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Do Values Matter in the EU's Relations with China and Taiwan? The Arms Embargo Debate (2003-2005)

Tuesday, 7 June, 2011 - 10:30
Faculty: Social Sciences and Solvay Business School
Anna Rudakowska
phd defence

Openbare doctoraatsverdediging van Anna Rudakowska voor het behalen van de graad van Doctor in de Sociale Wetenschappen met het proefschrift getiteld: 'Do Values Matter in the EU's Relations with China and Taiwan? The Arms Embargo Debate (2003-2005)'.


The European Union (EU) presents its external policies as being guided by core values, such as democracy and human rights. This self-representation of the EU as a normative power is put to a particularly hard test in its relations with China and Taiwan. For a great many scholars, economic calculations constitute the main factor shaping European decisions in this area, while ideational factors may be dismissed as ‘empty talk’ or mere ‘window-dressing’. From this perspective, the EU’s self-representation as a normative power vis-à-vis these two Asian partners amounts to nothing more than rhetoric.

In contrast to this view, Anna Rudakowska considers that values are significant in the way in which the EU conducts its policies towards China and Taiwan. She examines the relevance of values in the process of ‘decision engineering’, where EU actors explain and justify their actions, ascribe responsibility and make pleas for understanding. This focus on the communication processes both within, and between the EU and other international actors makes it possible to see how values ‘work’ when they constrain some actors and enable others.

The discussion about whether or not to lift the arms embargo imposed on China by the European Community following the 1989 Tiananmen Square events has been selected as a case-study. The arms embargo debate divided institutions, governments and the public in Europe for some years: starting in 2003, with the proposal to lift the EU’s ban on arms sales to China, it was discontinued in 2005 after the introduction of the anti-secession law by the Chinese authorities.

Keywords: EU external relations, China, Taiwan
Domain: International relations, EU external relations, EU relations with China and Taiwan, Discourse analysis