china-euEarlier this week, we had a question come in from Carmen KM Kong to our Twitter page about the rise of China and whether or not Europe should feel threatened. With the Eurozone currently in the midst of a banking and sovereign debt crisis, and with John Bruton last week warning that failure to address this crisis will “accelerate the decline of Europe”, it’s understandable that there might be a certain degree of nervousness around Europe’s relative position in the geopolitical order.

Professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University is widely regarded as one of the most influential international relations scholars in the world, and possibly the most influential on American foreign policy. Debating Europe put Carmen’s question to him and asked if Europe was losing its influence to China internationally. In overseas development, for example, the European approach is seen to emphasise conditionality and encourage ‘good governance’, whilst the Chinese approach is seen to be more about investing in infrastructure and asking fewer tricky questions on human rights abuses. Is Europe still relevant?

The Chinese model of authoritarian development has certain attraction in Africa, but not much attraction in Latin America or other parts of Asia – India for example. And one notes that the authoritarian model that China uses depends upon an effective government. Many countries that might aspire to follow a Chinese model lack that effective government. So I don’t think the so-called ‘Beijing consensus’ will prove to be successful. In the long-term, therefore, I don’t think it will be a threat to the West.

What do the leaders of other countries think, though? Should Europe be worried about losing them as development partners to China? Debating Europe spoke to Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, and put Carmen’s question to him:

No, there’s no question whatsoever of China upstaging or replacing Europe. What is happening is simply that China is moving out. There are certain resources that China needs, and China is looking all over the world for those resources. Now, my only philosophy, which I preach, is this: Europe, America, they are our friends, our partners and our allies. And we will keep old friends. But there’s nothing to stop us from making new friends.

I think there’s no cause for panic. I believe that Europe should do what Europe can do best, without unduly panicking about China. Let me put it this way: any Nigerian or any African who wants to buy a very precise industrial machine will not go to China. He will come to Europe. But, if he wants to buy equipment for poultry or pigs or something like that, he will probably go to China. So that should not worry you. And I don’t believe that we should unduly worry about that.

What do YOU think? Should Europe be worried about the rise of China? Do you agree with former Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) John Bruton that China’s rise to power is a good reason for Europeans to deepen EU integration? Or do you think China’s rise could be an opportunity for Europe? Let us know your thoughts in the form below and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.


19 comments Post a commentComment


  1. Simon Wright

    Chinas rise is extremely worrying. However we dont have to integrate more to counter China,, we simply need to have europe act on the world stage with a single voice more often and stop our businesses being bogged down with regulations.

    Euro federalists need to look at the USA and see their states have more choice than we seem to end up with here in the EU with 27 sovereign states. no more EU integration, just fix the institutions and stop introducing red tape.

    Europe and the USA along with other western nations should reach an agreement that for any product to be sold in our territories, it must be produced by someone with a certain standard of living. That would keep more jobs here at home and stop china exploiting a cheap currency

  2. Saurabh Taneja

    We must not under estimate China at all; its huge foreign exchange reserves and trade surplus but mammoth manufacturing capabilities could catapult it into the world’s largest economy. At the present rate of its GDP growth, it would soon surpass US as it have done with Japan. China is speedily acquiring resources around the world to whet its appetite for building its huge infrastructure. Its also working to make yuan a reserve currency thereby targeting dollar which is the pillar of America’s strength. China is doing so by opening up its financial sectors to more foreign investments and slowly making yuan a fully convertible currency. Though there are still a lot of hurdles but its slowly working ahead by increasing transactions in yuan with other countries instead of using dollar.

