Fraying at the Edges: A Subsystems/Normative Power Analysis of the EU's “One China Policy/Policies”

Scott A.W. Brown (Lead / Corresponding author)

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The European Union's position on “one China” has stood since the establishment of diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1975. As a union of distinct member states, the nature of the European Union's (EU) foreign policymaking complicates efforts to maintain coherent common positions. Its effective “one China policy” (and those of its member states) is no exception. In recent years, the edges of the bloc's long-standing policy have started to fray as the EU–PRC relationship has become more fraught and many member states have sought to deepen their effective, if “unofficial,” engagement with Taiwan. I explore these changes to the EU's effective “one China policy” by employing a subsystems framework, starting from the position that the EU has foreign policies (rather than a singular policy) created through three subsystems. Through the Normative Power Europe lens, I explore the extent to which the actors pulling at these “threads” at the edges of the EU's policy are motivated by normative concerns. I argue that the “fraying” of the EU's “one China policy” is not the result of a conscious decision by the EU as a collective normative actor but stems from shifting preferences within the national and supranational subsystems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages25
JournalThe China Quarterly
Early online date26 Sep 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Sep 2022


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