Political values in Europe-China relations


Political values in Europe-China relations

A report by the European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC), December 2018

The European Union (EU) has committed itself to promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law. On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the Palais Chaillot in Paris, the European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC) has published a new report investigating the role of political values in Europe-China relations.

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

China experts from seventeen leading European research institutions—including MERICS—have compared the role political values play in the foreign policies of European states and the EU toward the most powerful autocracy in the world, the People’s Republic of China. In essence, the results display four different patterns of behavior among European countries: vocal and active; active and discreet; passive; and passive and potentially counteractive.

MERICS researchers Lucrezia Poggetti and Kristin Shi-Kupfer contributed a chapter titled: “Germany’s promotion of liberal values vis-à-vis China: Adapting to new realities in political relations”. Their findings place Germany among those European countries that are active and vocal in promoting liberal political values in relations with China.


However, they also find that, despite their limitations, formal dialogues and quiet diplomacy remain Germany’s main tools to promote such values. The chapter also takes note of how the debate about China among German political and business elites is evolving, with some openly calling China a ’systemic challenge’ to liberal democracy, and a few others praising the alternative offered by China’s political system and development model.

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

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.

Click here to download the ETNC report 2018 as PDF.


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