One Belt, One Road, One Story?: Towards an EU-China Strategic Narrative
 303053152X, 9783030531522

Table of contents :
Contents
Notes on Contributors
List of Tables
1 Introduction
How Do We Analyse Strategic Narrative?
Plan of the Chapters
References
Part I Shaping Narratives: Contexts for Alignment
2 The EU’s Struggle for a Strategic Narrative on China
Introduction
Theoretical Framework: Strategic Narratives
Can Relations with China Enable a New EU Narrative? Analysing Alignment Potential
Analysis 1: Issue Narratives
Analysis 2: Identity Narratives
Analysis 3: System Narratives
Conclusion
References
3 Framing China–EU Sub-regional Cooperation: The Elusive Pursuit of Normative Resonance?
Introduction
China Goes Sub-regional
The EU’s Normative Claims
China’s Pragmatic Framing
Conclusions
References
4 Reconstructing Geography, Power and Politics in the Belt and Road Initiative
Introduction
From Rings of Fire to Rings of Peace: Geographical Specificities in the BRI
Balancing the Power Asymmetry: No Unipolar Moment for China
Legitimizing the BRI: Performance, Principles and Procedures
Conclusion
References
Part II Evaluating Narratives: Analytical Tools
5 The Paradoxes Between Narrator and Audience in the China’s Narrative of Belt and Road Initiative
Part I: Views on the Narrator, the Narrative, and Its Aims
Views on the Cooperation with China—The Narrative Itself
Views on the Goals Behind This Initiative—The Aims of China’s Narrative
Views on the Chinese Government—The Narrator Itself
Part II: The Conditions Under Which China as the Narrator and Europe as the Audience
The Context for the Communication Between Narrator and Audience
The Narrator’s Methodology of Promotion
Part III: Paradoxes Between China as the Narrator and Europe as the Audience
Part IV: The Institutional Gap Behind the Paradoxes
References
6 China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the European Media: A Mixed Narrative?
Introduction
Contextualizing the Strategic Narratives of BRI
Data Collection and Analytical Approach
Media Narrative of the BRI as a Policy Issue
Media Narrative of BRI on China’s Role in the World System
Media Narrative of BRI About China’s Identity
Conclusions
References
7 Chinese Strategic Narratives of Europe Since the European Debt Crisis
Change of Narratives
Content of the Narrative—Identity
Content of the Narrative—System
Content of the Narrative—Issues
Two Cases
China Saving Europe
Belt and Road Initiative
Assessment
References
8 Choosing the Better Devil: Reception of EU and Chinese Narratives on Development by South African University Students
Introduction
African Perceptions of Development Partners: Attitudes Versus Narratives
South Africa’s Balancing Act
Methodology
The Q Approach
Set-Up of the Study
Findings
View 1: Cautious Embrace of the EU, Distrust of China
View 2: Primacy of Universal Human Rights—Powerful Actors Exploit Africa
View 3: Primacy of Universal Human Rights—Africa Should Work with and Learn from China
View 4: West Harms African Development and Sovereignty, Turn to China
Discussion and Conclusion
References
9 Visual Analysis of the Belt and Road Initiative: The Securing of a Regional Geopolitical Order, China’s Identity, and Infrastructure Development Narratives
Geopolitics of Central Asia and Infrastructure
Ontological Security, Narratives, and Aesthetic Power
Infrastructural Development Narratives
Visual Methodology
The Infrastructural Development Narratives of the Belt and Road Initiative
The Promotion of Connectivity
The Establishing and Strengthening of Partnerships Among the Countries Along the Belt and Road
The Setup of All-Dimensional, Multitiered, and Composite Connectivity Networks
The Aim to Realize Diversified, Independent, Balanced, and Sustainable Development in These Countries
Discussion
The Cosmetic Image of the BRI
Infrastructure, China’s Identity, and Regional Order-Making
A Regional Utopia
Conclusion
References
10 Conclusion
References
References
Index

Citation preview

PALGRAVE STUDIES IN EUROPEAN UNION POLITICS SERIES EDITORS: MICHELLE EGAN · NEILL NUGENT · WILLIAM E. PATERSON

One Belt, One Road, One Story? Towards an EU-China Strategic Narrative Edited by Alister Miskimmon · Ben O’Loughlin · Jinghan Zeng

Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics

Series Editors Michelle Egan American University Washington, USA Neill Nugent Manchester Metropolitan University Manchester, UK William E. Paterson Aston University Birmingham, UK

Following on the sustained success of the acclaimed European Union Series, which essentially publishes research-based textbooks, Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics publishes cutting edge research-driven monographs. The remit of the series is broadly defined, both in terms of subject and academic discipline. All topics of significance concerning the nature and operation of the European Union potentially fall within the scope of the series. The series is multidisciplinary to reflect the growing importance of the EU as a political, economic and social phenomenon. To submit a proposal, please contact Senior Editor Ambra Finotello [email protected] This series is indexed by Scopus. Editorial Board Laurie Buonanno (SUNY Buffalo State, USA) Kenneth Dyson (Cardiff University, UK) Brigid Laffan (European University Institute, Italy) Claudio Radaelli (University College London, UK) Mark Rhinard (Stockholm University, Sweden) Ariadna Ripoll Servent (University of Bamberg, Germany) Frank Schimmelfennig (ETH Zurich, Switzerland) Claudia Sternberg (University College London, UK) Nathalie Tocci (Istituto Affari Internazionali, Italy)

More information about this series at http://www.palgrave.com/gp/series/14629

Alister Miskimmon · Ben O’Loughlin · Jinghan Zeng Editors

One Belt, One Road, One Story? Towards an EU-China Strategic Narrative

Editors Alister Miskimmon School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics Queen’s University Belfast Belfast, UK

Ben O’Loughlin Department of Politics and International Relations Royal Holloway University of London Egham, UK

Jinghan Zeng Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion Lancaster University Lancaster, UK

ISSN 2662-5873 ISSN 2662-5881 (electronic) Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics ISBN 978-3-030-53152-2 ISBN 978-3-030-53153-9 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53153-9 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: Magic Lens/Shutterstock This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

Contents

1

Introduction Alister Miskimmon, Ben O’Loughlin, and Jinghan Zeng

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Part I Shaping Narratives: Contexts for Alignment 19

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The EU’s Struggle for a Strategic Narrative on China Alister Miskimmon and Ben O’Loughlin

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Framing China–EU Sub-regional Cooperation: The Elusive Pursuit of Normative Resonance? Chunrong Liu

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Reconstructing Geography, Power and Politics in the Belt and Road Initiative Zhiqin Shi and Vasilis Trigkas

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Part II Evaluating Narratives: Analytical Tools 5

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The Paradoxes Between Narrator and Audience in the China’s Narrative of Belt and Road Initiative Junchi Ma

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China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the European Media: A Mixed Narrative? Li Zhang

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Chinese Strategic Narratives of Europe Since the European Debt Crisis Zhongping Feng and Jing Huang

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Choosing the Better Devil: Reception of EU and Chinese Narratives on Development by South African University Students Floor Keuleers Visual Analysis of the Belt and Road Initiative: The Securing of a Regional Geopolitical Order, China’s Identity, and Infrastructure Development Narratives Carolijn van Noort Conclusion Alister Miskimmon, Ben O’Loughlin, and Jinghan Zeng

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References

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Index

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Notes on Contributors

Zhongping Feng Vice President of Chinese Association for European Studies (CAES) and Vice President and Research Professor of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR). He received his B.A. from the History Department of the Shanxi Normal College in 1985 and studied in Lancaster University of the United Kingdom (1988– 1992) where he earned his Ph.D. in History. He used to be Director of CICIR’s Institute for European Studies (2003–2012) and a visiting scholar at Harvard Center for European Studies (1998–1999) and at Department of Politics, Durham University, UK (2005). His research focuses on the European Union, Sino-European relations, Transatlantic relations, European-Russian relations, NATO, etc. He is the author of many books and papers both in Chinese and English. Jing Huang is Associate Research Fellow at the European Studies Institute of China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR). She got her Ph.D. from CICIR (2015) and M.A. from China Foreign Affairs University (2007). She was a visiting scholar to the European Union Institute for Security Studies (2014) and to the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of Duisburg-Essen (2009). Her research focuses on the Sino-European relations and European politics. She is a fellow of the European Union Visitors Program (2018) and of the Emerging Global Voices Program (2011). Her latest book Europe in the Trap of Democratic Capitalism (in Chinese) is published in 2017.

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Floor Keuleers works as a Project Manager for International Crisis Group, focusing primarily on projects covering the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin. She was previously part of the Niger mission of REACH Initiative, contributing to data collection and analysis regarding humanitarian needs in the country’s Diffa Region. Floor obtained her Ph.D. in International Relations from KU Leuven in September 2017; her chapter in this volume was written in her capacity as a Ph.D. Fellow at the Leuven International and European Studies (LINES) institute. She also holds an MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge and a Master’s degree in Comparative and International Politics from KU Leuven. Chunrong Liu is an Associate Professor in the School of International Relations and Public Affairs (SIRPA) at Fudan University. He is also a Researcher in the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) at University of Copenhagen, where he has served as Executive Vice Director of FudanEuropean Centre for China Studies since 2013. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from City University of Hong Kong and was a postdoctoral research fellow at Georgetown University. His research centers on mobilization, governance and institutional innovation, with a focus on the dynamics of state-society relations in China and Sino-Nordic cooperation. Junchi Ma is Assistant Professor in the Institute of European Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences since 2014. His research fields include transition economy, Central and Eastern European (CEE) Studies and China-CEE relations. He speaks English and Hungarian in addition to his mother tongue. He is a regular participant of China- or CEE-related international conferences. Alister Miskimmon is Professor of International Relations and Head of the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s University Belfast. He has published two books with Ben O’Loughlin and Laura Roselle: Strategic Narratives: Communication Power and the New World Order, New York: Routledge, 2013 and Forging the World: Strategic Narratives in International Relations, which was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2017. Ben O’Loughlin is Professor of International Relations and Director of the New Political Communication Unit at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is co-editor of the journal Media, War & Conflict. In 2019 he was Thinker In Residence on ‘Disinformation and Democracy’ at the Belgian Royal Academy.

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Zhiqin Shi is a professor and Ph.D. supervisor at Tsinghua University’s School of Social Sciences, Department of International Relations. He heads several key research institutes within the university including: president of the One Belt-One Road Strategy Institute, vice president of the board of the Research Center for China-EU relations and director of the Center France-China (CFC). Shi’s research interests focus primarily on strategies for China’s One Belt-One Road Initiative, international relations, comparative politics, European party politics, social democracy and China-EU relations. As a respected scholar he has contributed numerous articles, commentaries and books within these fields. Vasilis Trigkas is an Onassis scholar and research fellow at the Belt & Road Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University and a doctoral candidate in international affairs. A former visiting scholar—economist at Columbia University’s European Institute, Vasili’s articles on Chinese Economics, Politics and Global Governance have been featured at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Columbia Journal of International Affairs, the South China Morning Post, the Diplomat, Caixin, the China-US Focus, the Journal of International Affairs and the LSE Review of Books. In 2017 Vasilis won the McKinsey—Tsinghua award for Leadership in the New Era presenting a case for the multilaterization of the BRI and the reforms necessary to attract institutional investors. Carolijn van Noort is a Lecturer in Politics and Policy at the University of the West of Scotland, UK, of which she has been part since 2018. She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Otago, New Zealand, and works in the field of strategic communication, doing interdisciplinary research on various topics such as communication and power, China, multilateral cooperation, and infrastructure investment and financing. She is the author of Infrastructure Communication in International Relations, Routledge, 2020. Jinghan Zeng is Professor of China and International Studies in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University. His research lies in the field of China’s domestic and international politics. He is the author of The Chinese Communist Party’s Capacity to Rule: Ideology, Legitimacy and Party Cohesion (2015). His academic papers have appeared in The Pacific Review, Journal of Contemporary China, International Affairs, JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies among others.

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Li Zhang is Associate Professor and Director of Institute of Public Relations and Strategic Communication at the School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University, China. Her research interests fall in International Communication, Political Communication, and Strategic Communication, particularly in the area of EU-China relations through the media and communication perspective. She is the author of News Media and EU-China Relations (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and has published widely in Communication studies, European studies, and Chinese studies.

List of Tables

Table 6.1 Table 8.1

European media narratives of China and the BRI Demographic characteristics of the participants

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CHAPTER 1

Introduction Alister Miskimmon, Ben O’Loughlin, and Jinghan Zeng

This book presents an analysis of the emerging EU–China relationship with a focus on the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Significant change is underway in the international system, not only in terms of changes in the distribution of power in the world, but also in terms of the underpinning political and economic models which have shaped the post1945 period. The liberal world order is under threat (Luce 2018). Bruno Maçães suggests that ‘The Belt and Road is the Chinese plan to build a new world order replacing the US-led international system’ (Maçães

A. Miskimmon (B) School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK e-mail: [email protected] B. O’Loughlin Department of Politics and IR, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK e-mail: [email protected] J. Zeng Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK © The Author(s) 2021 A. Miskimmon et al. (eds.), One Belt, One Road, One Story?, Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53153-9_1

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2019: 5). Whilst this may be China’s long-term objective, there is no global alternative to the current system. President Donald Trump has called into question existing institutional arrangements such as NATO and the United Nations and taken an increasingly hawkish position on trade, particularly in the escalating US–China trade war. At the same time, the EU has limped from crisis to crisis since 2008 which if these crises are enduring, threatens to weaken its hitherto influential position as a global trade power. Even Germany, for decades both the key driver and beneficiary of the EU’s emerging position as a leading economic actor, faces domestic challenges at home with an increasingly polarised political party system. And as a consistent promoter and defender of the liberal world order, the EU faces an increasingly difficult task of influencing this order in light of cooling transatlantic relations, and an increasingly assertive China. Whilst the EU might cling to the liberal world order as a blueprint to navigate these changes, influential commentators such as Thomas Wright argue that wholesale rethinking of the ideas underpinning the current order are needed (Wright 2018). Examining how these emerging actors narrate the future of their bilateral relations also invokes narratives of international order and what new configuration should be privileged. The BRI has the potential to recast economic relations between the EU and China. A recent RAND report (Mazarr et al. 2018) concluded that the continued integration of China into existing structures posed less of a threat than non-engagement with China. However, this engagement has not been straightforward for the EU. Despite the potential for economic enrichment, EU–China relations are starting from a relatively low knowledge base with a growing sense of realism emerging on the EU side (ECFR 2017; Farnell and Crookes 2016). Similarly, on the Chinese side, the complex governance structure of the EU has not helped contribute to a sophisticated Chinese understanding of the EU (Zeng 2017), which from a Chinese perspective retains a more pronounced view of the world constructed by sovereign states. In the meanwhile, the EU’s role has become marginalised in China’s strategic considerations under Xi Jinping’s leadership—at least before the Trump administration in 2016 (Zeng 2017). We take a narrative approach to understanding the EU– China relationship as a means to highlight how scholars in the EU and China interpret the narrativisation of EU–China bilateral relations and to how this bilateral relationship is refracted through relations with third parties, for instance countries in Africa and in central Asia.

