November 7, 2006 | Publications | Bruce Weinrod

Transatlantic Perspectives on China

TPTWIn the first decade of the twenty-first century, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has emerged as a rising economic, political and military power. As a result, China inevitably will present a variety of policy challenges to the United States (U.S.) and Europe. How those challenges are met, and whether mutually reinforcing approaches can be crafted by the U.S. and Europe, will have a significant impact upon very important U.S. and European security interests, regional and global stability, and the future of China itself.


Since its establishment in October 1949, Europe and the U.S. have often exhibited diverging attitudes and approaches towards the PRC. Historical, cultural, geopolitical and economic factors have all played a role in generating these differences.

The U.S., with its global responsibilities and significant military presence in the Asian region, has over the years viewed China within the prism of security issues. Further, while seeking a strong trade relationship with China, the U.S. also has had significant problems with PRC policies and practices concerning various economic matters.

Europe1, on the other hand, has tended to focus on commercial, and to a lesser extent, political relations with Beijing. Europeans in general have been motivated to a significant extent by the potential for enhancing their commercial position in the potentially vast Chinese market. As a result, China has recently passed Japan and has emerged as the EU’s second largest trading partner (after the U.S.). Thus, Europeans have made great efforts to persuade China that they are politically friendly and should, therefore, receive economic benefits from increased trade and market access.

Security concerns about China, or indeed Asia as a whole, have not been high on the agenda of European nations. Europeans have not perceived Asian or China-related developments as a potential threat to their national security.

In recent years some convergence of U.S. and European perspectives on China has occurred. Europeans have gradually begun to take more of an interest in PRC-related security issues and their concerns about Chinese economic and trade policies have also increased. As a result, the potential for shared or at least parallel U.S. and European approaches towards China has begun to emerge.

This paper seeks to identify U.S. and European approaches towards China both with respect to differences and also potential areas of cooperation or convergence.