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July 12, 2018

Video Policy Brief: Including Civil Society in EU-China Relations

Asia Dialogue recently posted a series of “video policy briefs” looking at implementation of the Foreign NGO Law in China. Each video looks at a different country or aspect of the Law’s implementation. The following offers the author’s suggestions for improved EU-China interaction related to civil society in light of the Foreign NGO Law. The original post is available on the Asia Dialogue website.


Our research project not only monitors and evaluates the state of implementation of China’s Overseas NGO Law but also aims to identify new and innovative approaches to critical, creative, and constructive European China engagement.

In the past, the EU has been criticized for its “unconditional engagement” (Godement, 2008) with China, for being an “incomplete civilian power” (Maull, 2010), and for “shifting away from liberal internationalism” (Youngs, 2010). One does not have to agree with all of these criticisms to recognize that an exclusive focus on geopolitical and commercial interests undermines Europe’s search for a Common Foreign and Security Policy vis-a-vis China.

One example of a lack of imagination on the European side is the so-called EU-China dialogue architecture. Under the three pillars political, economic, and sectoral and people-to-people dialogue there are now more than 70 separate dialogues. These dialogues are so compartmentalized that it is almost impossible to mainstream cross-cutting issues such as governance, civil society, gender, or sustainability.

Recent research has also shown that despite the Lisbon Treaty Article 21, EEAS (European External Action Service) diplomats do not consider norm promotion as part of their remit. Due to the elite-driven nature of EU-China relations, the current dialogue architecture excludes key European and Chinese political and social actors; dialogue formats follow the logic of a “banking model of education,” where European and Chinese experts try to convince the other side of their respective wisdom; and the dialogue forums themselves are increasingly narrow, manipulative, and mechanistic.

In my view, the EU should take the following reform measures: End the compartmentalization of EU-China dialogues by mainstreaming civil society inclusion across all three streams, provide funding for a well-resourced EU-China P2P Dialogue support facility, and mainstream civil society inclusion across all tenders aimed at strengthening EU-China relations.

Andreas Fulda is Assistant Professor at the School of Politics of International Relations, University of Nottingham.

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Andreas Fulda is an Assistant Professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham. His research is in the fields of E.U.-China relations as well as philanthropy...

Related Video Policy Briefs

German NGOs and the Foreign NGO Law,” with Horst Fabian

British NGOs and the Foreign NGO Law,” with Nicola Macbean

French and Dutch NGOs and the Foreign NGO Law,” with Patrick Schroeder