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The upheavals in the international system come at a time of change in the role of the EU and China in the world. China has played a largely hesitant role in international affairs. This was the position right up until the end of Hu Jintao’s leadership. Since 2012, China under Xi Jinping has gradually emerged as a more assertive player on the world stage (Harnisch et al. 2015). Likewise, the emergence of a more global EU, stretching beyond an almost exclusively regional role, has only gathered pace this century, a development which has not been linear. In her 2020 State of the Union address, President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stated that, “The relationship between the European Union and China is simultaneously one of the most strategically important and one of the most challenging we have. From the outset I have said China is a negotiating partner, an economic competitor and a systemic rival” (von der Leyen 2020). This clear articulation of the realities of the relationship from the European Commission’s perspective will shape the EU’s engagement with China for the foreseeable future. There is a recognition of competition and rivalry in von der Leyen’s understanding of the relationship, but also, of necessary, and unavoidable partnership, as both actors navigate the future international order. The emergence of both actors has involved narrative work—domestically in terms of elaborating a new role in international affairs, and internationally, in terms of signalling the development of more active engagement in shaping international order (Zeng 2016; Zeng and Breslin 2016; Dessein 2014; Horsburgh et al. 2014). Both actors have not, however, sought transformation in the international system. Instead, they have tried to create space for greater influence and assertiveness in shaping the rules of the game (Zeng and Breslin 2016). These emerging roles, with both polities aspiring to greater influence, raise the question: to what extent are the EU and China important partners in shaping international order (Zeng 2017)? Up until this point, the EU has not figured highly for China in its activities, despite China’s ambivalence to alternative routes to pursue influence such as exploring a G2 model with the US. Recent relations between China and the United States have gone through dramatic changes. US Vice-President Mike Pence’s 4 October 2018 speech to the Hudson Institute and President Trump’s 2017 National Security Strategy both highlighted what they view as a new era of great power competition with China. Whilst Pence did not explicitly refer to the BRI in his 4 October

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2018 speech, he did criticise what he referred to as China’s ‘debt diplomacy’, using infrastructure loans to developing states to exert significant influence (Pence 2018). Reporting on the speech, the New York Times suggested that Pence was stringing together a narrative of Chinese aggression (NYT 2018). Harvard Professor Graham Allison even suggested that the speech marked the beginning of a new cold war with China (Allison 2017). The Covid-19 pandemic has allowed some actors to reinforce this antagomism. Since it connects the vulnerable human body to antagonism in international affairs, it may lead some citizens to feel this antagonism at a person, private level. Nonetheless, European perceptions about China’s rise seem to be different from those in the US. The debate on the ‘China threat’ in Europe has not gone as far as it has in the US. China is perceived to be more of an economic opportunity rather than security threat to Europe. In the case of China’s tech supplier Huawei, for example, whilst there have been considerable concerns within the EU, the US narrative about Huawei and Chinese intentions failed to win an upper hand in Europe (Hillman 2019). Despite the US’s repeated warning of Huawei’s threat to national security, the EU has chosen to resist this pressure and retained its own position on Huawei’s role in its mobile network at least for now. In Europe, Huawei represents a high-quality technology company, whose presence is critical to the EU’s construction of 5G network and its risk is manageable. In this regard, to many in Europe, the US narrative on Huawei’s security threat seems to be exaggerated. There has been intense domestic debate within Germany and the UK concerning Huawei’s involvement in building their 5G networks. This debate is ongoing and may trigger changes at any moment. For example, the pressure from the USA recently forced the British government to drop its original decision made in January 2020 to allow a restricted role in the UK’s 5G infrastructure, and now enforce a full ban of Huawei in the UK’s mobile network. The UK’s divergent position from the US has created added complications for the UK at a critical time for transatlantic relations. A recent study conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation found that, ‘Europeans are particularly critical of China when it comes to digitalization and data protection: Only 6 percent of the respondents trust a Chinese company to handle their data responsibly’ (Bertelsmann Foundation 2019). Another area of potential divergence is on the area of climate change, where despite rhetorical convergence in recent years (Wunderlich 2020),

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the EU continues to raise concerns about China’s carbon emissions. The EU has called for, A commitment by China to peak its emissions before 2030 would give new impetus to fighting climate change in line with the Paris Agreement and inspire action globally. In addition, the EU and China should strengthen their cooperation on sustainable finance, to channel private capital flows towards a more sustainable and climate-neutral economy. (European Commission and HR/VP 2019: 3)

The European Union continues to press ahead with more aspirational targets, viewing itself as a leader in climate change governance (Torney 2019). China’s continued use of large amounts of coal to meet its energy demands will continue to test any narrative of convergence in environmental policy between the two actors. More broadly, the Covid19 pandemic in 2020, at the time of writing, has not seen a collective global response to the crisis, further questioning the scope for substantial cooperation in this area. With both China and the EU experiencing challenges in bilateral relations with the US under the Trump presidency, this raises the question of whether this creates strategic space and incentives for closer EU–China relations. This triad will define what sort of international order emerges. To some extent, this recalls the old debate in the 2000s on whether the EU and China could form a strategic alliance to replace the US leadership (Shambaugh 2004; Kerr and Liu 2005; Scott 2007; Gill and Murphy 2008). Both the EU and China have a stake in making the existing international system work to their advantage rather than ripping it up. Still, our examination of existing relations between the EU and China on the BRI programme suggest that significant hurdles remain to deeper EU–China relations. Italy’s jump on board of the BRI bandwagon, for example, has raised considerable concerns about its impact on EU cohesion. This again exposes internal divisions within Europe and the EU’s incapacity to resist any ‘divide and conquer’ game played by a great power like China. Whilst Italian endorsement of the BRI represents a win for China, its long-term impact on the BRI’s development in Europe remains unclear. The EU also faces challenges in balancing interests in pursuing both US and China relations, seeking to avoid pressure to have to choose between two key partners (Barkin 2020).

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Relations between the EU and China are going through a critical period. The EU struggles through the Ukraine, Brexit, refugee, Covid19, Schengen and Eurozone crises, whilst the slowdown in China’s economic growth threatens the stability of global trade. Both are facing trade frictions with the US. Mutual impressions between two of the world’s three global powers should not be high. It is a time for retrenchment. And yet the opposite is true. With the launch of its BRI, China promises to turn connectivity and ‘win-win’ cooperation from rhetoric into hard infrastructural reality. Under the BRI banner, the Silk Road from West Asia through the Middle East to Europe will be renewed, whilst a Maritime Silk Road will form new partnerships in Southeast Asia, Oceania and North and East Africa. The new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank through which China offers a potential rival to the longestablished IMF and World Bank has been joined enthusiastically—and to the consternation of many US commentators—by all leading EU states. The economic and political structures are in place for relations to enter a new era of interdependence, for the thickening of cultural and social ties, and for a perhaps unprecedented degree of a shared understanding to emerge. But shared understandings do not just happen. They are forged, by political leaders, skilful in the use of strategic narratives about the past, present and future of their political community and the wider world in which they will sink or prosper. We recognise the importance of material power, but in a shifting international order with growing numbers of powerful voices wishing to exert the influence of agendas and policies, communication and social power demand analysis (Miskimmon et al. 2017a; Roselle et al. 2014; van Ham 2010). Communication is viewed in the study of international affairs as one way we can bring about greater understanding of different positions of political actors. Writing about US– China relations, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd argued that a common strategic narrative will become increasingly important to reduce divergence and encourage greater cooperation (Rudd 2015). For Rudd, as for many other modern political leaders, strategic narrative is a means to forge better understanding and closer cooperation on the basis of shared understanding. This book offers the first sustained exploration of the scope for such a shared narrative to emerge between the EU and China. We take seriously the constraints the leaders in each community face. Their domestic constituents demand a certain role for their polity in the world and a certain identity and prestige. Despite the

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different types of regime, both the EU and China face governance challenges to coordinate domestic actors. Their international allies and rivals demand a certain sensitivity and etiquette about how they should project their power and expectations. Leaders must harness global media, the voices and activities of their diaspora, and call upon the positive associations of their community held by other peoples around the world. Forging a shared strategic narrative is hard. But if not achieved, then the EU and China will move towards different and competing horizons, find they understand breaking events through different lenses, and find the identification of common interests more and more difficult. China’s response to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and the Hong Kong national security law introduced in 2020 raised significant causes for concern about the nature of the relationship and raised a discordant narrative of EU–China relations. There is an extensive literature on EU–China relations (Farrell and Crookes 2016; Kirchner et al. 2016; Christiansen et al. 2018; Teló et al. 2017; Wang and Song 2016). Each of these books take wide-ranging views of the emerging relationship across multiple domains. This book is informed conceptually by a focus on power and communication. Is this a new Silk Road of dialogic communication or a one-way street? Will some EU members gain more than others, and will some Chinese industries profit at the cost of social stability? Our chapters examine these dynamics by tracing three stages of strategic narratives: their formation, projection and reception. Whilst this suggests a linear model of communication from sender to receiver, we take the three stages as a constant circuit in which actions and interpretations are constantly negotiated and adapted. Each chapter looks at one or more of these stages through application to a particular dimension of EU–China relations or particular case studies. This volume brings together scholars from China and Europe in the fields of Chinese foreign policy, European Union studies, and strategic communication. The empirical focus cuts across policy, publics and media, and across history, political economy and diplomacy. Contributors range from the most senior professors to early career scholars. The volume includes analyses of how not only the EU and China narrate their emerging linkages, but importantly, how others, within the scope of BRI understand the relationship.

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How Do We Analyse Strategic Narrative? The main conceptual framework we asked contributors to engage with is that of strategic narrative as outlined by Alister Miskimmon et al. (2013, 2017a). Our intention is to apply this concept both to the general EU– China relationship, but also their economic and political relationships. By focusing on specific strategic narratives used by different actors, we aim to uncover underlying dynamics of alignment and non-alignment between the EU and China which will be both conceptually engaging and useful for policy practitioners. We define strategic narrative as, ‘a means by which political actors attempt to construct a shared meaning of the past, present, and future of international politics to shape the behaviour of domestic and international actors’ (Miskimmon et al. 2017b: 6). We take international relations to be constituted by actors with specific goals and strategies, and we look in particular at how the narratives they hold, and that they express to others, help them give sense or meaning to how they wish events to unfold. We distinguish narrative from other devices such as framing and discourse. A narrative contains a sequence of causally related events. Structurally, all narratives contain features—characters or actors; a scene or setting; an obstacle or puzzle to overcome; the tools the characters use to overcome the obstacle, and projected endings that are desired or to be feared. As humans stitch together those features into an overall heuristic to interpret the world, narratives give a temporal quality to experience, a sense of how we are moving through history (or are ‘stuck’). The act of positioning the lives of ourselves and our communities within causal sequences of events is a universal human condition (Burke 1957; Frank 2010). In distinction, we take framing to be the way actors construct the meaning of specific events, and a sequence of events and framings may help towards building a narrative. We take discourse to refer to enduring bodies of knowledge and practice (legal discourse, religious discourse and so on) that actors draw upon as material to craft and support their narratives. In the realm of international relations, political leaders are continually using incoming events to narrate and re-narrate where they wish their community and their allies or adversaries to be moving towards. Analytically, we break down the type of narratives and the process of narration in international relations into various aspects. The first three aspects of strategic narrative analysis concern the types of narratives at play. We argue that there are three main interwoven narrative types:

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• First, identity narratives: narratives about the actor itself which constrain and define how they act, their character and ideals, forged historically but suggesting how they will behave in the future; and identity narratives about other actors—friend, enemy, small power, great power and so on. • Second, policy narratives which are used to advance normative or interest-based agendas. • Third, system narratives. How do actors talk about the economic or political systems they inhabit—as a liberal order; a polycentric order and so on. Regarding the narration process we consider a further set of interlocking dynamics which focus on the formation, projection and reception of narratives: • Who is responsible for the formation of strategic narratives? • How are strategic narratives projected? • How are these narratives received—are they accepted or contested— what evidence can be provided to substantiate this? The authors of our chapters were tasked with using these aspects of narrative and the narration process to illuminate the substance of EU–China relations that they have researched. This builds on a growing body of work that has applied this framework to a range of cases in international relations (see for example a special issue edited by Levinger and Roselle 2017). Along the way, the authors will deal with many difficulties raised by strategic narrative research. Are all narratives strategic, or are some given in a society or emergent? How much agency do leaders have to craft narratives (Bentley 2017)? Must leaders genuinely believe or ‘buy in’ to a narrative for their behaviour to be led by that narrative, or do leaders sometimes use narrative as ‘cheap talk’? Finally, and as a methodological difficulty, how can we illuminate how narratives are modified by intermediaries such as journalists and by audiences themselves as meanings are projected and diffused across different countries and different sections of societies?

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Plan of the Chapters The chapters that follow examine the EU–China relationship from a number of different perspectives. In Chapter 2, Miskimmon and O’Loughlin analyse the challenges facing the EU to develop a strategic narrative on China. The European Union has relied on a strategic narrative from its inception to the present day. This narrative has aimed at building support within Europe for deeper integration and sought to forge influence internationally. Over the years this narrative has shifted from a grand strategic vision of the people of Europe to a narrative of strategic calculation in the post-Cold War period. The formation, projection and reception of the EU strategic narrative is complicated by the hybrid nature of the institution—reflecting both supranational and intergovernmental aspects, which complicates efforts to speak with a single voice in international affairs. The authors argue that the EU has in recent years lost a vision for a shared narrative of European integration, thus hampering the EU’s strategic impact. This has been most clearly witnessed in EU crisis management in which diverging and occasionally conflicting narratives have emerged. However, the case of China offers the EU a way forward. The European tour of President Xi Jinping in October 2015 saw positive meetings with Commission leaders as well as national heads of state. China and the EU are foreign policy actors in development. Their emergence is changing the international order. The scope for cooperation or conflict between the two will be determined by their respective strategic narratives of how they view this new international order, how they view their emergent identities as international players, and how they press strategic narratives in the policy areas they interact in. Miskimmon and O’Loughlin argue that there are specific areas for cooperation that could allow a ‘building block’ narrative to coalesce, based on pragmatic, incremental steps taken together. In Chapter 3 Chunrong Liu examines China’s relations with subregional units in the EU. The chapter details how China has been utilising a master frame of ‘community of common destiny’ to legitimate its new form of engagement in Europe. Whilst China’s strategic narratives prescribe enormous policy synergies with the EU’s regional development schemes, they are contested by a normative claim on solidarity on the EU side. A thorough analysis of the root cause of narrative dissonance in this case contributes to a nuanced understanding about the future of

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China–EU relations. Chunrong Liu concludes that the narrative dissonance observed in the chapter is partly due to the different identity of policy actors between China and the EU. It is also a function of different power configurations and institutional capacity. Hence, narrative analysis must be integrated with conventional political science and international relations approaches to power and institutions for a full explanation. Chapter 4 by Zhiqin Shi and Vasilis Trigkas examines how no other grand vision of international affairs has been more polarising for the European strategic community than the BRI. On the one hand, they argue, philippics warn about China’s sinister aims to ensnare Europe into a strategic fait accompli whilst spreading Chinese technical standards, monopolising Eurasian markets and externalising illiberal political norms. On the other hand, some Europeans have endorsed the nascent Chinese initiative hoping to shape its evolution from within and benefit from spurring reciprocal Eurasian connectivity. By examining the impact of peripheral geographical specificities (space), shifting systemic power dynamics (polarity) and political values (affect) on Sino-EU perceptions about the BRI the authors hope to forge a new joint strategic narrative that will abridge zero-sum mentality and amplify cooperative modus operandi leading to amenable and plastic issue-specific policy narratives (From Strategic to Operational to Tactical Narratives). The dynamic focus on space—system—politics is not arbitrary but abides by the theoretical framework of strategic narratives formation that the editors of this volume have introduced. The focus is also related to the ongoing ‘Realpolitikinspired’ debate on China’s long-term strategic geo-economic goals and the menacing impact that some commentators believe the BRI could have on European economic security and welfare. Chapter 5 by Junchi Ma argues that the BRI has become China’s primary narrative promoted at the global level. Europe is one of the major audiences of this narrative, receiving and interpreting what it understands this narrative to mean. The audience’s views on the narrator, its narrative and its aims are based on two factors, Ma argues: the context for two sides to communicate and the narrator’s methodology of promotion. However, Ma claims that although the two sides are under the same context, due to lack of methodology for evaluating audience responses, the narrator’s narrative cannot be interpreted as the narrator expected. More importantly, there are three paradoxes between narrator and audience aroused, which represent more hard obstacles. The narrator and audience can only

