The EU’s unsustainable China strategy

Think tank: Chatham House

Author(s): Pepijn Bergsen

July 9, 2021

This report from UK think tank Chatham House looks at whether the EU can continue to balance its relationships with China and the US.

In recent years, the EU’s approach to China has mainly focused on economic factors and the interests of a few member states. However, internal and external political tensions – as well as China’s emergence as an economic competitor – have prompted the EU to reassess its approach to the country. The US–China rivalry is further complicating the EU’s relationships with both countries. While the Biden administration has signalled it is keen to work with allies in ‘dealing’ with China, the EU has demonstrated a limited willingness to do so. Balancing its relationships with the US and China has proven difficult for the EU, which aims to be a relatively neutral third pillar in the world order. However, this is a risky and largely unsustainable strategy that could result in continued soft triangulation between these two superpowers and provide limited benefits.