European Union Structural Foreign Policy Towards China Developing European Studies Centres



Analiza CIM no. 15/2012

Luty 2012

The aim of this paper is to analyse and assess the European Union’s international actorness through different concepts, focusing on structural foreign policy (SFP) developed by European scholar Stephan Keukeleire. As a case study I undertake Union’s promotion of European studies centres in People’s Republic of China. The essay proves that a concept of SFP might occur to be the most successful one for the EU to engage China in bi- and multilateral cooperation, as well as to make Beijing understand and accept Brussels’ way of doing politics, business and social welfare, leading to mutual understanding and win-win cooperation between the two entities.


Anecdote says that diplomacy can acquire one of three states: solid, liquid or gaseous, with the latter – of unlimited directions of foreseeable developments – characterizing transnational relations of any international organization, also European Union’s supranational level.[1] ‘Magnetic force’ (Rosecrance, 1998), ‘gentle power’ (Padoa-Schioppa, 2001), ‘Normative Power Europe’ (Manners, 2002), ‘European superpower’ (McCormick, 2007), ‘quiet superpower’ (Moravcsik), ‘Kantian paradise’ (Kagan, 2004), ‘post-modern state’ (Cooper, 2003), ‘middle power’ (Laatikainen, 2006), ‘neo-medieval empire’ (Zielonka, 2006), ‘responsible Europe’ (Mayer&Vogt, 2006) – there are plenty of names given to the EU as a foreign policy actor.[2]

Nevertheless, taking into consideration the fact that the Union is far from realization of its whole potential as such an actor, I assume that the most proper one is ‘global actor in statu nascendi’. As it was once stated, ‘the EU is an economic giant, but political dwarf’. There is a lot to be desired from Union’s international effectiveness. As observed by authors of “European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2010” Vaïsse, Kundnani, whenever the EU Member States were united with Brussels, Union’s successes were significant, e.g. in transatlantic relations, multilateralism, crisis management; per analogiam: no agreement resulted in worst outcomes, particularly with China.[3]

It is the reason why the EU must – as “Strategy for EU Foreign Policy” prepared by the EU Institute for Strategic Studies in 2007 suggests – be simultaneously autonomous and multilateral in its decisions and actions while contributing to global governance; be consistent with its values and priorities written in Art. 21 TEU; be vertically-horizontally and internally-externally coherent, as well as complex and comprehensive, combining multi-level/multi-layer/multi-location structures.[4] Multi-stakeholder[5] diffused and decentralized[6] diplomacy where diplomats are not ‘gate-keepers’ anymore, but facilitators and entrepreneurs, not in a hierarchy, but in a social network,[7] becomes slowly not only a European, but a worldwide reality. If Union’s raison d’être is the global diplomatic actorness, its policy must construct the rules of the international game – must enforce acceptance of post-globalist approach, where states play not next to, but together with non-state actors like the EU. In order to handle this, public diplomacy understood as strengthening EU’s internal and external identities and its promotion in the world is nowadays not enough.

For Europe it is the alarm clock: there is no vacuum in politics – if it is not the EU who channels the world challenges (be it climate change negotiations, global governance or conflict prevention and resolution), it will be an another competitive actor (China?). Therefore, the new European diplomacy – European External Action Service – has an enormous work to deal with. It shall not be treated as an ‘another hopeless EU bureaucracy[8]; it is not a ‘big-bang’, but a beginning of a long process, as ex EU High Representative for foreign affairs Javier Solana noted.[9] Union’s diplomacy, overcoming barriers of what classic and post-positivist, deserves a title of post-modern[10] or structural[11]  diplomacy, combining conventional foreign policy focused on security with ‘soft power’.[12]

All the above mentioned concepts and proposals might be embraced with comprehensive one: a structural foreign policy. As Keukeleire explains, a SFP:

is a foreign policy which, conducted over the long-term, seeks to influence or shape sustainable political, legal, economic, social, security and other structures which can be situated at various relevant levels in a given space (ranging from the level of the individual to society, state, regional and global level).[13]

The following 3D Table 1. presents the SFP idea:


In other words, SFP approach concentrates on normative domains usually neglected in conventional policy. It aims at constructing new or co-shaping/influencing existing structures (e.g. education, social policy, tax law, fiscal economy, nation interest etc.) in a given society, according to its values/priorities, but respecting others-regarding interests. Bearing in mind far-sight objectives and multidimensional goals leading to a positive-sum game, it puts emphasis on long-term country’s sustainability. Comprehensiveness of the concept requires dealing with multi-sectoral issues simultaneously (see Table 2).


I assume that the SFP, although time- and financially enormously consuming, is the best way for the EU to engage China. Why it is so and how it might be done I explain through the case study evolved in the next section.


See a person’s ‘being’, observe his motive, notice his result.
How can a person conceal his character?

