EU and China in Democracy and Human Rights

Europe had a long journey in history of democracy and human rights. Magna Charta and Bill of Rights were some of existence of democracy and human rights there. That’s why until now Europe is still famous for democracy system and has high-appreciation towards human right. Studying international relations of Europe can’t be separated with External European Action Service (EEAS), under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). It’s important to keep in mind that CFSP is one of the EU’s pillars which always be a basis for EU to make relationship with other countries. The unique thing here, if one member rejects the proposal in CFSP, the proposal should be postponed until the members find any solution to replace the proposal. Based on Lisbon Treaty, European Union is an active contributor in international stage.  European Union attempts to bring  normative power and their purpose is to be a well-known institution in a worldwide with this kind of power, power who acted by actor(s) to promotes a series of normative principles that are generally acknowledged, within the United Nations system, to be universally applicable.[1] European Union is not that good at military, but they have strengths on soft power and economy, though it’s hard to measure how successful they run normative power, but they always keep going, no matter what. Using liberal constructivist, we could see that European Union tries to construct this image to anyone by promotes normative values, consisted of democracy and human rights values. EU gives aid to the third-world countries like gives assistances, builds political dialogues, and makes human rights programs.[2]

European Union, actually, has focused on democratic and human rights issues since Lome Convention IV. It’s not about how EU helping ACP to develop their countries economically only, but also spread ideas of good governance, rule of law, democracy, and human rights because it was being said that EU development policy should contribute to general objective of developing democracy and the rule of the law, and to that of respecting on human rights and fundamental freedoms[3]. No wonder democracy and human rights aids become European Union’s objectives for foreign policies, especially in third-world countries.

Not only in ACP – where had ever been Europeans colonialization victim- European Union exploring around the world for give the aids, for instance Ukraine (which known with neighborhood policy), South East Asia, China, and so on. European Union really means it with helping countries to own better democracy that able to help their development, one of their ways is giving fund to be managed by the government from each country. However, not every steps EU took was smooth, there are dynamics accompanied them. Also, there is major issue mentioned that what European Union does for development of democracy and human rights is not 100% purely help the country.

If compared with APC, European Union and China relations experienced up and down, included in democracy and human rights aspects. European Union utilizes democracy and human right as a tool to influence China’s government on that time. In next section, the author would explain what has happened in EU and China’s relations.

Tiananmen Massacre: EU’s starting point to intervene China’s domestic problem on democracy and human rights

            Talking about China, we still remember when China was isolating herself from western countries in any aspects, included economy. In  1980s, China began to open up with global market to increase China’s domestic economy and make development. China has opened the opportunity to western for investing their assets.  Not only investing, trade is something that won’t be missed out if we want to create partnership in China. Trade was one of cooperation form on EU and China relations. Each member has interest in China’s market. French and German are the two of EU’s dominant members who always maintain good relations with China in trade issues. To maintain this relationship, EU really considers how EU could have a balance position towards bargaining position with China, to optimize EU’s benefit in this bilateral market. Since 1985, EU has relied on Commissioner for External Trade with its Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) to persist EU’s position to China.[4] EU’s has thought about strategies they should take in order to get great advantages with their bilateral trade by, involved in China’s domestic problems, human rights is the one of them.

In 1989, there was a huge demonstration in Tiananmen. People were having protest to their governments to end the corruption and support democracy to be applied in their state. Seeing how big the masses are, People’s Liberation Army gunned the people and it was the huge bloody-tragedy in China’s contemporary.[5] EU who respects to human right and democracy condemns this government’s attack; therefore they brought sanction to China with arms embargo.[6] However, the sanction made a break down in internal of EU which effected in two different groups.  France and Germany who had high interests in China didn’t see embargo policy was a right choice to punish her, they would rather choosing constructive engagement by making projects an bilateral dialogue.[7] These two countries saw by giving this sanctions it was just hampering strategic partnership that have been built, in fact if embargo exists it would be harmful for France and German’s export on China’s arms.[8]  On the other hand, Denmark and others who didn’t have any interest on China, thought it was well-deserved and it was relevant to UNCHR stuff.  As time goes by, embargo in China still debatable in EU. However, more members are pro to lift the embargo due to urgency of maintaining good relations to China. As author mentioned before, each country has a specific interest. Yet until now, there is no clear explanation when the embargo will be lifted up by European Union.

