Chapter 7: Norms, instruments and strategy: comparing EU and US engagements of China
The People's Republic of China (PRC) has a long history of uneasy relations with the West, characterized by alternating moments of cooperation and conflicts. China's unprecedented rise, in economic as well as political terms, has certainly increased the stakes for all the parties involved, and indeed for the world at large. As the title of this volume suggests, in the near future observers may witness ever more clearly the emergence of a 'new international order' built around the US, the EU and China. Whether this new order will result in an escalation of tensions and competition, or whether it will lead to new opportunities for cooperation and growth, is a question that hinges crucially on the normative differences that exist between the actors of this 'new strategic triangle' (Shambaugh 2005), and particularly between Beijing and its Western counterparts. Analyzing the role played by these normative differences in European and American approaches to China is therefore of critical importance. As one Chinese commentator put it, 'the relationship between China, the United States and the European Union is not an equilateral triangle', as the EU and the US are connected by much closer ties of shared interests and understandings, while being separated from China by 'profound and enduring differences and conflicts' (Wang 2010, p._191). Even without accepting such a pessimistic view of relations between China and the Atlantic powers, one must certainly recognize the role played by normative differences in shaping the internal dynamics of this triangular relationship.
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