In this enlightening analysis, Julia Gurol unpicks the complex security relations between the European Union (EU) and China.
She investigates the principles, rationales and shifting dynamics of collaboration on a range of security issues, and their consequences for China, the EU and other regions. She pays particular attention to EU–China relations in the realm of anti-terrorism, anti-piracy and energy security, and disentangles their cooperation efforts in the context of increasing political and economic tensions.
Systematic and accessible, this is an essential guide to the past, present and future of one of the world’s most important, yet most complicated, security relationships.
In general, the concept of security has been evolving since the end of the Cold War (Fanoulis and Kirchner, 2016). While it has been conflated with national security, focusing on military power and strength, the scope and degree of security are widening. Not only has the nature of security changed, its framing by political actors, the measures taken to tackle security issues and the resulting policy implications have changed significantly (Bourne, 2013). Security is no longer understood only in the traditional sense, focusing on challenges to nation-states and their territorial integrity or sovereignty. Instead, new, non-traditional security issues have emerged over time, which are more transnational. Examples of such issues are climate change, pandemics, global poverty, food and water scarcities, cyber-crimes (including cyber-terrorism), arms proliferation, and piracy. Traditional approaches to dealing with security have proven inadequate to combat the newer threats that are more mobile and fluid. This development has affected the EU and China equally and has led to a great deal of security cooperation, driven by the understanding of the changing nature of security threats that exceed the national scope and therefore require joint responses (Christiansen et al, 2019, p 122). This fact notwithstanding, significant normative differences prevail regarding how the EU and China seek to react to security threats – the EU wields a larger toolkit of non-military or civilian security response measures than China does. It is particularly in that non-military space that EU–China security cooperation unfolds most fruitfully.
The EU and China are, although relative newcomers to global governance, two of the most important and influential global actors. In particular, during the four years of the Trump administration and its rather protectionist and isolationist foreign policy, attention has turned towards the EU and China when it comes to issues of global governance. They do not only possess the economic strength to affect global governance (Christiansen et al, 2019), but are also decisive rule-makers on the international stage. While both the EU and China are still struggling to find their rightful place on this stage, they are already central driving forces of globalization and have become increasingly entangled in international politics and the international economy.
The question of whether this leads to increased cooperation or whether it deepens competition and rivalries divides the scholarly debate on the subject. Some observers hold that China’s rule-making ambitions will unavoidably lead to deepening tensions based on the fact that China actively challenges existing rules, norms and procedures – and thereby in the end also the ‘liberal script’ of the current world order (Huotari and Drinhausen, 2020; Meinhardt, 2020). A frequently mentioned argument from this school of thought is that China might use its economic leverage to exert political power and create international rules and even institutions that are more in line with its own identity and interests (Geeraerts, 2011; Legarda, 2020).
This chapter outlines the analytical framework that guides this book. It rests on research on international cooperation and develops a multidimensional concept of (non-)cooperation. The chapter further details the areas in which the book provides new theoretical insights to research on international cooperation and highlights the book’s contribution to the study of cooperation and non-cooperation in international politics. Finally, the chapter concludes with a section discussing the key concepts for the subsequent analysis and orients the reader on the empirical material scrutinized in this book.
Elucidating the odds of cooperation between international actors is one of the primary concerns of IR research and a core element of most theoretical debates. Also, in Chinese IR research, cooperation (referred to as hezuo 合作) is an important concept, albeit one that is only vaguely defined. In IR, which depicts the international system as an anarchic environment cooperation is a puzzle per se. Even more striking is the observation of cooperation between actors that are so inherently different as the EU and China. To understand what motivates them to cooperate, it is necessary to understand the underlying modes and mechanisms of cooperation and non-cooperation in international politics in general. The book will now turn to the messiness of different definitions of cooperation and non-cooperation in international politics, also referring to the Chinese understanding of international cooperation, as deeply rooted in Confucianism. The chapter seeks to make sense of this messiness by briefly outlining existing definitions of cooperation and non-cooperation.
Few international actors are presently under such scrutiny as the EU and China. They are undoubtedly two of the most decisive actors in current world politics. As COVID-19 continues to ravage economies globally and with major powers such as the United States finding solace in increased protectionism, more eyes are on the EU and China when it comes to shaping international politics. Yet their relationship with each other is all but straightforward and both struggle with defining their respective roles. China is an important partner for the EU on climate protection and other issues of global governance. However, it is also a competitor in trade and technology and even a systemic rival on issues of governance, values and multilateralism (European Commission, 2019a). It is therefore not surprising that the overall EU–China relationship struggles between efficacious collaboration on the one hand, and profound challenges and recurring skirmishes on the other. In times of a constantly changing international environment, the global pandemic and uncertainty concerning the development of US foreign policy under the administration of Joe Biden, EU–China relations face an uncertain future that is vastly determined by broader geoeconomic and geopolitical developments.
Strikingly, it is the security realm in which the EU and China often manage to set aside contradicting ideological and normative motivations, and establish cooperation against all odds. Although economy, trade and investment policies are still the main drivers of their relationship, security has developed into one of the most vital pillars of EU–China relations.
The EU and China are undoubtedly very different actors in terms of their founding ideals, their normative moralities and aspirations, and the roots of their foreign and security principles. However, both are relatively new players on the international stage, both build on primarily economic integration and interests and have ‘deeply ingrained preferences’ (Christiansen et al, 2019, p 3) for economic wealth, stability and prosperity. To understand why it is so striking that the EU and China cooperate in the security realm, it is crucial to grasp the underlying principles on which they each base their foreign and security policymaking.