  3. Christos Mouzeviris

    A threat, no I do not think so…A challenge for sure…!! But we should better fix the cracks and faults in our system, so no one will be able to exploit those faults…Better to be safe than sorry…
    I do not see China as a threat, they may be for America that want it all..But Europe should form its own foreign policies and its own relationship with China..it can be proven beneficial if we galvanize our own structures and be strong…

  4. André

    In my view, the EU has a lot of reason to feel threatened. China is not only underpricing it in manufacturing goods, investing its money in several European countries and threatening its development objectives in Africa, it is also encroaching upon the sectors in which Europeans believed to have a competitive advantage – research, technology and sustainable development. Besides, there is a cultural aspect. A country in which a single province will have Canada’s GDP in 2020 will pose enormous challenges to Europeans’ jobs, lifestyle, identity and culture by means of popular entertainment, business relations, foreign direct investment etc.

    European politicians start getting worried but I’ve got the impression that the EU is not prepared for China’s rise yet. It often addresses China either as an economic threat or as a human rights violator. To have a fruitful cooperation with China, the EU should move away from its prejudices, try to understand Chinese culture better and interact with it. It is not normal that a Western person in the center of Shanghai draws stares upon him, because people have never seen a Westerner before…

    17/11/2011 Ha-Joon Chang, Reader in the Political Economy of Development at the University of Cambridge, has responded to this comment.

  5. hari naidu

    I believe mainland China will invest to make sure EU and its Euro Project is a win-win strategic value to both parties. Of course, in geopolitical terms, there is no gurantee that national intrerests will always coincide and avoid (potential) conflicts, for example, in context of WTO globalization framework.

    I’d not take Nye’s views as gospel truth on relations with China. Principally because he’s partial to US exceptionalism. Mainland China doesn’t aspire for such accolade from other’s. The culture and historical context of Maoist revolution has created a paradigm shift in Chinese concept of themselves, as Han people. It’s also possible, some day, even Confucious will return and becomes its cultural house (e.g. Goethe Institute).

    Those who fear the rise of mainland China should really try to understand the historical rise of China, after fall of Kuomintang rule.

  6. Peter Schellinck

    This is actually a valid question, although not new. And, yes, China’s rise to power is a good reason for Europeans to deepen EU integration and thus why the EURO is so important. Volvo, the Port of Piraeus, and the list goes on, are CHINEESE. And does anybody really know how much European sovereign debt they have acquired? Should we wait a little longer and have the Euro replaced by the Renminbi? Europe is at an important cross road and golden opportunity to coach the Euro as alternative to the Dollar and muscle the Renminbi! It’s now or never. If Europe want’s to remain a key player in the global future, knowing that we will not even represent 10% of the world population, then the Euro can be our trump card. The Euro will probably be the only one single thing for us Europeans available to secure an impact on the global economy of the coming centuries.

    I also agree with Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, that there’s no cause for panic. By 2050, India will have overtaken China in terms of population. The Indian business world has already deeply routed into the European fabric, with success and respect. This has not caused Europe to feel threatened. Rather then deteriorating into an internal fight fueled by national interests rather then the EU project, we should reunite, even if we are to break down national sovereignty, and face the world with one policy, one security, one foreign policy and one currency.

  7. Leonardo Baggiani

    Europe would not be worried about China if Europe turned into a knowledge economy thus specialised in production of goods containing a relevant amount of knowledge and information.
    The fact is a lot of lobbies in Europe (especially in the South, where I come from) have successfully managed to preserve the old labour-intensive productions, which are now necessarily suffering from the competition by the low-cost labour-intensive Chinese economy.
    Western economies needed open their markets to low-price products from China to prop up their unsustainable welfare States; they will soon accept Russia as a WTO member for the same reason, I guess, and other weird partners will follow… But this has become a “unilateral game” (with China exports overcoming imports) because of European lobbied politics; with a real “knowledge economy”, Europe could have played a “bilateral game” of it, instead. The result: western economies have made China rich, and now China is spending this wealth.
    Ironically, what Europe must really be worry about is both its miopy, and the very feasible Chinese downturn which its slowing real estate market (see Shangai) is already signalling.