Regardless about Tiananmen issues, EU found out by involved in democracy and human rights issues in China would be a step to gain more advantages from China. In 1997, EU developed human rights and democracy cooperation with China, which points to supporting China to fight against human rights violations such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, minorities, death penalty, and persistence of torture.[9]In 1997, European Union with General Affairs Council (GAC) invited China to join partnership to build a respect for democracy and human rights and followed by signed the paper of ‘Building Comprehensive Partnership with China’. This good-willing from European Union didn’t mean to flash back the moment when China was in Tiananmen tragedy as European Union realizes that if EU brought back this memory, the situation would have got worse cause at that time Denmark and the other contra-lifting embargo countries still watching China’s would take responsibility to any democracy and human rights violations. The good news is after signing the partnership, China started to be active on democracy and human rights issue with joining dialogues that held twice a year by European Union. Sub-issues that successfully brought up to the society about protection to woman’s right and deepening the acknowledgement of Human Rights Covenants.[10] In 2004 European Union claimed:

‘The Council recalls the objectives it has set for the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue in its Conclusions of January 2001. It acknowledges that China has made considerable progress over the last decade in its social-economic development and economic freedom for ordinary citizens. It welcomes steps towards strengthening the rule of law and urges China to ensure effective implementation of such measures. It also welcomes moves to enhance cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms and China’s work thus far towards the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Despite these developments, the Council expresses its concern about continuing violations of human rights, such as the freedom of expression (including press freedom and internet), freedom of religion and freedom of assembly and association. It also concludes that there has been no progress in the respect for the rights of persons belonging to minorities, in particular as regards religious freedom, and a continued erosion of minority culture, in particular in Tibet and Xinjiang. The Council deplores the continued widespread application of the death penalty as well as the persistence of torture, despite acknowledgement of this problem by the Chinese authorities. The overall assessment of developments shows a mixed picture of progress in some areas and continuing concerns in others’[11]

European Union doesn’t mind to facilitate China to be more respect to democracy and human rights, for instance dialogue with Dalai Lama. However, the dialogue earn critiques from China’s society because Dalai Lama and his Tibetian’s followers are not admitted there because they had diferrent religion and different perspective in minorities, yet in another side, this dialogue was useful for Tibetian’s people because rights of self-determination and individuals could help them to get recognition. Finally, in 2003 there’s agreement which contained non-violence actions and peaceful situations in Tibet.[12] Unluckily, Chinnese government broke the agreement and made disappointment for Tibetians.

Another failure that EU faces is death penalty. EU ever spotted this death penalty as violation of individual rights. Even EU has give funds for €633,470 to China to abolish death penalty[13]  but the fact is until 2014 there are many death penalty that still applied in China and absolutely, it gains controversies.[14]


Through EIDHR, European Union constructs public image with normative power to worldwide. One thing author want to highlight is how normative power are meant to be done. Normative power is something that we don’t have any motives behind any actions. If someone uses the action for a reason, it shouldn’t be normative politics, but common politics. It’s seen from the motives how European Union wants to maintain the trade relationship with China. Author see that not any significant effects that China would get and there is no valid data which EU’s contribution to democracy and human right influences the trades, but it gives effect about recognition of human rights in China. Indeed, European Union has successfully spread the ideas of democracy and human rights in China. Besides, compared to Africa, China seems have a stand to know when China should follow any directions from European Union and when it shouldn’t. At least it shows us how a state still have authority to have self-determination.

Second, CFSP as a pillar of European Union should have worked effectively. As shown at above CFSP is a tool if a state has political interest, but if only CFSP works intergovernmentaly, why could European Union drop the embargo? But we can the embargo policies effects the EU’s breaks internal into two groups. What we expected is there is one voice to do the actions and it shows again that there’s still gap between members to understand each other. However, overall, EIDHR can show they have worked well to spread these ideas in a country that still newbie to liberalism.

[1] Manners, I. ‘The Normative Ethics of the European Union’ International Affairs, 2008, pp.182 – 199

[2] Smith, E. Karen and Margot Light (ed.). Ethics and Foreign Policy. Cambridge University Press: 2001, pp.188.

[3] Borzel, A. Tanja and Thomas Risse.One Size Fits All: EU Policies for the Promotion of Human Rights, Democracy, and Rule of The Law (draft), Stanford University,2004, pp.22

[4] Casarini, Nicola. The Evolution of the EU- China relationship: from constructive engagement to strategic partnership, October 2006, pp.17

[5] Choo, Chowa. ‘EU Condemns China Arrests Before Tiananmen Massacre Anniversary’ Epoooch Times (online)28 Mei 2014 <> accessed in 26 June 2014

[6] Armchick, Kristin. European Union’s arms embargo to China: Implications and Options for US Policy (reports) updated May 27, 2005.

[7] Balducci, Giuseppi. ‘Inside Normative Powers: Actors and Processes in the European Promotion of Human Rights in China’ EU Diplomacy Papers,2008,pp. 12

[8] Op. cit

[9] Laidi, Zaki (ed.).EU Foreign Policy in a Globalized World: Normative Power and Social Preferences, Routledge,, 2008, pp.147

[10] Casarini, Nicola., pp.20

[11] European Union Media Press Releases can be accessed on <>

[12] Anonim,’Resolution adopted by the “European Parliament Forum on Tibet: EU Response to Sino-Tibetan Dialogue’ Save Tibet (online) 12 November 2013 – See more at: accessed on 26 June 2014

[13] Can be seen at The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights Compendium 2007-2009 on

[14] Anonim, ‘China top court overturns controversial death sentence of abused wife’ Jurist (online) 25 June 2014 <> accessed on 26 June 2014


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