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EU-China relations – from economic integration to EU's strategic autonomy and 'de-risking'

July 2023 | Europe-China relations over the past decade have come a long way. The 2020 Strategic Agenda from 2013 that largely focused on stronger cooperation made way to a more skeptical approach by the EU – culminating in the 2019 EU-China Strategic Outlook that declared China simultaneously a partner, an economic competitor, and a systemic rival.

In March this year, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen – in her so-called “de-risking” speech – emphasized that the EU would have to be more ‘clear-eyed’ in its dealing with China. And as the government-to-government consultations between China and Germany were held on 20 June, the EU published its new European economic security strategy – a country-agnostic strategy to strengthen the trade bloc’s competitiveness (“promote”) and safeguard economic security (“protect”), in large parts consolidating and codifying numerous defensive and offensive instruments to deal with what are perceived as challenges that China presents for the EU.

And just before the summer holidays, the German Federal Government presented its first-ever and long-awaited China Strategy. As the document states, the new strategy is a necessity to adequately address the challenges of a “changed China”. The strategy clearly pinpoints several discontents in Germany’s relations with China as well as underlines its alignment with the EU’s policy on China – a more confrontational and “de-risked” approach, which deviates from Germany’s approach in the Merkel era, while however still continuing to seek areas of cooperation.

So where do Europe-China relations stand today? How integrated are both economic blocs at a time of growing desires for de-risked supply chains and domestic industrial competitiveness? And how does the situation look from Beijing’s perspective?

Check out our CMG Primer EU-China relations - from economic integration to EU's strategic autonomy and 'de-risking' .


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