Institute for European Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
From April until October 2012, China witnessed a series of public protests against the Japanese purchase of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Besides providing further evidence of growing Chinese nationalism, this unrest is interesting for other reasons relevant to EU policy. The Beijing leadership, which is traditionally perceived as the only source of foreign policy decisions in China, faces a changing domestic constellation. Domestic opinion increasingly constrains Chinese foreign policy, and it becomes obvious that foreign policy decision-making in Beijing is not insulated from larger social developments. Even if foreign policy decisions in China are still made without direct input from civil society, the influence of social forces on Chinese foreign policies has to be taken seriously. The EU thus might want to reconsider its approach to China: as long as EU concerns about human rights are met with a rather uncompromising attitude by the Chinese political elites, Brussels should double its efforts to reach Chinese civil society.
Institute for European Studies Policy Brief 1/2013