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understand each other if they both jump out of their own institutional and historical experiences. Chapter 6 by Li Zhang argues that despite President Xi Jinping of China announcing the OBOR, in the autumn of 2013, the BRI has really only drawn significant attention of the European media since 2015. This chapter focuses on exploring the media narrative of BRI in Europe. Through examining the representation of BRI in six European media outlets from the UK, France, and Germany, Zhang finds that there is a growing interest in BRI from the European media, though the overall coverage is marginal in comparison to their coverage of other topics related to China. Interestingly, the interpretations of BRI in the European media under examination seem to point in different directions and the narrative of China’s BRI is very much mixed with subtle differences between the British, French and German media. The article concludes with a discussion of the role of the media in EU–Chinese strategic narratives and the potential for EU–China collaboration in the framework of BRI. In Chapter 7 Zhongping Feng and Jing Huang focus on Chinese strategic narratives of Europe since the European debt crisis. The sudden outbreak of the Global Financial Tsunami and the European Sovereign Debt Crisis in 2008–2009 has flung the world, including major powers such as the EU and China, into an unexpected long period of economic, social and political adjustment. The last decade (2009–2018) has seen the world undergoing profound transformation, they argue, as both domestic and international norms have met challenges unseen after the Second World War. China’s perception and policy towards the EU and Europe, as a consequence, have been undergoing great changes. This chapter aims to explore Chinese strategic narratives of Europe during that last turbulent decade. It first looks into the change of narrative in terms of identity, system and issues respectively, then presents two case studies—‘China saving Europe’ and ‘BRI’, and last comes an assessment of how Chinese strategic narratives of Europe have been formed, projected and received. Chapter 8 develops the volume’s framework and analysis by shifting to how third parties view the EU and China’s development narratives—in this case, in South Africa. This chapter seeks to situate EU–China relations in a wider context to highlight how influence flows within the international system. Floor Keuleers presents a detailed study on the views of South African students, uncovering how students remix EU and Chinese narratives of development. This chapter adds to our understanding of

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how the EU and China’s emerging roles in Africa are understood. The chapter finds not only significant complexity of South African views of both external actors, but also a high degree of contestation of the EU and China narratives. In Chapter 9 Carolijn van Noort outlines Central Asia as a hotbed of activity in terms of infrastructural development and regional integration frameworks. China has substantially enforced its power in the twenty-first century to project new narratives about these pivotal issues, in particular through the development of the BRI. Examining the communication of the BRI from a regional geopolitical perspective is important due to the policy’s vast geopolitical implications. This chapter advances EU–China analysis by examining how China attempts to forge meaning for third parties—in this case Central Asian states and their societies. The aim of this chapter is to explain why and how images about foreign policy actions in infrastructural development assist in securing regional geopolitics, by evaluating China’s visual communication about the BRI. Van Noort builds on the concept of ‘ontological security’, in which individual states seek a consistent sense of the ‘Self’ by narrativising foreign policy actions. Strategic narratives on infrastructural development then align the narratives of the Self (China) with narratives of a desirable regional order. Using a visual analysis, infrastructural development narratives in the visual communication of the BRI circulated in China Daily news articles are identified and explained. This study develops strategic narrative theory by analysing identity narratives through the lens of ontological security, as well as using concepts of utopia (continuity of society in time) and geopolitics (presence of society in space and regional context) to show how such an identity narrative and sense of ontological security is anchored through the representation of space and time. The conclusion draws the book together. The BRI and all of the other policy areas addressed in the chapters in this volume offer ways for people in Europe and China to get to know one another in new ways, and for the EU and its member states and the Chinese state to forge new partnerships. Attention to strategic narrative shows where differences and similarities lie—in expectations about the future of world order, expectations about how the other will behave, and expectations about the right way to address policy problems. This volume also shows that EU–China narratives do not happen in a vacuum, and that how each narrates its own course and its hopes for the other is shaped by how each perceives and is

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perceived by others in the system, whether a giant like the US or potential partners in Africa and along the BRI. We hope this provides a holistic lens on EU–China relations in world politics, but also one that points to the felt sense of movement in world order. For analysis of narrative is uniquely positioned to reveal how leaders, organisations and nations feel they are moving from the past, to the always-difficult present, towards a more hopeful future.

References Allison, G. (2017). Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides ’s Trap? Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Barkin, N. (2020, January 14). Europe’s Moment of Truth with China. Politico. Available at: https://www.politico.eu/article/europes-moment-oftruth-with-china-trade-eu/. Accessed 20 January 2020. Bentley, M. (2017). The Intervention Taboo(s): Strategy and Normative Invalidation. Review of International Studies, 43(3), 557–580. Bertelsmann Foundation. (2019). Survey: Europe’s View of China and the US-Chinese Conflict. Available at: https://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/ fileadmin/files/BSt/Publikationen/GrauePublikationen/eupinions_China_ DA_EN.pdf. Accessed on 20 January 2020. Burke, K. (1957). The Philosophy of Literary Form. New York: Vintage. Christiansen, T., Kirchner, E., & Wissenbach, U. (2018). EU-China Relations. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Dessein, B. (Ed.). (2014). Interpreting China as a Regional and Global Power: Nationalism and Historical Consciousness in World Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. ECFR. (2017). China at the Gates: A New Power Audit of EU-China Relations. Available at: https://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/china_eu_power_ audit7242. Accessed on 10 July 2019. European Commission and HR/VP. (2019, March 12). EU-China—A Strategic Outlook. European Commission contribution to the European Council. OIN (2019) 5 Final. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/betapolitical/files/communication-eu-china-a-strategic-outlook.pdf. Accessed on 1 July 2019. Farnell, J., & Crookes, P. I. (2016). Politics of EU-China Economic Relations. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Frank, A. W. (2010). Letting Stories Breathe: A Socio-Narratology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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Gill, B., & Murphy, M. (2008). China-Europe Relations. A Report of the CSIS Freeman Chair in China Studies Implications and Policy Responses for the United States. Washington, DC: CSIS. Harnisch, S., Bersick, S., & Gottwald, J. C. (Eds.). (2015). China’s International Roles: Challenging or Supporting International Order?. London: Routledge. Hillman, J. (2019, July 11). Fear Will Not Stop China’s Digital Silk Road. Financial Times. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/1c8fbef2-a332-11e9a282-2df48f366f7d. Accessed on 11 July 2019. Horsburgh, N., Nordin, A., & Breslin, S. (Eds.). (2014). Chinese Politics and International Relations: Innovation and Invention. London: Routledge. Kerr, D., & Liu, F. (2005). The International Politics of EU-China Relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kirchner, E., Christiansen, T., & Dorussen, H. (Eds.). (2016). Security Relations Between China and the European Union: From Convergence to Cooperation? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Levinger, M., & Roselle, L. (2017). Narrating Global Order and Disorder. Special Issue of Politics and Governance, 5(3), 94–98. Luce, E. (2018). Henry Kissinger: ‘We Are in a Very, Very Grave Period’. Financial Times. Ft.com. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/926a66b08b49-11e8-bf9e-8771d5404543. Accessed on 1 August 2018. Maçães, B. (2019). Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mazarr, M. J., Heath, T. R., & Cevallos, A. S. (2018). China and the International Order. Santa Monica: RAND. Miskimmon, A., O’Loughlin, B., & Roselle, L. (2013). Strategic Narratives: Communication Power and the New World Order. New York: Routledge. Miskimmon, A., O’Loughlin, B., & Roselle, L. (2017a). Forging the World: Strategic Narratives and International Relations. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Miskimmon, A., O’Loughlin, B., & Roselle, L. (2017b). Introduction. In A. Miskimmon, B. O’Loughlin, & L. Roselle (Eds.), Forging the World: Strategic Narratives and International Relations (pp. 1–22). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Pence, M. (2018, October 4). Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Administration’s Policy Toward China. Hudson Institute. Available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-vice-pre sident-pence-administrations-policy-toward-china/. Accessed on 10 July 2019. Roselle, L., Miskimmon, A., & O’Loughlin, B. (2014). Strategic Narrative: A New Means to Understand Soft Power. Media, War & Conflict, 7 (1), 70–84.

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Rudd, K. (2015). U.S.-China 21: The Future of U.S.-China Relations Under Xi Jinping. NYC: Asia Society. Available at: https://asiasociety.org/policy-instit ute/us-china-21-future-us-china-relations-under-xi-jinping. Scott, D. (2007). China and the EU: A Strategic Axis for the Twenty-First Century? International Relations, 21(1), 23–45. Shambaugh, D. (2004, September). China and Europe: The Emerging Axis. Current History, pp. 243–248. Teló, M., Chun, D., & Zhang, X. (Eds.). (2017). Deepening the EU-China Partnership: Bridging Institutional and Ideational Differences in an Unstable World. Abingdon: Routledge. Torney, D. (2019). Follow the Leader? Conceptualising the Relationship Between Leaders and Followers in Polycentric Climate Governance. Environmental Politics, 28(1), 167–186. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2019. 1522029. Accessed on 10 December 2019. Van Ham, P. (2010). Social Power in International Politics. London: Routledge. von der Leyen, U. (2020, 16 September). Building the World We Want to Live In: A Union of Vitality in a World of Fragility. State of the Union Address by President von der Leyen at the European Parliament Plenary. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/ov/SPEECH_ 20_1655. Wang, J., & Song, W. (Eds.). (2016). China, the European Union, and the International Politics of Global Governance. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Wright, T. (2018, September 12). The Return to Great-Power Rivalry Was Inevitable. The Atlantic. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/internati onal/archive/2018/09/liberal-international-order-free-world-trump-author itarianism/569881/. Accessed on 10 July 2019. Wunderlich, J.-U. (2020). Positioning as Normative Actors: China and the EU in Climate Change Negotiations. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies. Available at: https://doi-org.queens.ezp1.qub.ac.uk/10.1111/jcms. 13019. Accessed on 30 January 2020. Zeng, J. (2016). Constructing a “New Type of Great Power Relations”: The State of Debate in China (1998–2014). The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 18(2), 422–442. Zeng, J. (2017). Does Europe Matter? The Role of Europe in Chinese Narratives of ‘One Belt One Road’ and ‘New Type of Great Power Relations’. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 55(5), 1162–1176. Zeng, J., & Breslin, S. (2016). China’s ‘New Type of Great Power Relations’: A G2 with Chinese Characteristics? International Affairs, 92(4), 773–794.

PART I

Shaping Narratives: Contexts for Alignment

CHAPTER 2

The EU’s Struggle for a Strategic Narrative on China Alister Miskimmon and Ben O’Loughlin

Introduction This chapter examines the EU’s difficulties of forging a compelling EU– China strategic narrative. The impact of the EU’s decade of turmoil since the Eurozone crisis, the refugee crisis and Brexit have impacted on China’s view of the bilateral relationship (Chang and Pieke 2018). However, despite this more negative view in China of the EU and divergence on approaches to some policy issues, cooperation with China offers the EU a way forward as part of a wider discussion on what the EU’s emerging role in international affairs is to be (Chaban et al. 2017). While

A. Miskimmon (B) School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK e-mail: [email protected] B. O’Loughlin Department of Politics and IR, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A. Miskimmon et al. (eds.), One Belt, One Road, One Story?, Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53153-9_2

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the European tour of President Xi Jinping in October 2015 saw positive meetings with Commission leaders as well as national heads of state, as chapters in this volume argue, relations between the EU and China remain problematic, especially as part of a more challenging China–EU– US strategic triad. Due to their economic and political clout, China and the EU are major foreign policy actors in development and climate change. There are a number of excellent studies examining EU–China relations spanning multiple themes and issue areas (for example Christiansen et al. 2018; Harnisch et al. 2015; Kirchner et al. 2016; Teló et al. 2017; Wang and Song 2016). We take a different, and complementary approach, to focus on understanding how their emergence is changing international order. Their respective strategic narratives of how they view this new international order, how they view their emergent identities as international players, and how they press strategic narratives in the policy areas they interact in will determine the scope for cooperation and conflict. Relations between the EU and China have reached a critical juncture. The EU has struggled through the Libya, Ukraine and Syria conflicts, the refugee crisis, and Eurozone and Brexit crises and now dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Europe seemed surrounded by a ‘ring of fire’ (The Economist 2014) in the challenges that it has faced over a number of years, and now the flames have reached the centre of the integration process itself as the EU struggles to regroup. Meanwhile the relative slowdown in China’s economic growth and rocky relations with the US threatens the stability of global trade, which has been made worse with debilitating impact of Covid-19. This is the context for the emergence of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). With the launch of the BRI, China promises to turn connectivity and cooperation from rhetoric into hard infrastructural reality. Under the BRI banner, the Silk Road from West Asia through the Middle East to Europe will be renewed, while a Maritime Silk Road will form new partnerships in Southeast Asia, Oceania and North and East Africa. The new Asian Investment Bank through which China offers a rival to the long-established IMF has been joined enthusiastically—and to the consternation of many US commentators— by all leading EU states. The economic and political structures are in place for relations to enter a new era of interdependence, for the thickening of cultural and social ties, and for a perhaps unprecedented degree of a shared understanding to emerge.

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In this chapter we argue that while the EU has in recent years lost a vision for a shared narrative of European integration, hampering the EU’s strategic impact, the case of its relations with China offers the EU a way forward. The EU needs a new ‘building block’ narrative based on a turn to greater pragmatism and pluralism to overcome its internal and external challenges. The European Union emerged as an organisation that attracted increasingly more member states, providing a blueprint for modern European states to adapt to and work through. The EU’s steady horizontal diffusion across Europe contributed to the region’s stabilisation and post-Cold War transition. However, with increased membership the challenge of maintaining internal cohesion has been greatly complicated by a series of exogenous and endogenous shocks— Brexit; aggressive Russian foreign policy in eastern Europe; the Eurozone crisis—throwing into question whether the EU model could provide a blueprint for governance resonating outside of the region of Europe. In the face of competing economic and governance models, the absence of a new strategic narrative response to its challenges has led to questions concerning whether the EU can continue to be influential globally. It is this context which defines the predicament in which the EU finds itself on the international level. Strategic narratives are defined as ‘a means for political actors to construct a shared meaning of the past, present and future of international politics to shape the behaviour of domestic and international actors’ (Miskimmon et al. 2013: 2). Why do strategic narratives matter? Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd argues: The evolution of American conceptualizations of the China relationship has been complex. Chinese conceptualizations of the US relationship have also evolved over time. But my core points remain—very few of these conceptualizations of the bilateral relationship have been conjoint. The basic reality is that as China’s economy grows and supplants the US as the largest economy in the world, and as China gradually begins to narrow the military gap between the two over the decades ahead, there is a new imperative for a common strategic narrative for both Washington and Beijing. In the absence of such a common narrative (if in fact such narrative can be crafted), the truth is that the two nations are more likely to drift further apart, or at least drift more rapidly apart than might otherwise be the case. By contrast, a common strategic narrative between the two could act as an organizing principle that reduces strategic drift, and encourages other more cooperative behaviors over time. So long, of course, as such

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a narrative embraces the complex reality of the relationship, and avoids motherhood statements which provide negligible operational guidance for those who have day-to-day responsibility, for the practical management of the relationship. (Rudd 2015: 17)

For Rudd, strategic narrative is a means to encourage closer cooperation on the basis of shared understanding of emerging issues. Where plural narratives compete, skilful leaders can work to find points of narrative alignment to foster cooperation and a sense of shared destiny. While the formal study of narrative in International Relations has produced a body of literature (Hajer 1995; Miskimmon et al. 2017; Krebs 2015), European Studies has been slower to explore narrative communication. In the Journal of Common Market Studies, Ian Manners and Philomena Murray have called for a renewed emphasis on research on narratives and the European Union: ‘Research pathways could usefully develop an examination of how, and by whom, many of the EU narratives are formulated; why and when they are projected; and how they are perceived by their recipients, both within the EU and in an international context’ (Manners and Murray 2016: 199). In fact, the formal study of narratives projected by the European Union and its member states has already been underway (Miskimmon 2012; Miskimmon et al. 2013; Hertner and Miskimmon 2015; Coticchia and de Simone 2016; Hellman and Wagnsson 2015). Our aim is to contribute to furthering this discussion. That includes how EU–China relations interact with other major actors seeking to adapt to, and seek to influence, the emergent order through communication (Fung 2019). The context for thinking about EU–China relations is the trope of a powershift from West to East and a transition from an ordered Westernled multilateral system to a spaghetti bowl of confusing and overlapping institutions, forums and networks (e.g. Naim 2014). There is no reason to think this transition is determined and inevitable. A few years ago scholars felt the need to point out that Europe may not always remain mired in internal crises while China may not always enjoy surging growth in material resources and geopolitical influence (Cox 2012; Keukeleire and Hooijmaaijers 2014). Nevertheless, the ‘rise of China’ and ‘rise of the BRICS’ narratives are performative: they gave a sense of momentum and expectations of growth in those countries that contribute to preferences and behaviour inside those countries and to preferences and behaviour of those outside, such as the EU, who have to respond (Miskimmon and

