Reform and governance are of vital interest to both the People’s Republic of China and the European Union (EU). China is facing demographic and environmental challenges and has been experiencing a rapid economic transition. The social tensions arising from these challenges call for a governance system that will allow the Chinese leadership to alleviate social tensions without putting at risk their leadership. A society which is becoming more diverse and facing problems of a global scale that also cause turmoil at the grass roots may be difficult to govern top-down. Notwithstanding the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) grip on Chinese society, there may be ways to integrate public opinion and civil society organisations in governmental decision-making through reforms that do not challenge the current leadership.
The EU, on the other hand, faces the same global challenges with a very different and complex governance system. EU foreign and security policy, thus including EU policy towards China, are governed by the EU’s foreign policy principles, which contain, among others, the promotion of democracy, the rule of law and the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms. How successful can the EU be in advancing these principles when engaging with China, while respecting the Chinese political system? How can the EU and China find common grounds in their governance systems so as to enhance their strategic partnership in order to tackle global issues that need a coordinated approach?