China's Rise: panda hugger or dragon slayer? - Similarities and differences in US-EU perceptions of China’s growing economic, political, and military power
MetadataShow full item record
The US and Europe – founders of the existing liberal international order – seem to have diverging views on China’s growing power. Its extraordinary economic growth has given rise to much international debate on whether the PRC will overthrow the existing order and impose its political weight on it or whether it will become a loyal player of the current system. The US seems to see China as a threat. Although it pursues both a strategy of engagement and containment, the latter strategy seems to dominate. The EU, on the other hand, seems to greet China’s rise with a certain awe, as several of its most important member states have joined Chinese initiatives, such as the AIIB. In order to verify whether one can speak of a divergence, it is necessary to analyze the various interpretations of China’s rise. In this thesis, influential reports of American and European think-tanks are examined to identify the similarities and differences in US-EU perceptions. Subsequently, the similarities and differences are being ‘tested’ against three different theories on the transatlantic relationship in order to explain the different perceptions adequately. These theories include the theory of Robert Kagan on the disparity in power and ideology, the theory of Ronald Havenaar on the differences in mentality, and the theory of Peter Baldwin on the importance of similarities over differences. By examining the reports of the think-tanks, the thesis shows that the American perception can be characterized by several distinct images: a classical realist image, an optimistic image and a vigilance image. Therefore, one cannot speak of one single American perception on China’s rise. The vigilance image, however, proves to be the most representative, as the majority of the reports can be categorized under this denominator. The European perception can be characterized by a relatively unified image. By ‘testing’ the similarities and differences in the US-EU perceptions on the theories, the thesis shows that the American vigilance perception and the European perception have many features in common, but that within these commonalities certain differences can be identified. The similarities can be explained by changes in the American and the European mentality. The differences can be explained by contrastive political, economic, and military interests at stake as a result of China’s rise, which derive from a disparity in ‘overall’ power. However, the thesis argues that the differences should be seen in a context of similarities, as the perceptions show a remarkable overlap. Therefore, one can conclude that the US and the EU do not have diverging views on China’s rise. Each of them qualifies its growing political and economic power as a possible risk to the global system. As a result, both see engagement rather than containment as the best strategy. There is, however, a divergence in the assessment of risks and in the understanding of how to best engage with China. Europe’s definition of engagement consists of guiding and supporting the power of the PRC in multilateral institutions. The US prefers to engage with China bilaterally by means of cooperation, mutual understanding, and building trust.