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O’Loughlin 2017). China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, as well as Turkey and Brazil’s surprise efforts to resolve Iran’s nuclear dispute in 2011, indicate how projections of future power condition demands in the present, or what Howorth and Menon (2015: 14) describe as ‘a willingness to translate economic self-confidence into foreign policy actions’. That notion of a powershift and greater complexity problematised the prevailing notion of Normative Power Europe: that Europe’s influence came not from military force but by showing how a peaceful, prosperous polity could grow out of the shadow of successive wars and keep expanding (Manners 2002). According to this thesis, Normative Power Europe would provoke emulation and diffuse its norms of market economy, human rights, good governance and the necessity of social and environmental protection. By the late 2010s, it was evident that these norms were not widely embedded but instead contested within Eastern members of the enlarged EU. Outside Europe, Russia had moved from being an implicit rule-taker in the late 1990s to actively contesting EU norms and regulations—sometimes even using rhetoric of human rights or democracy to defend its own positions, for instance when asserting Russian minority rights in Eastern European states (DeBardeleben 2015). Russia is not always successful but it demonstrates that the EU’s relations with external partners are dynamic and that values are not simply diffused but can be turned into narrative tools for many purposes. We could say that values can be weaponised. Normative Power Europe’s universalist and universalising model is further challenged when other paths of development have been seen to succeed. Tellingly, International Relations scholar Acharya (2014) uses a media metaphor to describe the emerging world order: the transition to a ‘multiplex’ order which, like the cinema, hosts both major blockbusters, art house world cinema from all regions, and a range of mixtures in between, offering audiences a world of perspectives in a contingent but still-present hierarchy. This hierarchy is changing because of the structural, material shifts towards the Global South. This has implications for how Europe should respond. European Studies scholar Howorth wrote in 2010, ‘what the EU should seek as a basic strategic objective is a world of cultural and political diversity in which, nevertheless, stability, security, prosperity … are considered in holistic terms as key elements of global interdependence -- of inter-polarity’ (Howorth 2010: 469). But do EU and European policymakers have the capacity to do so, and do

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they possess a vision or narrative about how they could realise this in the future? Give the difference between European and Chinese values regarding human rights, democracy and sovereignty, could EU–China relations be one platform that could allow the EU to find a way to achieve this stable transition towards diversity and inter-polarity more broadly? Hence, the focus of this chapter is not only of intrinsic interest because it addresses relations between two of the big three economies in the world, but because the findings have broader implications for how Europe engages in the world and how power transition could unfold—or be made to unfold. It is striking that, in the context of Europe’s many ongoing crises, the former president of the European Research Council published a book focused on dealing with uncertainty as Europe seeks to forge its future. Helga Nowotny argues we must build futures—for futures are a cultural fact (Appadurai 2013)—and this requires a shared vision (2015: xiv, 26–27). In doing so, we must embrace what she describes as the ‘cunning of uncertainty’. We must be crafty and adaptive in situations where core aspects like the role of technology or the role of institutions are ambiguous. This also entails a certain way of thinking about time and history—as open, not determined or anchored by destiny. The point is to tame the future and move it towards preferred futures, not just probable or possible ones (Adam and Groves 2007: 30–31). Of course, this means living with uncertainty and knowing you may not achieve the future you prefer. However, this is just the mindset that European policymakers must adopt when thinking about the Belt and Road Initiative, for instance. There is, however, a fundamental distinction to be drawn between the EU–China relationship and the China–US relationship. Despite the EU’s economic clout, it has not reached, and may never reach, the status of hegemonic actor that the USA and China display. Mastanduno (2019) suggests that the EU and its member states have largely underpinned US hegemony in Europe, performing the role of ‘lynchpin partners’ within the context of an asymmetrical relationship and European consent to the US’s legitimacy as a hegemonic actor. No such underpinning partnership exists between the EU and China. Navigating China’s rise then presents significant challenges to maintaining EU–US relations if divergence on how to respond to China opens up disagreement with Washington. The European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in a recent strategy document outlined

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their position on how the EU should proceed in its relations with China (European Commission and HR/VP 2019). The document stated, …there is a growing appreciation in Europe that the balance of challenges and opportunities presented by China has shifted. In the last decade, China’s economic power and political influence have grown with unprecedented scale and speed, reflecting its ambitions to become a leading global power. China can no longer be regarded as a developing country. It is a key global actor and leading technological power. Its increasing presence in the world, including in Europe, should be accompanied by greater responsibilities for upholding the rules-based international order, as well as greater reciprocity, non-discrimination, and openness of its system. China’s publicly stated reform ambitions should translate into policies or actions commensurate with its role and responsibility. (Ibid.: 1)

The document outlined three objectives the EU should pursue in response to China’s rise: • Based on clearly defined interests and principles, the EU should deepen its engagement with China to promote common interests at global level. • The EU should robustly seek more balanced and reciprocal conditions governing the economic relationship. • Finally, in order to maintain its prosperity, values and social model over the long term, there are areas where the EU itself needs to adapt to changing economic realities and strengthen its own domestic policies and industrial base. (Ibid.: 1–2)

This translates into 10 action points recommended to the European Council by the European Commission. • Action 1: The EU will strengthen the EU’s cooperation with China to meet common responsibilities across all three pillars of the United Nations, Human Rights, Peace and Security, and Development. • Action 2: In order to fight climate change more effectively, the EU calls on China to peak its emissions before 2030, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. • Action 3: The EU will deepen engagement with China on peace and security, building on the positive cooperation on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for Iran.

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• Action 4: To preserve its interest in stability, sustainable economic development and good governance in partner countries, the EU will apply more robustly the existing bilateral agreements and financial instruments, and work with China to follow the same principles through the implementation of the EU Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia. • Action 5: In order to achieve a more balanced and reciprocal economic relationship, the EU calls on China to deliver on existing joint EU-China commitments. This includes reforming the World Trade Organisation, in particular on subsidies and forced technology transfers, and concluding bilateral agreements on investment by 2020, on geographical indications swiftly, and on aviation safety in the coming weeks. • Action 6: To promote reciprocity and open up procurement opportunities in China, the European Parliament and the Council should adopt the International Procurement Instrument before the end of 2019. • Action 7: To ensure that not only price but also high levels of labour and environmental standards are taken into account, the Commission will publish guidance by mid-2019 on the participation of foreign bidders and goods in the EU procurement market. The Commission, together with Member States, will conduct an overview of the implementation of the current framework to identify gaps before the end of 2019. • Action 8: To fully address the distortive effects of foreign state ownership and state financing in the internal market, the Commission will identify before the end of 2019 how to fill existing gaps in EU law. • Action 9: To safeguard against potential serious security implications for critical digital infrastructure, a common EU approach to the security of 5G networks is needed. To kickstart this, the European Commission will issue a Recommendation following the European Council. • Action 10: To detect and raise awareness of security risks posed by foreign investment in critical assets, technologies and infrastructure, Member States should ensure the swift, full and effective implementation of the Regulation on screening of foreign direct investment. (Ibid.: 11)

It is evident the overlap with EU–US relations which these action points link to. Forging better trade relations with the EU is clearly an EU interest, but the wider context in which this occurs means that there will be a need to a carefully managed process which factors in other interest,

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notably the US. Such complexity highlights the challenge of crafting a strategic narrative to underpin policy agendas, bilateral and multilateral relationships, and project an identity narrative of an EU which is a serious partner on the regional and global scale. In this chapter, we first elaborate the strategic narrative theoretical framework. We examine the difficulties the EU has faced until now forming and projecting a coherent strategy. We then explore the potential for alignment between EU and China in their narratives (and actions) at the level of issue, identity and system. We argue that the EU has always seen itself as a model for other countries’ transformation in the international order. This is the EU’s identity narrative. But with its internal and external problems, it has lost its ability to project itself as a transformative model. Reflecting on the role of the EU’s public diplomacy office, the European External Action Service (EEAS), in such projection and communication, in 2019 the former EU Ambassador to the US said, ‘We can create the machine [the EEAS] … but if we don’t have a shared sense of destiny among our member-states there’ll be only an ersatz foreign policy’ (O’Sullivan 2019: n.p.). A shared sense of destiny cannot be plucked from the sky, as if a blueprint or narrative can suddenly provide that common feeling of historical movement into the future. At the same time, China has become a goal-shaper and order-shaper and the EU has no option but to engage with this. The EU’s model of transforming the international system—its system narrative—must respond to this challenge. This entails forging a narrative along the lines Rudd suggested above, aligning with China’s narrative of how the international system should and will function, to prevent potential tensions and conflicts and restore its own vitality. Given the nature of challenges faced internally (Brexit and Eurozone crises hint at multi-speed Europe) and externally (shift to multipolar world and hybrid governance initiatives like BRI), the EU’s response must involve projecting a new version of singularity through plurality. This should happen at the levels of issue, identity and system narratives. Instead of a narrative of pluralistic member states moving together through ever closer union and more coherent EU actor-ness, the EU must go with the grain of international affairs and project a narrative of plural speeds, organisational forms and values. We call this a ‘building block’ narrative because it indicates the necessity of continually building and rebuilding relations and institutions rather than aiming for settled forms. Since this

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narrative is not strikingly intuitive—it may appear paradoxical or uncertain in its embrace of paradox and uncertainty—what must be conveyed is a continued sense of movement and action. There must be recognition that movement and action does not have to be directed by EU institutions; this may occur on occasions, particularly when high-level diplomacy is required, but more often a combination of actors at different levels will be involved. Again, we point to China’s Belt and Road Initiative as exemplifying the type of hybrid initiative the EU both represents and must itself engage with and where that sense of movement and action—and concrete economic and security results—can be achieved.

Theoretical Framework: Strategic Narratives Our argument about possible alignment between Chinese and European strategies towards shaping world order allows us to account for human perceptions alongside material factors. This matters because actors act upon how they think the world is, not how the world is objectively of their knowledge of it. In the context of EU–China relations, for instance, Maull has argued that: …shared European misperceptions about Europe (as a benign senior partner and educator) and about China (as a junior partner who could be socialized into one’s own values and thus, with European help, would eventually become a liberal market economy and democracy) represent [an] important shared element … that enabled Brussels to build a common EU China policy. (2016: 11)

European policymakers’ shared characterisation of Europe as a normative power whose values can be diffused, and China as a developing country seeking integration into a Western-led international system, allowed those policymakers to share, in turn, a projection of a plot forwards that involved European pressure gradually taking China towards a European model of economy and society. Maull considers this perception misguided, but nevertheless it allowed some degree of a joint strategy and support for policies to realise it. The strategic narrative theoretical framework allows for the tracing of such characterisations, plots and contextualisations in order to identify how and why they make a difference to behaviour in international affairs. Recall our definition of strategic narratives: ‘a means for political actors

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to construct a shared meaning of the past, present and future of international politics to shape the behaviour of domestic and international actors’ (Miskimmon et al. 2013: 2). By narrative we refer to meaning created specifically through representation of a time sequence, linking separate events causally related, with a past–present–future structure, some attempt at resolution, and a notion that events are connected in a meaningful way. Narratives feature characters or agents, a setting, environment or scene, a conflict or action, tools and behaviour actors use to address it, and a resolution (Burke 1957). We identify three main forms of strategic narratives in international relations, all featuring those five components: Those about the international system which outline how an actor views the international order; narratives which are deployed by political actors to influence the development of policies; and finally identity narratives which are projected by a political actor to influence international affairs. We theorise that alignment between system, policy and identity narratives increases opportunities for influence, persuasion and ultimately agreement and cooperation. The analysis of strategic narratives focuses on processes of narrative formation, narrative projection and narrative reception (Antoniades et al. 2010; Miskimmon et al. 2013, 2017; Roselle et al. 2014). Identifying and explaining reception is perhaps the most difficult but important aspect of this emerging field of narrative analysis: how narratives are received, interpreted and become meaningful to audiences, be they elites or publics. This can be approached in terms of reach, how individuals understand and process information, the affective responses narratives generate, and— particularly in a digital age—how audiences recirculate, remediate and remix the narrative content. Reception occurs in social contexts where narratives may be discussed collectively and ritually as well as processed individually, and where cultural filters conditions degrees of openness or dogmatism in responses to new or challenging narratives (Gillespie 2006). Reception depends on the availability of specific mediums like radio or services like Facebook, and each medium offers different possibilities for communicating back (Miskimmon et al. 2017). This takes place within a complex media ecology which shapes, distorts, disrupts but ultimately enables communication of strategic narratives. It allows alternative voices and marginalised actors to challenge dominant narratives, but also opens up opportunity for the powerful to project narratives in new ways (Hoskins and O’Loughlin 2010).

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Narratives differ to other communication forms analysed in international affairs such as frames and discourse (e.g. Livingstone and Nassetta 2018). We understand frames as relatively short-term heuristics on a snapshot event (frame X as ) (Entman 2004), and discourses as long-term bodies of knowledge in specific fields of practice that create stable subject positions or actor roles (Epstein 2011). In contrast, narratives are the time-sequenced structuring of linked events (Miskimmon et al. 2013). But whether our focus is narratives, discourse, myths or other communication forms, what matters is how ‘they act in combination with one another rather than in isolation’ (Charteris-Black 2005: 7, italics in original). Analysing narrative alone will not explain why a speech is persuasive. Persuasion works through the activation of associations, often very subtle, in the interaction of different modes and figures of speech. In our analysis we will see how narratives are embellished or underpinned by key metaphors and discourses. Systematic analysis of the structure of narratives is necessary both because it makes analysis replicable and because it makes for a more powerful explanation of how narrative structures come to steer meaning in the contexts we analyse; we are analysing ‘ideas-in-form’ (Barthes 2009: 135). However, as International Relations scholars our aim is to explain how these ideas-in-form make a difference to processes and outcomes. How does the use of strategic narratives by the EU and China, as well as the constitutive features of those narratives, create conditions for agreement or disagreement? Here we cannot emphasise enough how much audience matters. It is not just that political leadership involves providing a narrative account offering meaning to past, present and future, but that this narrative is ‘compatible with an audience’s ideology’ (Edelman 1988: 105). What matters is less the narrative’s vulnerability to empirical criticism than whether audiences are willing to suspend disbelief in possible contradictory aspects and offer their support. We are not interested in whether the EU or China’s narratives are true, valid or appealing, but how they generate interactions and play a part in relations of power.

