chi­na Ener­gy Con­fer­ence gath­ered the high-lev­el Euro­pean and Chi­nese rep­re­sen­ta­tives from indus­try and administration. 

Sci­ence and technology

The agree­ment with Chi­na signed in 1998 gov­erns our sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy (S&T) coop­er­a­tion and its renew­al for anoth­er 5‑year peri­od was endorsed in Nan­jing on the occa­sion of the 12th EU-Chi­na Sum­mit. The 7th Frame­work Pro­gramme is the main Euro­pean finan­cial tool to sup­port joint research. Chi­na is the EU’s 3rd largest part­ner after the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia; approx­i­mate­ly 150 Chi­nese researchers have par­tic­i­pat­ed in the 7th Frame­work Pro­gramme (2007–2013). Chi­na has also par­tic­i­pat­ed in the flag­ship Galileo project. 

EU-Chi­na cooperation

In recent years, the suc­cess­ful EU-Chi­na coop­er­a­tion includ­ed the fol­low­ing flag­ship initiatives: 

  • The Chi­na-Europe Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness School (CEIBS — in Shang­hai since the mid-1990s, €33m) and the Chi­na-Europe School of Law (CESL — in Bei­jing since 2008, €17.5m).
  • The Europe-Chi­na Clean Ener­gy Cen­tre EC2 in Bei­jing (€10m) and the Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Clean and Renew­able Ener­gy in Wuhan (€15m) are the main chan­nels for coop­er­a­tion in the field of ener­gy and sus­tain­able devel­op­ment (launched in April 2010).
  • Chi­na is a ben­e­fi­cia­ry of Eras­mus Mundus fund­ing, with a spe­cif­ic “Chi­na Win­dow” that has fund­ed near­ly one thou­sand Chi­nese stu­dents to go to study in Europe (€26m).

Inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty cooperation

The EU and Chi­na hold reg­u­lar con­sul­ta­tions at expert lev­el on non-pro­lif­er­a­tion and con­ven­tion­al arms exports. There was also estab­lished an EU-Chi­na dia­logue on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW). The first ses­sion of this dia­logue took place in June and addressed the EU’s and China’s poli­cies in the field. The EU and Chi­na have joined efforts in fight­ing pira­cy in the Gulf of Aden.

Human rights

The EU-Chi­na human rights dia­logue was estab­lished in 1995 and is held twice a year, rotat­ing between Chi­na and the EU, at the lev­el of senior offi­cials. The most recent ses­sion was held in Madrid, on 29 June 2010. The top­ics dis­cussed in pre­vi­ous ses­sions includ­ed: rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Inter­na­tion­al Con­ven­tion on Civ­il and Polit­i­cal Rights (ICCPR); media free­dom; human rights defend­ers; death penal­ty; re-edu­ca­tion through labour sys­tem; minor­i­ty rights; and the rule of law. 

Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union 

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