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Relations between the European Union and China: viewed through a human rights lens

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posted on 2022-09-22, 14:02 authored by Sharon Mealy
The European Union's policy in relation to China was outlined in the Commission document A Long Term Policy for Europe China Relations published in 1995. These goals related to • engaging China further on the world stage, through an upgraded political dialogue with the international community. • supporting China's transition to an open society based upon the rule of law and respect for human rights. • integrating China in the world economy by bringing it more fully into the world trading system, and by supporting the process of economic and social reform that is continuing in China. • making Europe's funding go further. • raising the EO's profile in China. CEC (1995) Due to space constraints, only one of these issues shall be addressed, i.e. supporting China's transition towards a more open society. This study endeavours to raise issues pertaining to human rights violations in China and how far the EU is prepared to or able to promote change. Chapter one examines the historical development ofthe relationship between the EU and China from the 1960s. A comprehensive examination of which, is deemed necessary, to facilitate a better understanding of the contemporary difficulties, in relation to the issue of human rights. Initially, both China and the EU had their own agendas in pursuing relations with each other. These link;s were formed out of necessity, strategic geo- economic concerns and a desire to gain greater importance on an increasingly multipolemic stage. When assessing the relationship between the two today, it is beneficial to do so against the backdrop of history, as with the continuation of links between the two, it became more and more difficult for the EU to gain distance from China in order to criticise their human rights record. Chapter two aims to assess the EU's human rights policy, its difficulties and criticisms. It also outlines Commission proposals for creating more coherence in this area. There exist many questions in relation to this area. Is the EU capable of promoting change in China with its current inadequate approach to human rights, not only evident in its relati0ns with third countries but also within the Union itself? Are trade concerns an obstacle to the goal of improving human rights? Chapter three deals more concretely with China. It aims to examine the differing values Asian and Western cultures have in relation to human rights. Does universality exist? It examines also the possibility that the EU is being ethnocentric in its endeavour to ' impose' European values on Asian culture. The chapter also presents a case study of the EU's inaction towards motioning a United Nations (UN) Resolution in relation to China's human rights record, examined against a backdrop of economic developments between China and EU Member States at the time. Due to space constraints, however, this analysis will cover the period 1996 to 1999 inclusively. Chapter four deals with assessing EU funded Development projects in China. Since the 1980s there has been a move by the EU and other donors - like the World Bank, to support the development of human rig~ts and democratisation. The rationale for such a move is that human rights and democratisation are in themselves good policies to promote, as they improve the lives of many citizens through the introduction of more accountable governance and political representation, they also promote the notion that human rights and democracy are important in sustaining social and economic development. Development projects in China are the tangible part of the EU's policy and fit in with the Chinese concept of human rights i.e. the right to development. The chapter seeks to assess the impact these projects have had in China and explore the criticisms surrounding the type of projects employed and the potential areas to which project aid could be extended. The issue of human rights in China is, as shall be explained at a later stage, politically sensitive and the extent to which they may be influenced by outside actors is very difficult to assess. This paper does not seek to provide definitive answers regarding the influence states, or international organisations may have on human rights in China, on the contrary, it proposes to encourage questions relating to this issue. The only definitive statement is that the area of human rights is ' grey', it is impossible to embark upon a truly universal study on this issue, as - which will be explored at a later stage - human rights are specific to a culture or society. Whether this is .accepted as a vindication of human rights abuses worldwide or if they provide only an excuse to mitigate the behaviour of repressive governments leaves much room for speculation.



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