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Can Relations with China Enable a New EU Narrative? Analysing Alignment Potential Analysis 1: Issue Narratives In this section we highlight issues of major interest to only one of the EU and China; issues of interest to both but on which they disagree; and issues of interest to both and which agreement can be found. At first glance Europe appears to lack any critical major interest in South China Sea security or the state of Taiwan’s democracy, while China remains reluctant to engage in the EU’s local conflicts and tensions concerning Ukraine, Syria and Iran. While these issues affect their respective allies, we are likely to see at best ‘shallow’ agreement between the EU and China here and, as we have seen in the past decade, disagreement via the UN Security Council (Maher 2016: 950). China cannot stop Europe’s migrant crisis and the EU could not stop the collapse of North Korea. Hence, their overlap on issues to narrate is partial. Second, there are issues that both take an interest in but they narrate and approach differently. Both European states and China have tried to foster dialogue between parties in Afghanistan and cultivate stability in conflictual African states. Their approaches to these security issues encompass concepts of non-traditional as well as traditional security. However, what each means by non-traditional security is not clear: the EU and China could form cooperative projects around the notion of non-traditional security that do lead to concrete actions, but it is equally possible that different understandings could undermine concerted efforts (Maier-Knapp 2016). Alongside security in third party states, climate change is another area for potential cooperation. The EU and China offer narratives often closer to each other than to the US federal government, and many initiatives have emerged (Holzer and Zhang 2008). Since climate policy overlaps with technology and economic policy this creates some tensions, however. The EU seeks reassurance that its non-carbon technologies will be subject to rule of law and intellectual property rights in China while China must face divergent climate policies both within EU institutions and across EU member states (Crookes 2019; see also Farnell and Crookes 2016). Trade is another area of potential shared policy narratives. Paul Irwin Crookes (2019) has argued that the EU–China relationship is primarily about trade given the sheer scale of goods and services exchanged each

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day. However, he notes there have been frictions. The EU as a service economy has found it difficult for its companies to operate in China and is exploring whether the Chinese state is deliberately distorting competition in favour of Chinese firms. Chinese Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the EU initially sought small entry points to markets, but since 2015–2016 has shifted to target mid-tier firms in Germany and the UK, prompting anxieties. When these economic policies are understood within longer-term narratives about the past, present and future of the EU and of China, questions of character, trust and good faith emerge. We will turn to those narratives of the identity and character of self and other in the next section. Third, there are projects such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative that the EU can endorse and contribute to. Here there are tensions too: the EU seeks to establish trust that its companies will be treated reciprocally when contributing to BRI activities while China will be wary of any lingering European arrogance about its own, slower model of development. Zeng has also pointed to a variety of competing, ambiguous and contradictory policy narratives within China on BRI which have the potential to complicate bilateral relations (Zeng 2019). Still, such projects and activities fit a narrative of a diverse, multipolar and differentiated international system that the EU can characterise itself as suited to, practically and normatively. We explore this in the system analysis that follows the next section. Analysis 2: Identity Narratives China is cultivating its identity as a great power but not of the traditional type that emerged in the European balance of powers system. It is contesting and trying to reshape the norm or meaning of what a great power is and does. This is a negotiated process. Following accusations that China was not pulling its weight through the previous decade, after a trip to Washington by Xi Jinping in 2012 he emphasised China was willing to take on responsibilities and show initiative traditionally associated with a great power such as building institutions and partnerships through which order can be maintained and reformed. Xi described this as a ‘new type of great power relations’ (cited in Zeng and Breslin 2016: 774). This phrase had been used by Chinese leaders before but with the emphasis on a new type of relations, as China began to rise. But from 2012 Xi’s emphasis was

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on a new type of great power relations (Zeng 2016). This implies there can be varying types of great powers. So what is that ‘new type’ of great power? In his analysis of policy debates within China, Zeng and Breslin note ‘there is a particular focus on the work of John Mearsheimer, who argues that history has shown us that a rising power and the existing hegemon are unlikely to come to peaceful accommodation’ (ibid.: 779–780). This is exactly the kind of thinking the Chinese leadership wishes to avoid; Mearsheimer’s offensive realism is cited a lot precisely as the logic they wish to negate. What do they offer instead? The problem is the Chinese leadership is yet to articulate this. Lams suggests that within China, ‘an uneasy coexistence of transformation and conservatism is especially salient when it comes to propaganda and soft power, which the Chinese authorities fully deploy to disseminate their vision of the “China story” abroad and to legitimise continued CCP rule at home’ (Lams 2018: 387). And there is also the danger that they look for recognition from others of their different kind of great power identity but others do not confer it. Harnisch et al. (2015) chart how China’s foreign policy role has evolved over time and continues to evolve. This evolution has been mirrored in how policymakers in the EU and the US have viewed China’s emergence as an international actor over time. Obama spoke of a new type of relations but did not describe China as a great power (Zeng 2016). President Trump has lurched into more adversarial trade relations with China, while simultaneously questioning EU–US relations. Where does Europe fit into this narrative? While the US still dominates debates in China in quantitative terms, since 2012 and the narrative about a new type of great power, greater emphasis has been put on Russia, India, Japan and Europe (Zeng and Breslin 2016). The European Union is considered a great power but without a single voice. Debate centres on how to build partnerships with its internal powers Germany, the UK, and France, and, more recently, the Visegrad 4 of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. China’s attempt to create a new concept opened up a debate that EU voices could have influenced. Through 2012–2015 the concept was still fuzzy, defined more by what it was not than by what it was, with many Chinese thinkers establishing why this new concept was needed without giving it substance (Zeng 2016). In that period, the EU could have contributed to fleshing out a concept of great power-ness that reflects its own attributes and aspirations. Instead, Chinese policymakers and scholars began to question whether the concept

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might have a self-constraining effect, trapping China into being recognised by others in a certain way, for instance as pushing its own status as a great power without having the material or concept foundation to support it. In narrative terms, then, China is struggling to characterise itself clearly. This creates opportunity for others to characterise it in the global public sphere. And without a clear identity, it is difficult for others to form expectations about where China wishes itself and the international system to go. This is a window of opportunity for those who mistrust China to characterise it in negative terms without a clear counter-argument from China. For instance, Diamond et al. (2016: 28–30) argue that even if China is not explicitly anti-democratic, it cannot help but be because people inside and outside China realise it is authoritarian and has, ceteris paribus, enjoyed successful economic development. Meanwhile, the EU’s self-narrative has evolved in the past decade from normative power to pragmatic player (Biscop 2016). If its values are no longer automatically universally desirable, this transforms the narrative the EU uses to characterise itself and others towards a more humble actor in a pluralistic world. Howorth (2010: 469) writes, ‘what the EU should seek as a basic strategic objective is a world of cultural and political diversity … of global interdependence – of inter-polarity’. The BRI offers such an inter- (not multi-) dependent opportunity; the Juncker plan for investment in the EU could include financing BRI activities that benefit the EU, thereby embedding EU resource and interest in China’s flagship strategy project. The problems and self- and other-recognition in the EU–China relationship is not helped by the lack of public connection. If there was little contact between elites from the 1950s–1970s (Redmond and Lan 1986), since then there has been relatively little public or social contact. Public opinion in China towards the EU and European citizens is relatively positive but marked by a sense of distance (van der Noll and Dekker 2016); Europe is not a presence in the Chinese everyday imaginary. Analysis 3: System Narratives The academic middle ground positions China as seeking only to reform the international system—why would it transform or overthrow a system within which it has risen so quickly? However, we argue that China does

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pose serious challenges to the system that the EU must respond to and find advantage in. The first challenge is value pluralism. China has shown willingness to disobey institutions of the current order, for instance rejecting The Hague’s decision endorsing the Philippines’ claims to South China Sea land rights over China’s claims and saying that, by rejecting it, China is upholding international law (Ching 2016). This implies a willingness to reshape international order according to China’s own understanding of law and sovereignty. There are signs the EU is beginning to recognise such value contestation. Take the following extract from the European Commission’s 2015 review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP): The purpose of the current review of the ENP is to propose how the EU and its neighbours can build more effective partnerships in the neighbourhood. In doing so, the EU will pursue its interests which include the promotion of universal values. The EU’s own stability is built on democracy, human rights and the rule of law and economic openness and the new ENP will take stabilisation as its main political priority … recognising that not all partners aspire to EU rules and standards … (European Commission 2015: 2, italics added)

This signalled a pragmatic turn; still a nod to universal values but a recognition that these values are not shared and, as crises intensify in and around Europe’s borders, stability is the priority value to realise. The document speaks of finding common interests but differentiated partnerships. Its turn away from the prioritisation of democratisation reflects what Biscop has described as ‘Realpolitik with European Characteristics’ (2016: 1). Writing about the ENP, Börzel claims, ‘By promoting effective government rather than democratic governance, the EU helped stabilize non-democratic and corrupt regimes in its Southern and Eastern neighbourhood rather than transforming them’ (Börzel 2015: 526). The European Commission’s own European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) review seems to affirm this as a strategy. It is telling that rather than speak of humanity as a universal whole, EU High Representative Mogherini spoke in Beijing recently of ‘an alliance of civilisations’ (Mogherini 2016: n.p.). The second challenge is institutional pluralism. China’s BRI is the kind of hybrid institutional configuration that European policymakers should

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find conceptually and normatively compelling as well as practically interesting. There is potential convergence between the EU’s Investment Plan for Europe or ‘Juncker plan’ and China’s BRI. The EU and China are already cooperating on a Connectivity Platform to build transport infrastructure through BRI as a platform for commercial network building. The commitment of EU member states to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) through which China is funding BRI projects further institutionalises this cooperation, as recognised in the June 2015 EU–China Summit joint statement (European Council 2015). Given that many problems contributing to its crises—energy supply uncertainty, migration flows—lie on the edge and beyond Europe’s neighbourhood, there is a logic to extending Neighbourhood policy and/or finding new strategies to work with, and thereby shape from within, China’s BRI (Simón 2015). Evaluating this area in the 2016 Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS), Biscop writes, ‘The intention to ensure a coherent response to China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative not just through the EU-China Connectivity Platform (to create the link with the EU’s own investment plans) but through ASEM [AsiaEurope Meeting] and the EU-ASEAN partnership as well could signal the start of a sophisticated diplomatic initiative’ (Biscop 2016: 4). Verlare and van der Putten (2015: 3) put it straightforwardly: Here lies the main geopolitical opportunity for the EU with [Belt and Road]: by aligning its existing approach to Central Asia with the Silk Road, the EU could utilize the security dimension of the infrastructure network that Xi Jinping himself has imbued it with. The EU could become not just part of, but a contributor to a Eurasian security network in the making.

We would go further: BRI is not just a geopolitical, security or commercial programme. It signals the kind of hybrid governance project through which stability and eventually prosperity can be built. Any joint or concerted action affords the possibility of mutual learning and legal/technical spillover, offering Europe new mechanisms to advance its values and standards. While the EU’s Connectivity Platform emphasises transport and technological infrastructures, these can provide the conditions for (a historical renewal of) social and cultural connectivity across that region that might, over many decades, gradually bring Europe and China into greater mutual presence and understanding. This is made more difficult, as Raube and Burnay have argued, because the EU faces

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increasing challenges to articulate a clear grand strategy to be seen as more effective and legitimate, while at the same time faces difficulties in pursuing coherent a policy towards China (Raube and Burnay 2018; see also Crookes 2013). The EU’s turn away from value universalism and towards the kind of pragmatic, hybrid programme of activities and relationships that would constitute genuine engagement with BRI might signal what we label a ‘building block narrative’ (cf. Chen 2016). Of course, the EU has always operated through a mixture of bi- and multilateral agreements, and supranational and intergovernmental policymaking. However, a narrative based on mutual accommodation of diverse values and concerted action in ‘middle spaces’ (Simón 2015) in which both have direct interests could be acceptable to both parties. This would entail the EU moving away from prioritising its normative power identity and China accepting some European say in the decision-making processes in any joint or concerted initiatives. It would also entail European leaders beginning to enter such arrangements as equals, not as senior partners. The European Commission High Representative wrote in June 2016 of the ‘opportunity to marry our experience with China’s resources’ (European Commission 2016: 13). Here we see how identity characterisation—wise old Europe, rich new China—could remain an impediment to cooperative system reshaping.

Conclusion The rise of China has been part of a gradual, but increasingly apparent shift in the dynamics of global politics. From a US/European core shaping the institutions of international order, we are moving to a stronger co-constitution of a new emerging order involving more powerful actors demanding a voice. While this could be viewed as a challenge to the EU’s status and influence, the emerging international system presents the potential opportunity for reinforcing interdependence and sustainable relations with China. The EU’s desire to be part of a G3—and not excluded from a bilateral US–China G2—is dependent on overcoming the internal and external challenges it faces and forging a new strategic narrative to influence this emerging picture. East Asian politics scholar Alice Ba argues that strategic narratives ‘play roles in constructing the strategic space in which BRI enters’ (Ba 2019: 249).

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As outlined in our strategic narrative model, the EU’s strategic narrative must fuse the concern of Brussels elites for greater international influence, with mutually reinforcing identity, system and issue narratives able to overcome internal contradictions with the external realities of a more active shaping of global order by China. This new ‘building block’ narrative is central to overcoming the instability of recent years and providing a narrative framework to define the terrain for policy engagement with China and other leading states. Such a narrative gives a sense of purpose and shared risk, forces engagement on matters of disagreement and mistrust, and can slowly create shared expectations about how cooperation can unfold. This is how an EU–China strategic narrative can work. European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union address in September 2020 signalled in broad terms, how she envisages working through the challenges and opportunities we have outlined in this chapter (von der Leyen 2020). The Commission President made a strong case for a more forceful EU role in the world—‘This is our opportunity to make change happen by design - not by disaster or by diktat from others in the world’ (ibid.). Von der Leyen reinforced the core EU narrative of the necessity of cooperation within the EU and with others globally to address collective challenges, with national interests mediated by strong international institutions. The narration of EU-China relations as negotiating partners, economic competitors and systemic rivals, brings clarity to the fluctuating relationship outlined in this chapter and makes clear the challenges both actors will continue to confront in their ongoing relations.

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CHAPTER 3

Framing China–EU Sub-regional Cooperation: The Elusive Pursuit of Normative Resonance? Chunrong Liu

Introduction The construction of meaning is one of the most fundamental driving forces behind policy choices. Political and social movement actors constantly dissect narratives and attach meanings to objects or events in order to justify their preferred policy agenda. While this is true for most political issues, constructing meanings is especially vital with regard to new foreign policy initiatives, as stakeholders need to be informed and persuaded, and controversies need to transformed so as to reach unity in diversity. In other words, foreign policy actors must “present foreign policy that appears legitimate and enforceable to its relevant audience”

C. Liu (B) School of International Relations and Public Affairs, Fudan University, Shanghai, China e-mail: [email protected] Fudan-European Centre for China Studies, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark © The Author(s) 2021 A. Miskimmon et al. (eds.), One Belt, One Road, One Story?, Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53153-9_3

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(Hansen 2006: 26). This necessitates the creation of frame and frame resonance within a broader cultural context. Let me explain how frames and narratives are related in foreign policy. The concept of “frames” owes its roots to Erving Goffman (1974)’s analysis on social interaction. It has been extensively developed in the study of collective actions (Snow and Benford 1988; Snow 2004). In a micro process, socially constructed frames matter because they evoke norms and would cause respondents to apply different norms to the situation and cause them to act differently (Chang, Chen and Krupka 2017). This line of inquiry resonates with strategic narrative theory, which allocates greater importance on the role of communication and attempts to explain how political actors portray the world and construct a shared meaning of international politics (Miskimmon et al. 2017a). Strategic narratives “set out what the story of the state or nation has, what values and goals it has,” and “explain why a policy is needed and (normatively) desirable, and how it can be successfully implemented or accomplished” (Roselle et al. 2014: 76). As a frame can define the packaging of an element of rhetoric so as to encourage certain interpretations and to discourage others, a strategic narrative can create the parameters for foreign policy and interpret others’ behavior through a causal transformation which takes actors “from one status quo to another” (Miskimmon et al. 2013: 7). Frames of objects and events are fitted within these broader narratives of potential transformation. Informed by these theoretical considerations, this chapter analyzes strategic narratives in China–EU relations with a particular focus on how China frames its sub-regional cooperation in Europe. Over time, China– EU relations have been going through a bumpy mutual adaptation and a fruitful network of strategic dialogues has been reached. In the wake of the Eurozone crisis and the Brexit challenge, while China has been reconfirming its long-term partnership with the EU, its recent diplomatic and economic initiatives have been increasingly directed to the EU’s periphery zones. This is particularly evidenced by the cooperation between China and the 16 Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs), also known as the “16+1” mechanism. The “16+1” framework was initiated in 2012 and has been significantly boosted in President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). While this new horizon for the relationship has significantly contributed to China’s trade and investment ties with the CEECs, it has also generated an intense debate among policy-makers and stakeholders in Brussels. It remains to be seen whether and how the

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EU can form and project a coherent strategy, and under what condition an alignment of strategic narratives can emerge in this issue setting. We propose a closer examination of the politics of strategic framing of events and actors—an interpretive process by which policy actors craft wider narratives and create cognitive resonance. It is suggested that China’s evolving strategy in Europe is largely a pragmatic response to the new realities of the post-crisis EU as well as China’s domestic development, which brings about new opportunities and perceived functional necessity for flexible engagement. This framing strategy is also deeply grounded in its identity transformation in global stage. In particular, China has been utilizing a master frame of “community of common destiny” to legitimate its new form of engagement in Europe. While China’s strategic narratives prescribe enormous policy synergies with the EU’s regional development schemes, they are contested by a normative claim on solidarity on the EU side. A thorough analysis of the root cause of frame dissonance in this case will contribute to a nuanced understanding about the future of China–EU relations. This chapter proceeds with a description of China’s emerging subregional cooperation in Europe, with a focus on the 16+1 initiative. It then investigates patterns of framing of and by the EU and China. We show that there is growing divergence of narrative despite a convergence of interest. The implication of this frame dispute and dissonance to the future of China–EU relationship will also be discussed.