At first glance, the difference is evident: the EU is arguably a very normative actor – in terms of both its self-conception as well as how it is seen by others. It has by and large been described as a ‘normative power’ (Manners, 2002, p 253; Aggestam, 2008) striving for rules-based action and institution-building rather than ad hoc decision-making and interest-based politics. In the famous words of Ian Manners, the EU possesses ‘the ability to define what passes for normal in world politics’ (Manners, 2002, p 242). Values such as democracy, rule of law and human rights are thus at the core of the EU’s identity.1 This reading neatly aligns with how the EU tends to understand its own role on the international stage, following in its policymaking an inherent logic of appropriateness (Onuf, 1985; Kratochwil and Ruggie, 1986; Wendt, 1992).
China’s rise a global power is arguably one of the most important international developments of our time. Going from the world’s largest developing power to an emerging pillar of world politics, China is on its way to becoming a new superpower with the potential to challenge the current world order. In line with this development, a widespread debate has emerged concerning the implications of China’s rise. With regard to the EU, these implications have been discussed primarily in terms of economic relations, neglecting the changing relationship of the EU and China in the security realm. Similarly, cooperation in EU–China relations has hitherto received scant academic attention, with most European research outputs focusing on the challenges, risks and threats emanating from China and its increased international engagement. The ambition of this book was to disentangle the complex Sino-European relationship in the security realm and to explore and explain the modes and mechanisms that lead to cooperation between the EU and China beyond the scope of trade and investment. It was driven by the presumption that EU–China security cooperation is not a normative agenda, but rather an empirical issue (Christiansen et al, 2019). To answer it, we had to probe deeper into various security dimensions. The purpose of this concluding chapter is to bring together and compare the individual analytical chapters and to combine temporal patterns with the findings from the cross-sectional analyses of three exemplary security issues. Based on the preceding analyses, the chapter seeks to put the book’s main findings in a wider context and points towards the potential and challenges of future avenues for the development of EU–China security relations.
While climate security implies that climate-related alterations create risks in society that endanger the security of human beings, ecosystems, the economy and infrastructure, energy security is the association between the availability of energy resources of all kinds and national security. It entails topics like diversification of oil and gas supplies, offshore oil and gas safety, and critical infrastructure (European Commission, 2019b). While there has been a considerable amount of scholarly work on the politics of climate change and energy security as separate issues (Toke and Vezirgiannidou, 2013), sometimes measures to ensure climate security can contradict initiatives to ensure energy security (Chalvatzis and Hooper, 2009). Other scholars argue that both can be achieved through similar policies (Brown and Huntington, 2008). Climate security and energy security are both global concerns and energy accounts for around 60 per cent of emissions globally. Thus, the two issues are closely related. Another reason, why climate and energy security are examined together in this book is that in China, the two are inseparably linked (Wu et al, 2012; IEA, 2019). Moreover, both issues feature prominently on the agenda of EU–China relations (Holzer and Zhang, 2008). Due to their strong dependence on fossil fuel supplies, the EU and China are vulnerable to energy security problems, and the large carbon footprint of their energy sectors is a climate concern (Espa, 2018).
Furthermore, China is the largest and the EU is the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2), together accounting for around one-third of all energy-related CO2 emissions worldwide (IEA, 2015; European Commission, 2016b).
When the EU and China talk about maritime security in the context of anti-piracy, it is mostly in reference to the Gulf of Aden (GoA), between the coastlines of Yemen, Somalia and Djibouti. The GoA is part of the broader Arabian Sea and a maritime region of utmost geopolitical importance. Few international sea lines of communication (SLOCs) are under as much scrutiny as those that cross the Arabian Sea (Gurol and Shahmohammadi, 2019). The most crucial strategic hubs in the Arabian Sea for both the EU and China are the GoA, the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf and the Bab al-Mandab Strait. All three SLOCs provide vital links to the trade routes between the Mediterranean and Asia. Increased globalization has rendered access to maritime trade routes more important than ever, because the seas are communication and transportation facilities on a global scale (Hamza and Priotti, 2020). The key East-West SLOC that runs through the Suez Canal and connects Africa and Asia to the European market passes through the GoA. In addition, the majority of vessels that cross the Suez Canal need to pass through this maritime strait. In the past 20 years alone, the overall volume of goods transported by sea has increased from 2.6 billion tonnes in 1996 to more than 10 billion tonnes in 2015, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (UNCTAD, 2016). An estimated 4.8 million barrels per day of crude and petroleum products were moved through the Bab al-Mandab Strait in 2016, with about 2.8 million barrels going north towards Europe, and another 2 million moving towards Asia (Cordesman, 2015; Lee, 2018).
With the globalization of security and the increase of transnational, non-traditional security concerns, terrorist and non-state armed groups have replaced conventional military threats as the main security hazards to many states (Kaldor, 2012). Especially since the end of the Cold War, the diversification of terrorist groups has become recognized as a substantial transnational security menace (Albanese, 2012) that poses severe challenges to economic and social stability (Bossong and Holmes, 2016).
Consultations between the EU and China with regard to counter-terrorism measures take place on both the bilateral and multilateral levels. On the bilateral level, the EU–China Dialogue on Security and Defence, the Informal Dialogue on the Middle East and North Africa and, to some extent, the EU–China Dialogue on Human Rights (concerning terrorist activities in mainland China) address these issues. Additionally, the EU and China have organized several meetings under the ASEM Framework, in which they have addressed transnational terrorism. In 2003, the first ASEM counter-terrorism meeting was held in Beijing and then took place annually until 2012. In the context of the 10th general ASEM summit in 2014, the EU and China decided to launch an institutionalized forum to discuss the political situation in the Middle East (extending to Afghanistan and Central Asia), Northern Africa and the Sahel zone. This forum was expected to foster joint Chinese-European activities to combat the rise of extremism and terrorism in these regions – a plan that was never put into practice. Yet efforts to establish joint counter-terrorism measures continued.