A Triangular Relationship
Leuven Global Governance series
Edited by Jan Wouters, Jean-Christophe Defraigne and Matthieu Burnay
China’s expanding economic engagement with Africa has compelled the EU to both reassess its own relationship with the continent and to resolve perceived normative and strategic conflicts between China and the EU in Africa (Lirong 2011: 5). Since the establishment of the EU-China strategic partnership in 2003, and driven in equal measure by commercial imperatives and EU ambitions to soft-balance a unipolar international system, attempts to leverage cooperation with China have undergone two broad, overlapping phases. Firstly, at the ‘meta’ level the EU has initiated bilateral, multilateral and, most prominently, trilateral forms of engagement that have been characterized by debates on African development cooperation and EU aspirations to socialize China in line with the norms underpinning the Western aid framework. However, such initiatives have ultimately produced very little as a result of internal tensions within EU decision-making structures and among EU member states, African resistance to trilateral cooperation, and China’s unwillingness to ‘surrender’ its developing country identity advantage in Africa.
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