Make men work together show them that beyond their differences
and geographical boundaries there lies a common interest
Jean Monnet
Structural Foreign Policy Intentions

The economic-political interdependences between the European Union and People’s Republic of China, rising rapidly in recent years, forced the development of European studies in China, a politically neutral and human beneficially domain. The relevance of the European models to China’s domestic political and social development, as well as China’s external relations are the topics covered in the Chinese academic literature.[14] It is underlined that the EU’s normative power is more attractive to PRC than the United States’ relational coercion.

Although the official relations between Brussels and Beijing, with cooperation in education following, were established in 1975, nowadays only some 20 centres of European studies do function well.[15] The problem is not lack of European popularity – on the contrary, as revealed in the surveys carried out among Chinese students, they are highly interested in the European integration, perceiving it as an example for their country.[16] Nevertheless, Europe’s struggle with current financial crisis worsens the general perception.[17] To overcome difficulties on the ground (shortage of trained research staff, fierce fund competition) and in inter-state relations (lack of mutual understanding and trust), in order to engage China as a (re)emerging global politico-economic player, to present European way of doing politics, business and socialism, to Europeanize Chinese elite and – finally – to influence policy-decision-making in Beijing, the EU’s support for funding European studies in PRC has been necessary.

SFP Implementation: Actors, Instruments, Objectives

The last project: “EU-China European Studies Centres Programme” (ESCP), directed at Chinese universities and research institutes, realised in 2004-2008 by a European Commission’s grant of 10 million EUR, in partnership with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was a second of this type, after 1997-2001 “EU-China Higher Education Programme”. Besides, 2005-2009 “Erasmus Mundus China Window Programme” with the budget of 9 million EUR was implemented, and the China-Europe International Business School was set up in 2001.[18]

As a result of ESCP, according to EuropeAid, 122 European scholars delivered courses/speeches at Chinese universities, 50 Chinese researchers completed their research in Europe, 60 articles and 17 monographs were published, 27 international events involving more than 700 participants took place, 15 existing ESC received financial and librarian support, 2 new ESC were established and 4 new teaching programmes introduced.[19]

SFP Context

Massification and bureaucratization have entered into Chinese system of education recently, together with a quest for ‘world-class’ status.[20] According to statistics of OECD and Ministry of Education of PRC, there are around 1.3 million researchers (2nd place after the US; growth by 77% comparing to 1990)[21], around 2000 Higher Education Institutions[22] and 21.5 million of students[23] (growth from 5 million in 1990), which count for 22% of 18-22 years cohort. In 2010, Chinese universities produced 6.3 million graduates.[24] Beijing plans to increase the higher education gross enrollment rate to 40% by 2020.[25] By the end of 2006 China became the world’s 2nd highest investor in research and development, spending 136 billion USD (but still below advised 6% of the GDP).[26]

The numbers perfectly present the machinery of tertiary education as a significant point of reference for EU foreign policy. These are the students who are the future elite of each nation. The challenge of mass education is seen in Beijing as a way of accumulating human capital leading to knowledge-based economy, social development and welfare.[27]

SFP Effects

Taking into consideration PRC’s position of future world research hub, strengthening the EU’s presence in China through education is a reasonable endeavour, as it leads to mutual understanding and synergy as advertised by Confucius and Monnet. Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies at Shanghai’s prestigious Fudan University believes in meaningful societal-political role of such institutions: [m]uch like political think-tanks, China’s university-affiliated Europe centers help to shape public and political opinions in China.[28]

Nonetheless, it seems that exclusively elite-directed ESCP with its constraint to individuals-only approach, has a faint impact on Chinese society. E.g. designed to be a long-lasting programme’s webpage on Chinese portal does not function anymore. Moreover, in 1994-2005 there were only 285 MA, PhD and post-doctoral thesis altogether submitted in China.[29] Finally, the EPSC results are disappearing among the masses of students.

SFP Recommendations

To encourage students to undertake European studies, thus aiming at constructing and shaping sustainable and long-lasting mental societal structures, additional and better financed programmes at earlier stage of education shall be introduced. Bearing in mind the possible costs, the EU must consider opening its Lifelong Learning Programme (Comenius-Erasmus, Leonardo, Grundtvig, Youth in Action, Europe for Citizens etc.) for PRC, or at least encourage Chinese authorities to introduce similar projects on the ground and promote strengthened people’s exchange, as it does it now during EU-China Year of Youth. China will remain China writes Jing Men.[30] The Union is in an urgent need of a new comprehensive (embracing education also) structural foreign policy strategy, aiming at interests regarding both entities.


