Bosphorus Center for Asian Studies


EU-China: A Strategic Outlook

On March 12, 2019, the Commission of the European Union (EU) issued a strategy document on relations between the EU and China.


The following points are highlighted in the introduction of the document:

– The European Union (EU) and China are linked by an enduring relationship. The EU and China are two of the three largest economies and traders in the world.

– China is now the EU’s second biggest trading partner behind the United States and the EU is China’s biggest trading partner.

– Both sides are committed to a comprehensive strategic partnership, as expressed in the EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation.

– China can no longer be regarded as a developing country. It is a key global actor and leading technological power.

– China’s increasing presence in the world, including in Europe, should be accompanied by greater responsibilities for upholding the rules-based international order, as well as greater reciprocity, non-discrimination, and openness of its system.


The document emphasizes that the guidance document on the European Union’s relations with China is the China Strategy Document published in 2016, while it is necessary to have a realistic, assertive and multi-faceted approach to EU policy. Thus, it was stated that the relationship between the two parties at the level of strategic partnership would be consolidated and could be fair, balanced and based on mutual benefit.


The three main objectives of the European Union’s relations with China were identified and listed as follows:

  1. Based on clearly defined interests and principles, the EU should deepen its engagement with China to promote common interests at global level.
  2. The EU should robustly seek more balanced and reciprocal conditions governing the economic relationship.
  3. Finally, in order to maintain its prosperity, values and social model over the long term, there are areas where the EU itself needs to adapt to changing economic realities and strengthen its own domestic policies and industrial base.


The most crucial part of the document is the actions taken to implement the strategy. In this context, 10 actions were determined, and a request was made to the Council of Europe for the approval of these actions. The actions listed in the document are as follows:

Action 1: The EU will strengthen cooperation with China to meet common responsibilities across all three pillars of the United Nations – Human Rights, Peace and Security, and Development.

Action 2: In order to fight climate change more effectively, the EU calls on China to peak its emissions before 2030, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Action 3: The EU will deepen engagement with China on peace and security, building on the positive cooperation on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for Iran.

Action 4: To preserve its interest in stability, sustainable economic development and good governance in partner countries, the EU will apply more robustly the existing bilateral agreements and financial instruments, and work with China to follow the same principles through the implementation of the EU Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia.

Action 5: In order to achieve a more balanced and reciprocal economic relationship, the EU calls on China to deliver on existing joint EU-China commitments. This includes  reforming the World Trade Organisation, in particular on subsidies and forced technology transfers, and concluding bilateral agreements on investment by 2020, on geographical indications swiftly and on aviation safety in the coming weeks.

Action 6: To promote reciprocity and open up procurement opportunities in China, the European Parliament and the Council should adopt the International Procurement Instrument before the end of 2019.

Action 7: To ensure that not only price but also high levels of labour and environmental standards are taken into account, the Commission will publish guidance by mid-2019 on the participation of foreign bidders and goods in the EU procurement market. The Commission, together with Member States, will conduct an overview of the implementation of the current framework to identify shortcomings before the end of 2019.

Action 8:  To fully address the distortive effects of foreign state ownership and state financing in the internal market, the Commission will identify before the end of 2019 how to fill existing gaps in EU law.

Action 9: To safeguard against potential serious security implications for critical digital infrastructure, a common EU approach to the security of 5G networks is needed. To kickstart this, the European Commission will issue a Recommendation following the European Council.

Action 10: To detect and raise awareness of security risks posed by foreign investment in critical assets, technologies and infrastructure, Member States should ensure the swift, full and effective implementation of the Regulation on screening of foreign direct investment.