  8. İlkay Sevgi

    Very brief answer: Turkey with young and dynamic population, rich natural resources, connection to globe would give Europe enormous strenght.. And please companies do not produce every product in China with Chinese standards.. Why Europe do not continue to produce and sell? I could not find European toys for my son in Turkey; every toy is produced in China..

  9. Dr. Rashid Ahmad Khan

    China’s current foreign policy still draws its inspiration from the theory of three worlds it propounded in 1970s. China considers Europe its strategic ally. The rise of China, therefore, does not threaten Europe.

  10. John Arran Gordon

    Get the Uk out of the corrupt EU or common market as it was supposed to be…….all about trade they said now the majority of British laws are made in Brussels!! how can the Brithsh coalition talk about democracy in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt when they totally ignore the electorate and stick to there deluded agenda… double standards and Hypocrisy.

  11. Daniel Pluskota

    U are right Ilkay. Germany, UK, Scandinavian countries making terrible mistake producing so much things in china. Effects of those mistakes are noticeable now(unemployment, corporations in east asian hands). I think UE shouldn’t discuss about joining countries like Ukraina to UE(because they threaten with low social consciousness and bad eco policy). Turkey would be such better social and economic partner. I don’t understand why they aren’t in UE now.

  12. Michal Kovac

    All companies are making terrible mistake. No in producing something there but in the trade at all.

  13. Pawel Bienkowski

    In world politics Europe has a distinct advantage towards China in contrast with the US-China relations. I.e. the EU shares with China some common values and interests regarding the shape of the international system, multilateralism, free trade and others. Chinese scholars and policymakers frequently reiterate their pursuit for reform of the international economic framework so that it would better mirror the status of growing powerhouses of the world. No doubt that China plays its own economic and political interest in the first place. But at the same time Europe is a natural ally for China in putting up an effective framework for the new century. However, a threat not to be underestimated is a deficit of reciprocity and interconnectedness in EU-China relations. While the US and China are mutually tied up with each other by strong trade ties and federal bonds purchases, the EU is gradually loosing all its advantages by allowing extensive technology transfer to China. In sum, China’s rise is neither intended as a threat to Europe nor does it proceed in this way so far. Nevertheless, a strong and unified position of the EU is crucial in order to withstand China’s rise and stay competitive. This is a prerequisite for strategic partnership.

  14. Herminio Cerqueira

    U.E. must work together with China , India and Brasil to conterbalance the unpropriate importance they give to the U.S.
    U.S. leaders does not understand that their problem is not the fall of the Dollar but the rising of the others ( China, India, Brazil…)

  15. Albert Saxén

    well, they build aircraft carriers so, why not ..

    more important they absorb U.S debt. by buying their securities. So, how that reverberates into Europe ..

  16. Anthony Voscarides

    China is an powerhouse of manufacturing, however some technology was not acquired through legal channels and basically copied to create cheaper versions that sell in China and elsewhere. Although this can happen in other places, the sheer scale in China is a game changer. In order for the EU or US to create vision and the execute the design of a new technology, it took at least decades of education and technology evolution that costs trillions and much hard work. I think that this advantage should be protected but not restricted as we need to help evolve other places. The risk now is that all that is simply being copied, jobs transferred and simply sold back to us cheaply. We need some thought on how to help each other as nations and what is the vision through this changing world.

  17. jimmy.

    no china is to big for itself, the more capitalist it becomes, and it will as the people get more benefits from a booming economy
    they will want more and then the divisions start and ancient tribalism is reborn and then a country fractures into smaller countries and there you go, as for india they really are a decent honourable people give or take a few cricketers of course but no those worries are not for us its the french and germans we should worry about they dragged us all into world wars twice already and we heard merkel insanely saying this could cause a war, simply because the greeks were dragging their feet, just like a certain leader of a german socialist party in years gone by would have acted. its all so sad and its all going to end badly! why has the press decided not to make more of that comment, were they told to button it?

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