China Goes Sub-regional China’s international cooperation has been driven by the so-called “go global strategy” since the late 1990s, which has coincided with its admission to the WTO in 2001. This strategy encourages Chinese firms to take advantage of booming world trade to invest in global markets, in particular in natural resources and infrastructure projects in developing countries. Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has increasingly claimed an identity as the champion of free trade and agency of shared growth. The BRI was formulated as a comprehensive strategy to reinvigorate China’s global engagement by seeking to build up infrastructure, trade, investment, and human linkages across Eurasia. It has contributed to a new wave of substantial and increasing Chinese investments in crisis-hit Europe.

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In this context, China’s strategic partnership with the EU, which was established since 2003, is gaining new momentum and complexity. Among many other developments, China has been more and more preoccupied with a sub-regional approach to cooperation in Europe. This is best manifested in the “16+1” mechanism, a regional cooperation platform that explicitly targets the 16 CEECs including EU members such as Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and the Baltic states, as well as nonEU members including Serbia, Albania, and Montenegro. The “16+1” initiative was formally launched in 2012 with China’s announcement of “12 measures” for promoting friendly cooperation with CEECs, with a US$10 billion special credit line for projects on the development of infrastructure, high-tech industry and the green economy in this region. In addition, a secretariat has been established and takes responsibility to coordinate stakeholders for the implementation of the “12 measures” and maintain regular contact with the CEECs. The “16+1” mechanism constitutes a cluster of bilateral and multilateral ties concentrated in three main areas: trade, investment, and transportation networks.1 This sub-regional cooperation has not been promoted without barriers and challenges, and enthusiasm for engaging in this framework has varied significantly due to differences among the economies, population, and market potential of the CEECs (Stanzel et al. 2016). However, there is no question that it has nurtured a flourishing interconnectivity and generated new sources of growth in the region. Some official estimates show that China invested more than $8 billion in CEECs in 2016 (Zeneli 2017). Many new visions for regional development have been crafted in this platform. At the China–CEEC Summit in Suzhou in 2015, the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang offered the concept of “Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Seaport Cooperation” (also referred to as the “Three Seas Port Cooperation”). An embodiment of his signature concept of “industrial capacity cooperation,” Premier Li envisioned this initiative to establish industrial cluster areas around ports with the right conditions, and enable China’s equipment, European technology, and the CEECs’ markets to meet together for productive cooperation. In Europe’s southern belt, where the sovereign debt crisis erupted in 2009, China has been showing its responsibility by purchasing public

1 In April 2019, Greece formally joined China–CEEC cooperation platform and the ‘16+1’ became ‘17+1’.

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debts in these countries, in particular Greece, Portugal, and Spain. Cooperation in this region is less systematic and institutionalized as in CEECs, yet the development of logistic and transport networks has been fairly visible. For China, the great Mediterranean region, stretching from the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal, is the key juncture of the infrastructures along the Belt and Road. In April 2016, China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) succeeded in acquiring a controlling stake in the Greek port of Piraeus. This was widely viewed as an important piece in the complex jigsaw of BRI. In December 2014, China and four Mediterranean countries (Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece) decided to build a “China-Europe Continental and Ocean Expressway.” As such, China helps to link up the CEECs to the other parts of the Mediterranean states in industrial capacity cooperation. In addition to this increasing visibility as an infrastructural power, China is ready to play a more constructive influence in the Mediterranean basin as a permanent member of the UN Security Council by promoting dialogues between different religions and political forces, and solving conflicts through peaceful means. In the north of Europe, a concept of “5+1” has been gradually emerging, based on the solid Nordic regional integration as well as fruitful bilateral relations between China and Nordic countries. The Nordic model boasts strong economic competitiveness, a unique social contract, high levels of human development, and extensive regional cooperation, and has long been a curiosity and inspiration to China. While the world is turning to the Nordic Region as it showed remarkable resilience to the Financial Crisis of 2008, the Nordic countries are also increasingly interested to partner with global actors to expand its visibility and international relevance (Nordic Council of Minister 2015; Simonyi and Cagan 2016). The value of Nordic solutions to global challenges is clearly manifested in the U.S.–Nordic Leaders’ Summit in May 2016, which called for deep cooperation on key international issues related to security and defense; migration and refugees; climate, energy, and the Arctic; and economic growth and global development (The White House 2016). Xi Jinping’s first visit in Finland in April 2017 as China’s President drew new prospects and aroused greater enthusiasm for China–Nordic and China–Europe partnerships. Another important step forward was the meeting between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China and the Nordic Council of Ministers in Beijing on May 25, 2017. Both sides spoke highly of the significant progress of Sino-Nordic

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cooperation and set the tone for prosperous cooperation opportunities. The Joint Press Release after this meeting stated: China and the Nordic region have an unprecedented opportunity to advance their relations. To further expand and deepen cooperation is in line with the development strategies and needs of both sides and serves the mutual interests. The two sides agree that they will work together to strengthen existing cooperation and develop new initiatives, so as to advance the cooperation to a new height. (Nordic Council of Ministers 2017)

The priorities of China’s sub-regional cooperation in the Nordic region, however, would be reasonably different compared to CEECs and the southern Europe. Future cooperation will be centered in five thematic areas: sustainable development, science, research and education, peopleto-people exchanges, and welfare solutions (Nordic Council of Ministers 2017). The potential coherence of a common Nordic foreign policy should not be overstated as the five countries diverge remarkably on socioeconomic needs, geopolitical positions, and preexisting international affiliations. When it comes to foreign policy, the Nordic Council of Ministers lacks the powerful clout over the member states that the EU wields (ISDP 2016). Nevertheless, Europe’s northern anchor is now open to increased group engagement by China. China’s interests in this region can be mapped in four main areas: to utilize the Nordic region as a sounding board and door opener; to acquire technology and know-how; to promote China’s core interests; and to improve the international image and perceptions of China (Hellström 2016). In addition, China has a growing interest in the Arctic as one of the observers of the Arctic Council. By vowing to actively participating in Arctic affairs as a “NearArctic State,” China would add a common agenda calling for strategic coordination (SCIO-PRC 2018). This might accelerate the process of China–Nordic regional cooperation in the foreseeable future.

The EU’s Normative Claims What are the dynamics, nature, and impacts of China’s sub-regional cooperation in Europe? For many Western observers and stakeholders, it is

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tempting to investigate the risks associated with China’s trade and connectivity plans. A central question has also been whether and how China’s massive investments in Europe can be translated into economic dependence and geopolitical leverage. This line of inquiry is a part of the Western academic and political debate about a more assertive Chinese foreign policy since the 2008 global financial crisis. It remains interesting to see how the EU’s policy actors apply frames and construct its narratives on a growing influential China. The EU’s communications on its external action are informed by its role consciousness as a global player—both an economic giant and a normative power. The European single market and economic weight enable the EU to exert extraordinary influence in the global stage (Allen and Smith 1990). In addition, the Union’s external relations, including the promotion of regional cooperation, are also defined by its normative power, which exhibits five “core norms,” namely, peace, liberty, democracy, rule of law, and human rights and four “minor norms”: social solidarity, antidiscrimination, sustainable development, and good governance (Manners 2002). These norms are well articulated in the EU’s Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS) on June 28, 2016, which is entitled Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe. In her foreword to EUGS, Federica Mogherini, the Vice President of the European Council, disseminated a clear message. She justified a stronger and unified EU to “promote the common interests of our citizens, as well as our principles and values,” which “are best served in an international system based on rules and on multilateralism” (EEAS 2016). The EU’s China strategy reflects the fundamental premises and approach of the EU’s global engagement: the promotion of democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for the principles of the UN Charter and international law, with the aim of achieving reciprocal benefits in political and economic relations. As the EUGS explicitly claims: The EU will engage China based on respect for rule of law, both domestically and internationally. We will pursue a coherent approach… The EU will deepen trade and investment with China, seeking a level playing field, intellectual property rights protection, greater cooperation on highend technology, dialogue on economic reform, human rights and climate action. (EEAS 2016: 37–38)

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China and the EU lack no common ground in business and trade. The EU is the biggest market for China and China is the second biggest one for the EU. The 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation functions as the institutional platform for collaboration between the two sides on peace and security, prosperity, sustainable development, and peopleto-people exchanges, with bilateral relations conducted at the highest level through the annual EU–China Summit. It came as no surprise that enormous policy synergies have been fruitfully developed by both sides: China has offered to take part in the EU’s flagship projects such as the European Strategic Investment Fund, launched by the European Commission to revitalize European infrastructure, and the EU has been taking constructive actions toward China’s BRI through the EU–China Connectivity Platform. In addition, the EU sees China as a strategic partner in global governance. Both sides attempt to promote effective multilateralism and work together through mechanisms including the G20 and the WTO to address financial and economic challenges. They have actively supported the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and have played an increasingly leading role in international development cooperation and coordinate actions for climate change, energy, and resource efficiency. Despite constructive engagement and convergence of interest, there is an emerging divergence of perspectives. Concerning China’s sub-regional engagement, while China frames the cooperation primarily as a practical effort to build a balanced engagement in Europe, as we shall analyze in the next session, the EU’s view tends to be more politicized. A brief published by the European Council on Foreign Relations, with a catchy title “The Scramble for Europe,” explicitly claimed that the expansion of China’s presence in Europe is creating new fault lines within Europe: China has particularly focused on the Mediterranean and southeastern member states most in need of Chinese cash. This has created new relationships between peripheral member states and China…From a European perspective, it may seem as if the Chinese are exploiting Europe’s soft underbelly. The danger for Europe is that there will be a kind of “China lobby” of smaller member states within the EU…. (Godement, Parello-Plesner and Richard 2011: 2)

Furthermore, the Chinese approach is perceived as both selective and opportunistic:

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China practices “pick and choose” in its relations with the European Union, focusing on its direct interests, and often ignoring EU norms in its proposals. It has vastly increased efforts to strengthen bilateral relations with member states, putting special emphasis on Europe’s periphery. China holds its own summit with central and eastern European nations, the socalled 16+1, and it seized the opportunity of the euro crisis for massive takeovers in southern Europe. (Godement and Vasselier 2017: 1)

In this context, China’s sub-regional activism has provided a stimulus for the EU to reclaim its collective identity. Increasing public attention is directed toward a normative challenge: China’s regional engagement is eroding the EU’s political unity and internal cohesion by accumulating influence over the Union’s members and potential members’ strategic choices. Furthermore, regional engagement in Europe may provide China with strategic means to encourage or pressure its regional partners to act according to China’s interests, thus deconstructing the EU’s voice on politically sensitive issues. This leads to a perception of China as a strategic game changer with an intentional master plan of “divide and rule.” As a commentator warned: “There is an attempt by China to divide the EU at various levels,” with a consequence that “a large number of smaller countries will take a separate approach from the rest of Europe when dealing with China” (Browne 2016; see also Mohan 2018). Leading EU member states are particularly vocal regarding external influence on the Union’s regional dynamics. In a joint statement by the Foreign Ministers of France and Germany in June 2016, it was declared that: France and Germany recognize their responsibility to reinforce solidarity and cohesion within the European Union…we believe the EU can and needs to develop common answers to today’s challenges abroad and at home. In a context of rising global challenges and opportunities, we see the European Union as more necessary than ever and as the only framework capable of providing appropriate collective answers to the changing international environment. France and Germany will therefore promote a more coherent and a more assertive Europe on the world stage. (France Diplomatie 2016)

Germany pays even closer attention. It has called for a respect to “one Europe Policy” and a “European response to safeguard our interests”

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(Gaspers 2018). In his speech in Paris at a conference of French ambassadors in August 2017, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned against Beijing’s attempt to “divide Europe,” declaring that “If we do not succeed in developing a single strategy towards China, then China will succeed in dividing Europe,” and that “setting up parallel networks such as China and Eastern Europe or China and Southern Europe are somewhat inconsistent with a commitment to a coherent and strong EU” (Wu 2017). The EU’s normative claim can also be felt when European Commission’s Vice President Jyrki Katainen addressed the “Belt and Road Forum” held in Beijing on 14–15 May 2017. He set out the EU’s vision and approach for shaping China’s Europe–Asia connectivity project: Any ambitious scheme to connect Europe and Asia requires an open and inclusive approach. Transparency about plans and activities of all stakeholders must be the basis for our cooperation, together with open, rules-based public tenders and reciprocal market access Cross-border infrastructure links, intra-continental and inter-continental corridors must be a matter for all relevant countries. All should have a fair say about where priorities lie in terms of primary infrastructure networks and secondary/sub-regional networks. Multilateral frameworks, like ASEM, should be fully exploited to make this inclusive approach a reality. (EEAC 2017)

This framing strategy has contributed to the formation of a European mechanism for screening foreign investments in strategic assets. The policy tool would enable the Union to ward off the risks that Chinese investment presents to Europe’s security and economic openness. On September 13, 2017, European Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker stated in his annual State of the Union: Let me say once and for all: we are not naïve free traders. Europe must always defend its strategic interests. This is why today we are proposing a new EU framework for investment screening. If a foreign, state-owned, company wants to purchase a European harbor, part of our energy infrastructure or a defence technology firm, this should only happen in transparency, with scrutiny and debate. It is a political responsibility to know what is going on in our own backyard so that we can protect our collective security if needed. (European Commission 2017)

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The EU’s normative claims as such should be regarded as a kind of “habit of mind.” They are deeply grounded in the Union’s ideas, principles, and practices of regional integration. Yet debate around this issue reflects the political reality of intra-competition and new lines of cleavages in Europe, which have become increasingly pronounced due to the Eurozone crisis, refugee crisis, and an emerging sentiment of Eurocepticism. Overwhelmed with crises as well as nationalistic agendas that have increasingly taken priority over European-wide solution, some EU thinkers may choose to characterize China as an external competitor threatening its internal solidarity. Paradoxically, as the in-group/out-group hypothesis suggests, internal cohesion may not increase as a result of involvement in external conflict. If the group lacks a strong and centralized leadership, external conflicts can often aggravate existing internal divisions and invite more expression of discord (Stein 1976). While China’s pragmatic presence in Europe is less penetrating than the Eurozone crisis, refugee crisis, and the geopolitical standoff with Russia concerning Ukraine, it may entail urgency for internal coordination within the EU. However, the Union’s capacity to do so is limited by its institutional configuration and has already been undermined by intra-competition, the rise of populist political parties as well as Eurosceptic sentiment. As one research report recognized, “it is intra-European competition and lack of coordination over China that makes Europe vulnerable. In other words, China does not need to divide Europe because Europe is already divided” (Houtari et al. 2015: 12).

