EU-China Relations - Towards a Fair and Reciprocal Partnership
Ancient Chinese Emperors claimed to have a supernatural mandate for their rule. They believed that heaven anointed China to be the “Middle Kingdom,” the centre of the world, the most powerful, harmonious, wealthiest, and wisest empire that had ever existed. Contemporary narratives popularised by the Chinese Communist Party strongly build on the past. They underline that for five thousand years China was the centre of the world, but then came an unnatural disturbance of the “Holy Order” caused by Western powers. Today, Chinese leaders promise to restore the status China allegedly deserves, thus reinstating the “natural” state of the world.
Like all historic narratives, the Chinese one is a compilation of proven facts and ideological claims. The concept that China has “more history” than other countries is not supported by archaeological research. Furthermore, Chinese history witnessed periods of power, decline, warring kingdoms, foreign rule and fundamental changes through foreign ideas and influences. To claim a mandate from heaven by a party that draws its ideology from Marx, Lenin, Mao, Deng and now Xi is more than questionable.
Historic narratives transformed into national-Communist ideology cannot define relations in the rules-based multilateral order of the 21st century. This can be a double-edged sword, as every country can unearth historically “proven” grievances towards its neighbours. Centuries-old maps cannot take precedence over international law to define borders and territorial affiliation if we want to safeguard peace and respectful cooperation between our neighbours in Europe and Asia.
China, with its eventful history, rich culture, philosophy, and innovative craftsmanship, has been the subject of fascination, inspiration and of sincere as well as insincere desires of Europeans for many centuries.