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Book Review:The Politics of EU-China Economic Relations

By Rui Yan

26 December 2016

Written by two specialists with long experience of EU-China relations, this new volume examines how each actor has coped with the global economic crisis and argues that the promising potential for EU-China cooperation is being repeatedly undermined by political obstacles and a failure to implement reforms in China.There is unlikely to be much progress unless China becomes a genuine market economy and cuts down the massive subsidies for its state owned enterprises.The authors are doubtful, however, that the leadership in Beijing will be able to achieve their goals.

The authors suggest that the basic conditions for closer economic cooperation are favorable. The economic challenges facing both economies are also similar: a deficiency of natural resources, an ageing labor force, pressure for industrial restructuring, and the creation of new jobs through innovation. Each sides’ economic policy goals, whether defined in Five-Year plans or the EU’s 2020 Agenda, contain similar commitments to promote innovation in knowledge-based industries, to ensure environmental sustainability, to improve education, and to deliver cost-effective health services and social protection. The two sides speak the same policy language, at least on the surface. 

The book is divided by three parts. The first part considers China relations in a global context. The second examines the opportunities and risks in the EU-China relationship, considering trade, monetary affairs, investment, innovation and research cooperation. The third part looks to the future and analyses the political constraints to closer and more stable economic relations between the EU and China. 

This conceptual framework of the offers three distinctive characteristics. First the authors provide an analysis of each of the main components of the EU-China economic relationship within a single framework, which takes into account the background of changing economic fortunes in the EU and China. Such an integrated analysis helps to identify recurring common features in the relationship across different sectors and allows cross-cutting conclusions to be drawn about its nature and direction. A second distinguishing feature of this analysis is that it takes account of the economic and political environment emerging from the post 2008 economic and financial crisis. The third main justification of this book is the specific situation of the EU. Its institutional arrangements imply a unity in its external economic policy that is often contradicted by the behavior of its Member States.

The book provides an up-to-date review of a difficult but critical relationship. It is written in a fluent, jargon-free style that makes it valuable for different audiences.