China’s Pragmatic Framing In contrast to the EU’s normative claims, the Chinese view on the development of sub-regional cooperation is largely pragmatic. From the Chinese perspective, Europe plays a critically important role as a major economic partner, supplier of technology and investments, and a political power holding two permanent seats on the UN Security Council, EU institutions remain a centerpiece of China’s foreign policy. China’s policy toward the EU is predominantly driven by economic logics and is based on the belief that an integrated EU as a global actor will be conductive to a multipolar world order. In its second EU policy paper, China acknowledged that the EU is facing the most serious challenge since the end of the Cold War, but its strategic direction of integration remains unchanged. According to the

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document, fostering China–EU relations is “an integral part of China’s efforts to build long-term, steady and healthy relations with major powers and a priority in its foreign policy” (MFA-PRC 2014a). This stance was strategically reemphasized in President Xi Jinping’s speech at the College of Europe in Bruges on April 1, 2014, that “in spite of changes in the international landscape, China has always supported European integration and a bigger role in international affairs by a united, stable and prosperous EU.” He envisioned this relationship as a “bridge of peace and stability, growth and prosperity, reform and progress, and common cultural prosperity” so that “the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership will take on even greater global significance” (MFA-PRC 2014b). However, in contrast to the previous wishful thinking to treat the EU as global actor, Chinese strategists have increasingly recognized that cooperation with the Union and its member states may be functionally differentiated and rebalanced so as to fully tap the potentials. As a think tank researcher postulated, “it may be very difficult to achieve anything without the EU institutions, but without the member states, nothing could be achieved” (cited in Chen 2011: 12). Given the fact that different EU member states held different views on relations with China, and their relationship with China contains different priorities, an improvement of China’s relations with individual member states will “give further impetus to the progressive development of China-EU relations” (Chen et al. 2011: 17). This need for recalibration, that can be increasingly felt within the Chinese academic circle, is connected to the new political realities in Europe. The financial and economic crisis in 2008, followed by a range of political pressures, has severely undermined the capacity of EU institutions in dealing with internal and external challenges. The new politics of the EU, which show that “the rule-based approach cannot deal with all the challenges facing the EU, internal and external,” certainly has significant strategic and economic repercussions for its stakeholders and partners (Middelaar 2016). It is in this context that a number of Chinese analysts have proposed the articulation of sub-regional cooperation. A nuanced China–Europe relationship is expected to occur simultaneously in three dimensions: member state, sub-regional, and the Union (Cui 2018; Bu 2016). In particular, the CEECs have registered an impressive growth performance in post-crisis Europe. As a market, it features a favorable ratio between the labor cost and its quality, geographical and political proximity

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to Western Europe, as well as the relatively high growth performance since the Eurozone crisis (Yao 2016). However, compared to the more developed EU member states, they have not been properly represented in the structure of the China–EU comprehensive partnership. Therefore, Western Europe should acknowledge that the CEECs have a legitimate right to develop a special bilateral relationship with China (Turcsanyi 2017). From the Chinese perspective, a new form of decentralized regional cooperation is both possible and necessary (Cui 2013; Zhong 2014; Simurina 2014). Indeed, many Chinese provinces and cities, with their market size close to countries in the region, could become a major player and driving force in this framework, and in doing so, one may expect a promising new growth pole of China–Europe relation. Since the establishment of the “16+1” mechanism, China has been consistently framing its regional policy in Europe by emphasizing its instrumentality. It is viewed as a constructive element for interconnected growth in the region and a balanced China–EU strategic partnership. This is why the 16+1 platform meeting has included officials of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and has their involvement in drafting the documents. As emphasized by China’s Premier Li Keqiang in his speech at the Riga Summit in 2016, the 16+1 Cooperation should be put in a broader context and promoted as a part of China–EU partnerships in four aspects and five platforms (explored below), and contribute to a more dynamical development across Europe and European integration (SCPRC 2016). This is echoed by a recent research report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which portrays the 16+1 Cooperation as a sub-regional platform under the overall China–EU cooperation, and a new area for implementing the China–EU partnership of peace, growth, reform, and civilization (Huang and Liu 2018). This pattern of China’s narrative can be viewed as a reassurance to the China–EU strategic partnership. In his visit to Finland in April 2017, President Xi Jinping delivered a more explicit message. He cited the case of the China–Finland relationship as a role model of multilevel cooperation with the EU: First, China and Finland are working to build a “future-oriented new-type cooperative partnership,” and this “sets an example for peaceful co-existence and friendly exchanges between two countries that are different in size, culture and development level”. Second, China is committed to bolster sub-regional cooperation, that “sub-regional cooperation is a useful complement to China–Europe relations. I am sure that the close ties between China and Nordic countries

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will be a contributing factor to European prosperity and China-Europe relations.” Third, China supports the integration of the EU, as “European integration is consistent with the trend of history, and a prosperous and stable Europe is conducive to world peace and development.” The EU is experiencing profound and complex changes, and “Europe can count on China’s support,” Xi concluded (Xi 2017a). Therefore, it would be misleading to see China’s economic and diplomatic activism in Europe’s regions as a scheme to undermine the EU. An integrated EU, which boasts the world’s largest single market, a common currency and free movement of goods, capital, services, and labor is in China’s economic interest. As many Chinese scholars have emphasized, despite the efforts to rebalance the Chinese economy from an investmentled to a consumption-driven one, it remains vital for China to help ensure that European purchasing power is strong (Ding 2011; Zhao 2011). Moreover, an elaborated European strategy would serve China’s domestic agenda of developing a more balanced, quality growth of its economy. This domestic-foreign policy nexus is twofold. On the one hand, as clearly articulated in China’s Policy Paper on the EU in 2014, the China–EU strategic partnership is a key party to achieve China’s industrialization, urbanization, IT application, and agricultural modernization and to realize China’s “two centennial goals,” namely, to “build a moderately prosperous society in all respects” in 2021 and to “build a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious” in 2049 (MFA-PRC 2014a). These two goals are strategically raised to mark the 100th anniversaries of two important dates, the formation of Communist Party of China in 1921, and the establishment of People’s Republic of China in 1949. On the other hand, as President Xi Jinping claimed in his speech at College of Europe, China is the world’s biggest developing country, and “our efforts of deepening reform comprehensively will not only provide strong momentum for China’s modernization drive, but also bring new development opportunities to the world” (MFA-PRC 2014b). It is noteworthy that China’s previous experience of pragmatic regionalism offers a complementary source of its strategic framing. Since the early 1990s, China has been actively engaged in Asia’s regionalism and community building. The Greater Mekong Sub-Region Economic Cooperation Program (GMS-ECP) is one of the earliest and most effective regional cooperation programs that China has been involved in. On

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November 12, 2015, China initiated the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) as another flagship scheme. These sub-regional processes enrich larger scale cooperative arrangements like the ASEANChina FTA. In addition to China–ASEAN’s sub-regional cooperation, China has developed similar mechanisms with other regional institutions including the Africa Union—the largest regional organization in Africa—and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). From the Chinese perspective, sub-regional cooperation has been proving effective in creating new cooperation opportunities and narrowing the development gap in the wake of the financial crisis. In the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Business Summit at Hanoi, Vietnam on March 30, 2018, China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi maintained that, “China sees its own development and future closely linked with those of the other sub-regional countries… In a spirit of partnership, China is ready to deepen political mutual trust and practical cooperation with the other GMS countries to jointly advance regional development and our people’s well-being” (MFA-PRC 2018). These dynamics combine to crystalize some practical norms to be diffused. As China’s Premier Li Keqiang addressed in the sixth 16+1 Summit at Budapest, China is committed to four principles of “equal consultation, mutual benefit, openness and inclusiveness, being resultsoriented and innovative”: Equal consultation means we believe countries are all equal regardless of size, and issues should be addressed through discussion among all instead of being dominated by one. We should strive to maximize our common ground, minimize differences, and optimize our role in the cooperation. Mutual benefit means that under the principle of government support, corporate initiative and market-based operation and in keeping with international practices, we have leveraged our comparative advantages to make the pie of common interests bigger. Openness and inclusiveness means we have worked together in coordination and mutual support and in an open, fair and transparent manner. The comfort levels of all sides have been accommodated. Together, we tap potential by two-way opening, take on challenges with interconnected efforts and seek development through cooperation. Being results-oriented and innovative means that with a focus on such key cooperation areas as trade, connectivity, industrial capacity and people-to-people ties, we have taken concrete steps to tackle problems, improve institutions, expand cooperation areas and introduce new

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policies, injecting sustained impetus into “16+1” cooperation. (MFA-PRC 2017, italics in original)

Arguably, these principles and norms for regional cooperation are associated with China’s identity transformation on the global stage. China is increasingly demonstrating a new logic of influence on that stage, with growing sensitivity to the dark sides of globalization and showing it is becoming morally conscious in global affairs (Liu 2017). Since Xi Jinping came into power in 2012, he has predominantly used the concept “community of common destiny for mankind” to prescribe China’s initiative for global and regional interconnectivity. In his widely covered speech at Davos, 2017, President Xi proclaimed that “mankind has become a close-knit community of a shared future,” and that “China must have the courage to swim in the vast ocean of a global market,” acknowledging a world of extensive converging national interests and mutual dependence. In his political report to the 19th CPC national congress, President Xi elaborated that China’s foreign policy would be guided by the vision of building “a new form of international relations” featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice, and win-win cooperation (Xi 2017b). Chinese communications on the China–EU strategic partnership as well as its sub-regional initiatives exhibit what Brantly Womack called “logic of relationship.” This logic differs greatly from the normative power of the EU, which is framed by “logic of appropriateness.” The bottom line in the Chinese logic of relationship is that, in a partnership, “both sides feel that they are better off if the relationship continues – this is the minimum meaning of ‘mutual benefit’. A normal relationship does not require symmetry of partners or equality of exchanges, but it does require reciprocity” (Womack 2008: 295; see also Kavalski 2013).

Conclusions Both strategic narrative and frame analysis have called attention to the importance of interpretive and communicative tools, which enable policy actors to draw support from others under conditions of uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. In this chapter, frame analysis, derived from social movement studies, is drawn on to facilitate understanding of China– EU narrative difference about China’s sub-regional activism. Our analysis shows that, despite many policy synergies, a significant frame dissonance

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has occurred and added to the complexity of China–EU further cooperation. While the EU has maintained its sensitivity over geopolitical influence in its peripheries and tends to see China’s interconnectivity and trade ties to have the potential to undermine the EU’s unity and solidarity, China’s framing is largely grounded in a pragmatic logic. By crafting a master frame of “community of common destiny,” China is able to narrate its regional activism as a flexible and balanced engagement with the EU, a functional need to serve its domestic development, and a constitutive element of a new global order. The frame dissonance observed in this analysis is partly due to the different identity of policy actors between China and the EU. It is also a function of different power configurations and institutional capacity. As many scholars have suggested, the formation, projection, and reception of the EU strategic narrative is “complicated by the hybrid nature of the institution – reflecting both supranational and intergovernmental aspects, which complicates efforts to speak with a single voice in international affairs” (Miskimmon et al. 2017b: 15). The immigration and refugee crisis, among many other challenges, has put the EU in a “ring of fire” (The Economist 2014). This would further undermine its internal solidarity. In contrast, China’s foreign policy is becoming more coherent and confident due to the consolidation and centralization of political power by Xi Jinping’s leadership. Framing differences on a specific policy choice would have enormous implications for the weaving of strategic narrative. By linking different frames in congruency and complementariness, frame alignment can produce normative resonance in strategic narrative. However, frame disputes, through which policy actors project their own discourses in competing logics, can be accumulated and lead to narrative contestation. That being said, the framing of a policy issue should not be viewed as being preprogrammed by a prevailing strategic narrative or master frame. This is largely due to the fact that strategic policy actors can always reflect upon the way their subjectivity is constituted. They are thus able to rewrite their narratives. In a changing global order, the EU and China have great potential to be a stabilizing joint-force by deepening their economic relationship and bringing mutual benefit in driving economic growth, creating jobs, and improving levels of social welfare. However, a productive strategic partnership between these two global players does not merely result from interest convergence, it calls for a common strategic narrative that

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possesses normative resonance. The fusion of different norms certainly depends on whether and how policy actors in both sides can skilfully engage in a mutual adaptation process. China is a trade partner with the EU in a position of need. More than that, China’s worldview and vision, as manifested in its principles of “peaceful coexistence” and the aspiration of building “community of common destiny,” is arguably harmonious with the EU’s pacific strategic culture and its normative attachment to multilateralism. From the Chinese perspective, the normative EU can live with sub-regionalism that is open, inclusive, and result-oriented, and the Chinese pragmatic norms can resonate with the EU’s ideas and principles. Normative resonance can therefore be expected as both the sweet fruit of economic ties and a precondition for a matured, truly strategic partnership.

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CHAPTER 4

Reconstructing Geography, Power and Politics in the Belt and Road Initiative Zhiqin Shi and Vasilis Trigkas

Introduction The year 2049, a centenary since the establishment of the People’s Republic, will be a highly symbolic anniversary for China. It will signify not simply the return of China to a status of absolute equality among great powers but of leadership in industry, science and perhaps political governance as an advanced socialist nation, at least these are the declared goals of the Communist Party of China (CPC) (Xi 2017). 2049 will also be an unofficial anniversary for the European Union; for exactly two centuries ago one of Europe’s most extraordinary intellectuals and humanists, Victor Hugo, at the 1849 Paris Peace Conference, promulgated his vision for the ‘United States of Europe’ (Metzidakis 1994).

Z. Shi (B) Department of International Relations, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China e-mail: [email protected] V. Trigkas Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China © The Author(s) 2021 A. Miskimmon et al. (eds.), One Belt, One Road, One Story?, Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53153-9_4

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Yet, a 2020 strategic snapshot highlights an asymmetric divergence of China and Europe from their ideal goals and civilizational dreams. Europe has muddled through a devastating financial crisis without yet having solidified its fiscal union1 and saw its second largest economy—the UK ‘Brexiting’ in 2020. China meanwhile has defied the pundits and has continued to expand economically accounting for more than one third of the global GDP growth in 2018. For the first time since its moment of humiliation in the nineteenth century, China has also become more confident in its development model and political economy. For many, at the epicentre of this singular development has been its New Silk Road Initiative officially baptized the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ which has since October 2017 been enshrined in China’s revised party constitution (see Zeng 2017). Europe has not failed to observe the herculean ambition of the BRI and CPC’s new-fangled determination to ‘strive for achievement’ and has reacted cautiously by abstaining from officially endorsing China’s mega-initiative. From the rhetorical conflict over a joint declaration at the Beijing BRI summit in May 2017 to the clash over standards and Chinese investments along Eurasia and in the EU, European officials have raised concerns about China’s rising geopolitical ambitions (The Guardian 2017). In a striking remark, the German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel warned that China’s BRI was, ‘no sentimental evocation of Marco Polo’, but, ‘an attempt to establish a comprehensive system for moulding the world in Chinese interests; a project of “geo-economics”’ (Gabriel 2018). Similar worries have been expressed by the French president Emmanuel Macron (Reuters 2018). Even the UK which was the second European country, after Luxemburg, to join the AIIB despite Washington’s advice not to, has since been more sceptical of China’s initiative. Some Europeans have even seconded US’s rhetoric on a BRI debt trap. Nonetheless, whereas the so-called ‘old Europe’ has over-scrutinized Chinese motives, the new Europe, Eastern Europe, has wholeheartedly welcomed Chinese investments and seems committed to participate in

1 There has been some progress since the 2007–2008 financial crisis as Europe has established its own stabilization mechanism through the European Stability Fund (ESM). However, there has still not been any binding agreement on a Banking Union that includes a comprehensive mechanism to insure bank deposits—an essential element to fully secure the Eurozone from future shocks.

