An analysis of the EU-China relationship
: the role and implications of the EU’s Fundamental values

  • João Filipe Simões Pereira (Student)

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


In the EU’s current Strategic Outlook to China, the country is officially characterised as a “systemic rival”. It is an unavoidable actor on the global scale, due to its status as the largest trading partner of the EU – and vice-versa – which illustrates the necessity for the two entities to work with one another. As European Council’s President Charles Michel stated in the G20 Conference in Indonesia, in November 2022, it is imperative to “rebalance the relationship, listen to each other, develop a better understanding” (Reuters, 2022a). The Union’s positioning regarding China is often clear in criticism in some fields, while concomitantly being vague or uncompromising in others – a clear
summation of this complex relationship, where a constantly shifting balance between pragmatism and idealism takes place, in search of the ideal compromise. The differences between the two entities are profoundly rooted in their contrasting core values, a vital assessment when trying to reach a deeper understanding of their relationship. As such, this research addresses the EU’s fundamental values as a starting point, counterposing them with those which deemed to be the pillars of the Chinese Communist Party’s ideology, in order to paint a clear picture of how the guidelines of these two entities compare to one another. Fundamental divergencies are then identified, with a particular focus on opposite and antagonistic ideals. In order to understand how the EU’s stance on China has evolved until the present day, a selection of official EU documents related to China were submitted to discourse analysis. This, in turn, revealed underlying patterns or behavioural tendencies related to particular periods of time and particular subjects. The research has focused on the time period
between 2012, when the agreement to negotiate the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) between the EU and China was reached, and 2022.
For each of the facets of the bilateral relationship, represented by categories of documents, the objective will be to understand the extent to which the EU’s fundamental values are referred to, defended, used as justification or upheld in countering opposing views from China, in order to infer if different types of issues display a different behaviour. The method of Critical Discourse Analysis, as developed and characterised by Norman Fairclough (Fairclough, 2013), will provide the theoretical basis for discourse analysis. The resulting analysis helps uncover tendential patterns, related to subjects, contexts or time periods, which were then applied in characterising the current state of the bilatera relationship.
Date of Award7 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa
SupervisorSónia Ribeiro (Supervisor)


  • EU
  • China
  • EU-China bilateral relationship
  • Fundamental values
  • Discourse analysis


  • Mestrado em Ciência Política e Relações Internacionais: Segurança e Defesa

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