A Paper Tiger or a Normative Power? The EU’s Construction of Its International Identity in Engaging an Assertive China

    • Ghent October 2019
    • Presentation speakers
      • Jilong Yang, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands


    This article contributes to ongoing debates on the EU’s normative influence in shaping China as a global actor and challenges those arguments that the EU’s normative foreign policies towards China do not work or those excessively pessimistic perceptions of the normative influence of the self-perceived Normative Power Europe in its relations with China. By examining the EU’s engagement with an increasingly assertive China in two China-sponsored global initiatives—the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), this article argues that the EU remains its efforts in diffusing its norms in engaging China in global economic governance. Through the method of discourse analysis, document analysis and personal interview, this article examines the EU’s discursive constructions, normative goals and normative influence within the two cases and finds that the EU indeed successfully diffused its norms in the design and operation of the AIIB and in re-shaping the agenda of the BRI towards rules-based connectivity. In managing the complexity of its engagement with an assertive China, this paper claims that the EU still can and also has many opportunities to diffuse its norms and construct its normative power identity. Facing an assertive China, the EU is not a paper tiger.