The EU is generally seen in positive terms in China, especially as an economic international player, but is not very visible in other areas, for example in security.

The Chinese view the EU more favourably in comparison to the US, Japan and Russia, even though their level of understanding of the EU is lower. The Chinese are impressed by the achievements of European integration and enlargement, seeing the EU as a result of Member States to transfer and share national sovereignty and as a model of economic integration in Asia. There is a strong propensity in China to view the EU as a unitary actor in the international arena. And the EU has been positively portrayed as an active player in world affairs, such as maintaining peace in the world, developing the international economy, protecting the environment, promoting scientific progress and fighting poverty in developing countries. The majority of the Chinese view the EU to be a great power, but they do not see it as a leader in the global political arena specifically. The EU might be considered just one great power among many in the multipolar world. The Chinese believe that the EU has become a powerful economic entity in the world with a single market and unitary currency.

The EU is not perceived as a major security player. The Chinese are highly doubtful of the EU’s ability to be a global actor in security affairs. The EU is, however, seen as a trend-setter and increasingly relevant actor in the area of new, non-traditional security challenges such as climate change, energy security and anti-piracy operations. The Chinese places high importance on the status and role of the EU, taking the EU as China's important Strategic Partner in China's efforts to pursue peaceful development and multipolarity of the world. While the Chinese welcome the EU to be a normative power, they have negative perceptions of the EU’s efforts on norm diffusion. An important concern for the Chinese is that the Europeans are trying to impose Western values on China , making it more difficult to solve disputes over Tibet, human rights, market economy status, and arms embargo. Regarding the realm of culture, however, Chinese government officials stress the importance of a joint strategy on enhancing EU-China cultural cooperation while academics and cultural practitioners are partially sceptical about the additional benefit of enhanced cultural relations.

Main Gaps

Most public opinion surveys are made by the EU side and little by the China side. There are more available data on the Chinese perceptions of the EU than of other international actors, as well as European individual states. In China, there is lack of data and research on the EU’s internal policies, such as laws, social security, welfare states and environmental policies. It is also short of data regarding the EU’s identity, actorness and normative power at both regional and global levels. Instead, many topics have been overshadowed by the single focus of China-EU relations, through the lens of which the Chinese perceptions on Europe, the EU, the EU institutions and individual Member States are shaped. The current research usually does not make an accurate classification of policy makers in China, with too much attention being devoted to people from Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Most surveys target business elites who have some relationship with the EU, unfairly representing the whole group of Chinese business people. There is lack of studies on two individual target groups in China, i.e. netizens and returned Chinese from Europe including students, business people and travellers. There is no real nation-wide, periodical, and in-depth survey of the Chinese perceptions towards the EU. There is discrepancy between qualitative based and quantitative based research, with occasional conflicting outcomes

Key audiences and target groups

In China, the most relevant policy makers are ministries of foreign affairs, finance, commerce, education, and culture in the government and the department of publicity and international department of the CPC central committee. Department of European Affairs at China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the EU Delegation in China should be the target groups, deserving special attention.

Top media are Global Times, People’s Daily, and 21st Century Business Herald, which are influential in reporting the EU’s day-to-day actions and shaping the EU’s image in China. The Xinhua News Agency should be the target group. To reach China’s big business community, China-Europe International Business School could serve as a target group, given its unique engagement with Chinese business elites. There are many think tanks and academic institutions working on European affairs in China, such as Institute of European Studies at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Center for China-EU Relations at Fudan University. They shape the Chinese people’s perceptions of the EU. The Western Returned Scholars Association and Chinese Overseas-Educated Scholars Association as NGOs in civil society have close connection with the Chinese educated in Europe. College students and netizens should also be target groups.

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