European Foreign Affairs Review

Volume 24 (2019)

Volume 24 (2019) / Issue 4

Yun-Chen Lai, 'Human Rights and Sustainability in EU-China Relations: The Limits of Normative Power' (2019) 24 European Foreign Affairs Review, Issue 4, pp. 555–576


The European Union (EU) is considered as a normative power that promotes certain values globally. The EU’s actions are evaluated by its goals, leverage, and achievement in both rhetorical statements and empirical practice. It is found that the EU acts differently in its normative actions towards China in promoting human rights and sustainable development, even though both norms are specified in its treaties. This variation could be explained by the variables deriving from role theory, including self-identity, external perception, and external expectation. It is concluded that the normative role of Europe is limited, especially in the case of China. It is further determined that the EU needs to change its offensive normative policy to a defensive one, which focuses first on identity consolidation in its own society. Otherwise, the various interests and identities of Member States would impede EU institutions from implementing effective normative policy.

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ISSN: 1384-6299
ID: EERR2019030