European Integration and Lessons for China

Originally published: December 2006

Abstract: The European Union and the People’s Republic of China can be compared by viewing them primarily as conglomerates of smaller constituents, each with their own political and economic significance in relations with their respective political centres. While this is a perspective that is more easily applied to the EU given that each of its members enjoys sovereignty and also the Union’s rather short history, Chinese area studies have only recently begun viewing China as a sum of its parts. The present study while conscious of the huge differences in the historical development and present realities of both the EU and China, posits that the similarities in the centre-constituent as well inter-constituent relationships developing in both the EU and China allow for important lessons to be drawn. A key focus is the differentiated set of relationships developing between Brussels and the latest entrants to the EU and between the older and newer members of the EU. In China, too, the nature of relationships between the central government and the better-developed coastal provinces is different from those that Beijing has with the central or western provinces, with implications also for the relationships among these different sets of provinces themselves. The tensions and charges of unfair treatment seen in the accessions of the Central and Eastern European nations to the EU, have an echo in the similar complaints that have been coming from the interior provinces of China since the beginning of economic reforms in that country, and perhaps, provide pointers to the future direction of the development of centre-province and inter-provincial relationships in China.

Original Article: “European Integration and Lessons for China,” Asia Europe Journal (Heidelberg), Vol. 4, No. 4, December 2006, pp. 511-21.

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