A Triangular Relationship
Edited by Jan Wouters, Jean-Christophe Defraigne and Matthieu Burnay
Chapter 12: China, the EU and Libya: competing interests and conflicting values
Many of the European Union (EU) states, notably France, Italy, Spain and Great Britain, have a long history of involvement in the economics and politics of the Maghreb in general and in Libya in particular. In contrast, China is a comparative newcomer both to the region and to Libya, and its involvement to date has focused largely on the economic sphere, especially the acquisition of the raw materials necessary for economic growth at home. As the Chinese government seeks a wider geopolitical role, the policy environment in Libya and elsewhere in the Maghreb is undergoing change. China’s reaction to the Arab Spring in general and the Libyan case in particular showcases its evolving economic and political policies at home and abroad, highlighting overlapping concerns, paradoxical policies, and the uncertain future of Chinese and EU policies in the Maghreb and the wider Arab world. China clearly has legitimate policy interests in North Africa and the Middle East which do not necessarily challenge those of the EU states; however, as its interests expand, China faces unresolved issues in many policy areas, including its positions on non-intervention, human rights and democratic governance. The manner in which China resolves these issues will determine its future relationship with the EU, which will have to make difficult choices between values and interests, and with states like Libya throughout the Arab world.
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