Beijing is Worth a Missed Dinner—Lady Ashton Goes to China

by Andrew Small
Tuesday August 10, 2010

BRUSSELS — As aspiring Middle East peacemakers descend on Washington this week, one absentee has already been noted. Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, chose to pass up dinner at the White House and instead pressed ahead with her trip to China, where she inaugurated a new strategic dialogue with her Chinese counterpart. Despite some consternation in Paris, Ashton’s decision reflects a well-founded conviction that China policy is one of the few areas where the new post-Lisbon foreign policy machinery could make a real difference.

The existing obstacles to framing an effective European China strategy have not gone away. The EU struggles to form common policies toward most major powers. Differences among member states persist over how accommodating to be to Chinese sensitivities over Tibet, Taiwan, and human rights. The nature, scale, and relative benefits of trade with China vary considerably across Europe. And Beijing tends to be smarter at maneuvering around the politics of the EU than the other way around.

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