[1] D. O’Sullivan’s speech, 14.01.2011,
[2] J. Orbie (ed), Europe’s Global Role. External Policies of the EU, University of Ghent, 2008.
[3] J. Vaïsse, H. Kundnani, European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2010, ECFR, 30.03.2011,pp.10-11.
[4] Á. de Vasconcelos (ed.), A strategy for EU foreign policy, “ISSEU Report”, no. 7, Paris, June 2007, pp. 3-4.
[5] B. Hocking, Multistakeholder Diplomacy: Forms, Functions and Frustrations, in J. Kurbalija, V. Katrandjiev (eds.), Multistakeholder Diplomacy: Challenges and Opportunities, Malta/Geneva, DiploFundation, 2006, pp. 13-29.; S.B. Rasmussen, The Messages and Practices of the European Union’s Public Diplomacy, “Hague Journal of Diplomacy”, 2010, Vol. 5, Issue 3, pp. 283-284.
[6] Ch. Jönsson, M. Hall, Essence of Diplomacy, chapter7, Houndmills, Palgrave, 2005.
[7] J. Metzl, Netowrk Diplomacy, ”Georgtown Journal of International Affairs”, vol. 2, no. 1, 2001, pp. 77-87.
[8] J. Kirchick, Another Hopeless EU Bureaucracy, “Weekly Standard”, 04.18.2011, Vol. 16, Issue 30, pp. 18-19.
[9] J. Solana in B. Ll, Reivindicación de la politica, Veinte aňos de relaciones internationals, Barcelona, 2010, p.147.
[10] D. Mahncke, Post-modern Diplomacy: Can EU Foreign Policy Make a Difference in World Politics?, “EU Diplomacy Papers”, CoE,4/2011; J. Bátora, B. Hocking, Introduction: Diplomacy and the EU, “Hague Journal of Diplomacy”, 2009, Vol. 4, Issue 2, p.114.
[11] S. Keukeleire, R. Thiers, A. Justaert, Reappraising Diplomacy: Structural Diplomacy and the Case of the EU, “Hague Journal of Diplomacy”, 2009, Vol.4, Issue 2, pp. 143-165.
[12] U. Guérot, After Lisbon: Is Europe becoming a global power?, ECFR, 01.12.2009.
[13] Keukeleire, Stephan, “Structural Foreign Policy”, forthcoming, 2011, p.9.
[14] Song, Xinning, European ‘models’ and their implications to China: internal and external perspectives”Review of International Studies”; July 2010, Vol. 36 Issue: Number 3, pp.755-775.
[15] Dai Bingran, European Studies in China, in David Shambaugh, Eberhard Sandschneider, Zhou Hong (eds.), China-Europe Relations. Perceptions, Policies and Prospects, London, Routledge, 2008, pp.105-116; for a list of institutions see:
[16] Zhu Liqun, Chinese Perceptions of the EU and the China-Europe relationship, in Shambaugh op.cit.148-173.
[17] PEW Research Center Global Attitudes Project 2011 claims that general percentage of EU’s favourability in China is declining, from 47 in 2010 to 32 in 2011.
[18] F. Snyder, The European Union and China, 1949-2008: basic documents and commentary, Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2009, ch. 7 Cooperation Projects 1985-present, pp. 945-960.
[19], see also: Institute of European Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (20.11.2011).
[20] Ngok, Kinglun, Massification, bureaucratization and questing for „world-class” status: Higher education in China since the mid-1990s, “International Journal of Educational Management”, 2008, Vol. 22 Issue: Number 6, pp.547-564.
[21] M. Gallagher, A. Hasan, M. Canning, China, “OECD Reviews of Tertiary Education”, 2009.
[22] Ministry of Education of the PRC,, 30.12.2010, (20.11.2011).
[23] Ministry of Education of the PRC,
[24] T. Jin, China to Produce 6.3 Million College Graduates in 2010, “The China Perspective”, 30.10.2009,, (20.11.2011).
[25] China’s New National Education Plan Aims to Build A Country with Rich Human Resources, “Ministry of Education”, 12.10.2010,, (20.11.2011).
[26] OECD,op.cit.
[27] Wang, Xiaoyan, Liu, Jian, China’s higher education expansion and the task of economic revitalization, “Higher Education”; August 2011, Vol. 62 Issue: Number 2, pp. 213-229; more about the human capital in this context see: Zhao, Shuming, Application of human capital theory in China in the context of the knowledge economy, “International Journal of Human Resource Management”; May 2008, Vol. 19 Issue: Number 5, pp.802-817; Chan, Wing Kit, Accumulating human capital while increasing educational inequality: a study on higher education policy in China, “Asia Pacific Journal of Education”; September 2011, Vol. 31 Issue: Number 3, pp. 293-310.
[28] Europe Centers help in gauging public political opinion, “China Daily”,, (20.11.2011).
[29] Dai,op.cit.
[30] Jing Men, The EU-China Relationship Calling For A New Vision, “EU-China Observer”, IRD College of Europe, Issue 5, 2011, pp.4,7.

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