EU member states and major external powers: is China's engagement in Central and Eastern Europe politically dividing the EU?
China is increasing its engagement with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. There are growing concerns in Europe that China’s economic engagement in this region may translate into political influence, which may politically divide the European Union and hamper the Union’s ability to speak to China with one voice. Against this backdrop, this thesis seeks answers to the question of what factors account for variation in adherence to the EU’s common policy on China across EU member states. The potential explanatory factors that the thesis focuses on include the degree of member states’ economic involvement with China and the degree of their normative compliance with EU rules and norms. The thesis employs a small-N research design with Estonia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic as cases. By analyzing variation across the observed countries, the thesis concludes that both factors affect member states’ adherence to the EU’s common policy on China: there is an inverse correlation between a member state’ economic involvement with China and its adherence to the EU’s common policy on China, while a positive correlation exists between a member state’s normative compliance with the EU and its adherence to the EU’s common policy on China. Driven by different motives – economic gains or normative values, the member states respond to China’s engagement differently, which results in internal vertical incoherence in the EU and growing difficulties for the EU to formulate a unified policy approach to China and to adhere to it. Based on these empirical findings, this thesis gives suggestions to the EU in response to China’s increasing engagement that the EU should primarily focus on fixing the problem of internal non-compliance with EU norms and rules, so that the EU can deal with China as a truly unified Community in both economic and political realms.