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The EU's promotion of human rights in China : a consistent and coordinated constructive engagement?

By Giuseppe Balducci


This thesis investigates whether the European Union and its member states have\ud been able to balance normative priorities – specifically the promotion of human\ud rights – and material priorities – specifically economic interests – within the\ud strategy of constructive engagement towards China embraced since 1995. In\ud order to respond to this central question this thesis originally elaborates a liberal\ud intergovernmental approach for the study of the promotion of human rights\ud within the EU’s system of multilevel governance in external relations. Such an\ud approach is applied to analyse the issues of consistency and coordination in the\ud policies for the promotion of human rights in China elaborated by the European\ud Community and three selected member states, namely Germany, France and the\ud UK.\ud The choice of the country cases serves theoretical and analytical purposes. At a\ud theoretical level it allows consideration as to whether the EU’s overall policies\ud were mainly influenced by the interests and policy preferences of the three\ud selected member states, which had the most bargaining power and the highest\ud stakes in China, as expected by liberal intergovernmentalism. At an analytical\ud level, the choice of the country cases allows for consideration of whether the\ud EC’s policies for the promotion of human rights in China were coordinated with\ud those of the three selected member states, which had the most conspicuous\ud development assistance policies towards China and whose approaches to human\ud rights in the country were broadly representative of the other member states.\ud This supports the assessment of the achievement, or otherwise, of a significant\ud EU promotion of human rights through development assistance in China.\ud From the study it emerges that the EC and its three selected member states have\ud been unable to devise consistent and coordinated policies for the promotion of\ud human rights in China. On the one hand these findings suggest that the EU and\ud its member states have been unable to balance normative and material priorities\ud in their relations with China. On the other hand this thesis illustrates that this\ud was due to the influence of the material interests and policy preferences of\ud Germany, France and the UK, thus supporting the expectations of liberal\ud intergovernmentalism.\ud These findings form an original contribution to the study of the EU’s promotion\ud of norms because they suggest that the EU can promote human rights, as well as\ud other norms, in a consistent, coordinated and ultimately strategic way, only if\ud the member states with the most bargaining power and the highest stakes in a\ud specific policy issue privilege normative interests over material ones.\ud At the same time this thesis offers an original contribution to EU-China studies\ud on human rights, as it suggests that due to the present interests of the most\ud influential member states, the EU’s promotion of human rights should be\ud reframed to address what Chinese authorities are willing to accommodate in the\ud human rights field, namely give preference to the support of socio-economic\ud rights, where a consensus among the EU’s member states can more easily be\ud built

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