EU-China Relations: Between Economic Competitor & Systemic Rival

von Benedikt Zanzinger
Politics on Point - A Podcast by AIES Wien and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Wien


The war in Ukraine showed the EU’s ability to act as a key global player through its resilience, its ability to react quickly from the very start of the war, with military support, aid to refugees, and the ability to reduce its energy dependence on Russia. Due to the disruption of supply chains that already indicated serious dependence during the pandemic, the sometimes alternativeless dependency on energy supplies, and the need for a coherent approach in the face of security challenges, the EU should try to achieve strategic autonomy and create an independent geopolitical policy in order to become a “third power” in the changing world order, instead of getting lost between the rivalry between China and the US. The growing U.S.-China tensions will have a profound effect on the future of the multilateral system, current trends are pointing toward a further increase in geopolitical competition, economic protectionism and fragmentation. The goal of this podcast series is to assess the European Union's autonomy as an independent actor, with regard to its relations with the US, China, ASEAN, and the African Union. The changing nature of the multilateral system and the growing tensions between global actors no longer allows a postponement of the assessment from the perspective of liberal democracies, hence the European Union and its member states must not lose sight of systemic competition.


China's growing economic and strategic influence has been one of the most pivotal geopolitical shifts of the near past. China has emerged as a major global player, with a growing military presence, a strong economy, and a growing network of strategic partnerships. It is also an important global partner for the EU, given its growing economic and strategic influence and the opportunities it presents for the EU. However, territorial disputes, human rights issues and the development of emerging multilateral economic and security organizations require a unified and credible approach of the EU. In order to achieve a sustainable relationship with China, it is crucial for the EU to develop a new approach towards the country that should be tailored to Europe's economic – above all, with regard to reducing dependencies in key industries - and national security imperatives.


In this episode, Una Aleksandra Bērziṇa-Čerenkova, Head of the Political Science PhD programme and the Director of the China Studies Centre at Riga Stradins University, discusses current challenges and developments in EU-China relations. This episode is the first in a 4-part special series on the EU as a global actor. Future episodes of this series will focus on the EU's relations with the United States, ASEAN, as well as the African Union.


Find the podcast here: Podcast



Benedikt Zanzinger

Portrait Benedikt Zanzinger

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