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Convergence but competition in French and German China-policies : toward an understanding of underdeveloped EU foreign policy Brooks, David


The China-policy of the European Union (EU) continues to be characterized by underdevelopment, even as it becomes more and more important to engage a China developing economic and political world power status. A general consensus has developed that EU Member States are largely responsible for the current state of EU China-policy. How they are specifically to blame is still controversial. The prominent study by John Fox and François Godement, “A Power Audit of EU-China Relations” (2009), suggests Member States, particularly the “Big Three,” Germany, France and the UK, are to blame because they take different political and economic “approaches” to China—approaches which may change from one administration to the next. National interests might naturally be assumed to play an important role in such approaches. National interests are generally regarded to be an important factor in the level of support given to EU common foreign and security policy (CFSP) formation by Member States. Keukeleire and MacNaughtan (2008) explain that Member State interests may contribute to under-supported common foreign policy either by being “divergent and incompatible” or “convergent but competitive” with each other. This paper seeks to understand to what extent Member State interests vis-à-vis China fall into one of these two categories, and to determine the theoretical implications in the sphere of European integration. The paper uses a case study methodology of China policies in the period 1997 to 2008 of two powerful Member States, Germany and France, to determine the focus of interests. It then investigates the extent to which these interests are cooperative or competitive. The paper calls largely on news reports and government documentation of official state visits of German and French executive leadership to China, as well as personal interviews with French and German experts in academia, civil society and government. The analysis suggests that French and German interests toward China focus heavily on benefit to their respective national economies—a focus which is largely competitive in nature, implying for theory that realism may still hold a place in explaining aspects of European integration, in particular failures in CFSP formation.

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