Chapter 5 European Union and Major European Countries’ Indo-Pacific Engagements
In March 2019, the European Union (EU) published the EU-China-A Strategic Outlook, which positions China as a partner for cooperation and negotiation, an economic competitor, and a systemic rival. This positioning remains the EU’s stance toward China to date. However, as relations between Europe and China continue to deteriorate between 2020 and 2021, there seem to be more calls to see China as a competitor and rival than as a partner. The EU-China Comprehensive Agreement in Investment (CAI) is particularly representative of this turn of events. On March 22, 2021, the EU sanctioned four Chinese officials and the Public Security Bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps over human rights issues in Xinjiang, prompting China to retaliate by sanctioning several members of the European Parliament, members of individual states’ parliaments, and EU institutions and think tanks. On May 20, the European Parliament decided to freeze consideration of the CAI because of China’s counter-sanctions and the Hong Kong issue.
While economic and trade interests remain the central axis of EU-China relations, the differences in human rights and institutions are becoming more pronounced. Strategic competition between the U.S. and China and the return of multilateralism in U.S. foreign Policy are the external conditions for changes in bilateral relations. The deterioration of EU-China relations has led the EU and central European countries to strengthen their engagement with the Indo-Pacific region, as evidenced by the publication of several Indo-Pacific policy documents and related practices. However, due to geographical constraints, Europe’s attention and involvement in Indo-Pacific affairs are still primarily political and symbolic.
“EU-China–A Strategic Outlook,” European Commission, March 12, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/33y87m3c.
 The term “Europe” is used in this chapter to refer to the European Union, its member states, and other non-EU member states, such as the post-Brexit United Kingdom.
“European Parliament Resolution of 20 May 2021 on Chinese Countersanctions on EU Entities and MEPs and MPs,” European Parliament, May 20, 2021, https://tinyurl.com/yjbdc54n.