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the BRI. German industry as well has been more amicable towards the BRI compared to the German government. Siemen’s, Germany’s largest industrial conglomerate, has even declared that the BRI will be the WTO of the twenty-first century, and Siemens is furthermore looking to make its participation in the BRI a core vision for its future profitability (Bradsher 2018). Yet division is also evident in European industry which lacks an aligned view about the BRI. EU steel and aluminium producers, who have seen their market shares plummeting from what they argue is Chinese overproduction and illegal state subsidies, are worried of a potential Chinese attempt to flood Eurasia with industrial overcapacity through biased and clandestine BRI procurement. This cacophony of European views and the lack of a coherent EU strategic narrative about the BRI exacerbates the deteriorating strategic relationship between China and the EU and if not addressed properly could adversely impact on the welfare of both edges of Eurasia. To attenuate these adversarial dynamics, the strategic communities of China and the EU need to (re)evaluate three core strategic variables which can shape a coherent strategic narrative on the BRI: Geography, Power and Political Values. This choice is not arbitrary; for these three variables are fundamental for shaping elite perceptions about the global order. As the editors of the volume have put it in their groundbreaking work on strategic narratives an understanding of how the system operates, who the main power players are and how do they identify themselves is essential for narrative formation (Miskimmon et al. 2013; Roselle et al. 2014). In particular, geography in our analysis, aims to set the strategic space, define the stage and describe where is the BRI action taking place and under what regional specificities. As Roselle et al. state, As with actors, the setting or environment is packed full with assumptions, assertions, and underlying principles and rationales. These shape the range of the possible in terms of identifying issues that need resolution, and goals that might be achieved. Who creates or reshapes this space or milieu? (Roselle et al. 2014: 75)

Geography determines regional dynamics, access to resources, economic dependencies (economic gravity model) and flows of people and ideas. The discussion over power dynamics—polarity is also essential and springs from the impact on elite perception about conflict or cooperation

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given the power balance or imbalance within the system (Main premise of structural realism). The concentration of power or its diffusion define the polarity of the system and affect the psychological fear that elites may feel about future security (See Miskimmon et al. 2013; Miskimmon and O’Loughlin 2017). Last but not least, political values mainly shaped by an ‘identity narrative’ are crucial in the vision that a nation has about society and the legitimacy of the word order as well as in the way different societies interact through the ‘affective components of culture’ (Roselle et al. 2014: 77). Thus as strategic narratives are ‘increasingly referenced in the policy world’ (Miskimmon et al. 2017b: 2), any attempt to forge a shared Sino-EU strategic narrative—a one story one road—has to be built on a concrete understanding on how geography, shifting power dynamics and values affect the ‘operational code’ of strategic elites. As a practitioner put it: ‘the foreign policy of a nation addresses itself not to the external world, as is commonly stated, but rather to ‘the image of the external world’ that is in the minds of those who make foreign policy, and if the image is false then no technicians, however proficient can make the policy that is based on its sound’ (George 1969: 190–191; see also Walker 1990). As Holland and Chaban have asserted in their seminal work evaluating the Image of Europe in Asian Countries: ‘When a country’s policy choices are constructed from imprecise or inaccurate information, the risk of making sub-optimal decisions increases. Good policy choices require informed decision-makers ’ (Holland and Chaban 2010: 3). Furthermore, as the complexity of the system grows with rising powers, non-state actors and exponential technology in the mix, a strategic narrative could offer a simplified yet not simplistic perception of reality assisting policy makers to bridge misperceptions and order chaos. As some learned authors have put it, Rational theories are for well-ordered worlds and for leaders set within that world. Today, however, we have a chaotic world, with leaders who are ill-prepared for its complexities. Narratives are even more important for ordering the chaos. (Roselle et al. 2014: 74)

In this chapter we thus endeavour to simplify without being simplistic and deconstruct established misperceptions over these formative variables. To correct inaccuracies and reconstruct perceptions in such a way as to ‘nudge’ the EU–China strategic community towards a positive-sumBRI

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narrative—‘an amenable milieu’ (Roselle et al. 2014: 71) that Beijing and Brussels could then operationalize through a policy—issue narrative with applicable and verifiable policy initiatives (Miskimmon et al. 2017b: 8). We thus aim to stimulate a ‘Strategic Narrative Formation’ and to a lesser extent discuss ‘Narrative Projection’ and much less ‘Narrative Reception’ even though all three stages dynamically interact (Miskimmon et al. 2013). To clarify, the idea of a strategic narrative is not related to propaganda or an effort to lure in the Europeans to join an initiative that will undermine their long-term interests. Instead, a joint strategic narrative could analytically address misperceptions and nudge elites in China and Europe towards a positive sum engagement. A shared BRI strategic narrative is therefore not an effort to build China’s ‘sharp power’ or ‘authoritarian’ influence but instead a genuine theorization on how the BRI could be jointly operationalized under the constraints of Sino-EU shifting power dynamics, bilateral geographical specificities and distinct political values. To better understand the choice of geography, power and political values, one may think of their impact upon the strategic narrative of the Marshal plan and its paradigmatic operationalization by a policy— issue narrative. In geographical terms, half of Europe was under Soviet influence or occupation and the US saw the heart of Europe as a key region for its own long-term security. Meanwhile the power asymmetry between the Soviet Union and Western Europe made the Marshal Plan a critical initiative to upgrade the industrial infrastructure of a war devastated Western Europe and rebuild a European defence capability. Last but not least, the convergence of liberal democratic ideals between Western Europe and the US worked as an affective multiplier and provided a strong societal endorsement for the Marshal plan and lasting transatlantic ties (Roselle et al. 2014: 77).

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Classification based on Roselle et al. (2014)

Anachronistic narrative

New proposed strategic narrative

Issue Policy narrative Operational & tactical narrative

Geography—Strategic Space

World Island Domination, Geopolitics, Geo-economics

System—Power Polarity

China’s Unipolar moment across Eurasia, Aspiring Hegemony, Tributary System

Focus on Domestic Economic Asymmetries, Peripheral Stability and Development of Failed States Multipolarity, EU, USA, China, India. Balance of power, Sovereignty

Politics—Values—Affect

End of history teleology and conflict between Liberal Democracy VS Illiberal Regimes

Joint Sino-EU developmental funding fostering resilience towards global shocks and threats, War on Underdevelopment, War on Poverty Global Public Goods, Global Governance Coordination, War on Climate Change, Financial Instability, etc. Agree to disagree; trust but verify and renew dialogue on human rights and other value-related issues including role of state in development finance

Struggle for domestic excellence by verifiable measures on welfare of citizens and societal harmony

From Rings of Fire to Rings of Peace: Geographical Specificities in the BRI When SirHalford Mackinder’s presented his essay ‘The Geographical Pivot of History’ before the Royal Geographic Society in London at the dawn of the twentieth century (Gaddis 2017), Eurasia had already been at the core of a dangerous geographical determinism about global politics which lasted until the end of the Cold War (Nye 2017). Two world wars and a Cold War later, the BRI has often been framed as the return of geopolitics with geography becoming a sort of destiny and great powers competing for strategic resources, control over strategic territory and spheres of influence (Kaplan 2018; see also Kissinger 2015). Under this conceptual paradigm China is strategically aiming to control

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resources and expand its influence across Eurasia, and eventually, by exercising control over the ‘world island’, isolate the US, its peer geopolitical adversary (Luce 2018). In addition, China is attempting to lure the EU into the game driving a wedge in the transatlantic alliance and undermining Washington’s influence over Europe. Never mind that the White House’s current occupant is by his own will pushing Europe away from the US. Geopoliticians (The Economist 2018) assert that China has already begun to implement its daring geopolitical goals by investing in key strategic infrastructure across Asia and Southern Europe, buying up ports, airports, building railways and providing financing to governments in return for strategic assets (case of Sri Lankan port). To attract Europe into the project, China has set up the AIIB in which European states joined—in defiance of Washington—promising fair rights in procurement contracts and also abiding by high environmental and other regulatory standards friendly to the European. In addition, Beijing has bypassed its regional competitor India by engaging Pakistan and building a transportation corridor from Xinjiang to the port of Gwadar in the Arabian sea while it has also set up its first military base abroad strategically located in Djibouti, the southern entry to the Suez Canal. If one also considers the strategic bilateral agreements with Egypt and Greece (Piraeus port), Beijing has already constructed an uninterrupted maritime path enveloping Eurasia which enables it to securely import primary resources (mainly from Africa and the Middle East) and export industrial and consumer goods to the lucrative European market—the world’s largest. Yet this macro-geographical evaluation fails to capture the real complexity of geography in all its localities, let alone highlight some important regional effects of the BRI. To comprehend how geography is influencing the BRI and find persuasive arguments towards a joint strategic narrative, a careful observation of the domestic and regional security and economic geography of China and the EU is required. This will highlight that the BRI has mostly been shaped by China’s domestic economic geography and regional developmental goals and not from an impetus for hegemonic domination of the ‘World Island’ as sensational media and conservative think tanks often report. For the past two recent decades, China has been facing a widening developmental disparity between its rich eastern coast with bustling metropolises on the one hand and its impoverished western regions on

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the other. This has been the outcome of the opening up and reform of the Chinese economy which since the very early 1980s prioritized the integration of the eastern regions into the global economy through special economic zones, yet it had no remedy to correct the rising regional developmental divergence. The BRI’s key strategic goal is thus to rebalance development from the eastern to western regions of China by facilitating connectivity towards the West. In fact, from the three governmental institutions that are responsible for the design and operationalization of the BRI:National Development Reform Commission (NDRC), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Commerce, the NDRC’s Western Development Affairs division (XiBuSi) which specializes in western regional development has been the leading administrator. China’s domestic geographical developmental disparity (asymmetric domestic economic geography) is one key motivation for the BRI, peripheral security geography is another. China, unlike Europe is surrounded by strategic allies or security partners (South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Australia) of its main strategic competitor the USA, and an increasingly assertive regional competitor India. With Japan, India, Australia and the US now enamoured into a ‘democratic quadrilateral’ China’s feeling of strategic encirclement—China is unable to project military force far from its territory after the first island chain (Biddle and Oelrich 2016)—is shaping its effort to march West and secure its connectivity with resources and markets (Barker Gale and Shearer 2018). More importantly, to stabilize its neighbourhood and increase regional interdependence, China since its ‘Regional Forum diplomacy’ in 2013 has put neighbourhood relations front and centre of its diplomatic initiatives (Grieger 2016). The strategic focus on the neighbourhood has been China’s calculated response to serious diplomatic contentions in South and East China seas. China’s strategic community has since 2010 realized that commercial exchanges alone are not sufficient to build lasting partnership between neighbours and thus a more comprehensive interaction is needed with stronger emphasis on joint and inclusive development, people-to-people exchanges, reciprocal connectivity and shared principles of diplomatic conduct—a view clearly expressed during the 2013 forum on China’s peripheral diplomacy. There, Xi Jinping stressed the significance of periphery in ‘China’s overall development and diplomacy’ (Zeng 2017: 1170). He further asserted that,

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China, should focus on maintaining the peace and stability of its periphery and promote win–win and mutual benefits. It should actively participate in regional economic cooperation; accelerate interconnectivity of infrastructure and establish a Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Route Economic Belt. (Ibid.: 1169)

As Xi put it, neighbourhood diplomacy should be based on Qin (sympathy), Cheng (honesty), Hui (Kindness) and Rong (tolerance); all these principles are reflected in the effort that China has since made to build the BRI into a ‘community of shared destiny’ (www.people.com.cn 2013). Therefore, it is not surprising that the embryonic BRI in its public conception did not include Europe at all but was more of an effort towards regional integration of South and Central Asia with the Eurasian division of the Chinese Foreign Ministry (responsible for Central Asia) contributing to the preparation of Xi’s speech in Kazakhstan—the speech that announced the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’. The neighbourhood diplomacy forum’s declaration comes a month after Xi’s official announcement of the Silk Road Initiative during his state visit in Kazakhstan in September 2013. In contrast, the 16th EU–China summit that took place in Beijing in November 2013 does not mention the term ‘One belt one road’ at all, a lack also evident in the then released ‘EU–China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation’ which has been the key roadmap to guide Sino-EU relations to this very day. While today Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries have been among the most fervent supporters of the BRI, in November 2013 the term was not even mentioned in the China–CEE summit neither in the, ‘Bucharest Guidelines for Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries ’ (Zeng 2017: 1170). Only, as late as April 2014 in his speech at the college of Europe Xi declared that China and the EU, should also study how to dovetail China-EU cooperation with the initiative of developing the Silk Road economic belt so as to integrate the markets of Asia and Europe, energize the people, businesses, capital and technologies of Asia and Europe, and make China and the EU the twin engines for global economic growth. (Xi 2014)

By June 2014 China had started to proactively lobby European countries to participate in the initiative with the CEEC official joint declaration

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calling China and the relevant European countries to ‘seize the opportunities in the development of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ (Zeng 2017: 1170). A year later, in June 2015, China and the European Union joint forces acknowledging the potential synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and Europe’s $350 billion investment plan which was then designed to promote growth in Europe amidst the Eurozone crisis (Fu 2016). Yet, the deal fell short from winning European strategic support for the BRI and by May 2017 at the Beijing BRI summit, the EU objected to a joint declaration clashing with China over market access and China’s Market Economy Status (MES) (The Guardian 2017). In fact, as the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) put it, ‘the projects that have been proposed under the BRI umbrella in Europe are far less important than the huge infrastructure investments announced for countries as diverse as Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Djibouti, and of course Pakistan’ all located at China’s close neighbourhood (Godement and Vasselier 2017). This ex-post review of the BRI spending attests to the emphasis that the BRI has put on China’s neighbourhood. The realization that the BRI was therefore first conceived primarily as a strategy to advance China’s periphery diplomacy and not to strategically deceive Europe and integrate Eurasia at the EU’s detriment, is crucial in forming a joint strategic narrative (Ghiasi and Zhou 2017). Europe is no different from China. It has also designed its own ‘neighbourhood policy’ (ENP), outlined in 2003 revised in 2013, which have nonetheless faced serious impediments in Ukraine, Moldova, Libya, Syria, Egypt and the Balkans. As Tsinghua’s Professor Yan Xuetong put it at the Delphi forum in Greece in March 2018, the East and Southeast Asian security system has been much more stable and peaceful than the European security system. For the past 30 years China’s neighbourhood has only experienced minor skirmishes mainly between North and South Korea whereas EU’s neighbourhood has been turbulent with military conflicts in Syria, Libya, Transnistria, Georgia, Kosovo and Ukraine. Those conflicts have produced waves of refugees to Europe and have empowered populist movements debilitating EU’s efforts to promote political integration. Therefore, while China is facing a classic security problem arising from strategic competition between great powers in its periphery, the EU is succumbing to chaos created by failed states and covert or overt foreign intervention by the USA. As the Economist eloquently put it, ‘Instead of

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having built a ring of friends around it, the EU is now surrounded by a ring of fireor an arc of instability’ (Chen 2016; see also EEAS 2015). The understanding of the different type of security problems that China and the EU face in their respective geographical peripheries is important to forge a joint BRI strategic narrative and then move to the next step towards issue specific joint narrative. As a French diplomat once put it to refute US arguments over the Iraq War in 2003, ‘the problem today is not rogue but failed states’ (Kagan 2003: 30), and failed states can be cured by concerted efforts for state-building. This means that there is a convergence of interests between China’s and the EU’s regional interests (Chen 2016). China due to its energy dependency to the Middle East (60% of its oil imports are from the Middle East) needs energy price stability and secure uninterrupted access to the region. Meanwhile the EU cannot afford politically to absorb more refugees from the crisis zones. The most promising way for the EU to avoid this predicament is to ensure that its periphery is stable, prosperous and a ring of peace instead of ‘a ring of fire’. This is a viable path for the EU to set itself free from being a prisoner of geography (Shi 2018). Towards that end, the BRI could indeed serve as a platform where EU, China and countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East would optimize their economic synergies and support rebuilding and state building in areas devastated by conflict (Issue Narrative). For this to be successful, it is essential to also discuss about security, in a dialogue which could perhaps be sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) or a newly established Mediterranean security organization structured along these lines with the participation of China as a partner, an idea that the esteemed career ambassador Alexandros Malias of Greece views as crucial for de-provincializing the Mediterranean sea and making its Southern and Eastern shores more stable, secure and prosperous (Eliamep.gr. 2016; see also Ghiasi and Zhou 2017). It is self-evident that this would produce great dividends for the EU which would manage to stabilize its soft strategic underbelly, limit migration flows and increase its economic linkages with a growing market of a modernizing North Africa. China would also benefit with uninterrupted trade, stable energy prices and political stability in its most essential global market. In return for China’s constructive commitment to Mediterranean security, the EU could offer a more balanced engagement in Central and South East Asia by engaging with both India and China on equal terms.

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The EU should abstain from calls to undermine China’s economic diplomacy in the region.2 Instead of taking sides, the EU could support a rules-based system with international law at its core and nudge both China and India to resolve disputes peacefully. Furthermore, with France at the UNSC the leverage of the EU on issues concerning security in South East Asia remains important while French and British military bases in the region are also significant (Mohan2018). The shared SinoEU geographical strategic narrative of the BRI could be: Peace, Stability and Shared Prosperity across Eurasia: A war on underdevelopment. These are concepts that the Chinese government has already endorsed and the EU should have no problem endorsing either, particularly after evaluating the aforementioned geographical specificities of China, but also and most essentially, EU’s own pressing security and developmental needs in its close periphery. Balancing the Power Asymmetry: No Unipolar Moment for China The power gap between China and the EU and the capabilities that each side has to influence global affairs has long been at the core of the analysis concerning China–EU relations. The Kissingerian question on who to call to reach out to the EU has since the early days of Sino-EU relations created a capabilities-expectations gap (Hill 1993; see also Tsuruoka 2008). China would reach out for an agreement to Brussels but Beijing would then realize that the EU either did not have the administrative capacity or lacked the strategic political cohesion to undertake a long-term binding commitment. However, at the beginning of the post-Tiananmen period the EU’s substantial economic clout and its enormous market were adequate balancers to EU’s military and strategic irrelevance with the EU often being framed as an economic giant yet a political pygmy (Kagan 2013; see also Holland and Chaban 2010: 13). Moreover, back then, there was a consensus in the Chinese strategic community that the end of the Cold War would eventually make the EU a more independent actor

2 According to some authors EU’s interest converge with the Quad countries. Europe

does not need to sacrifice its relationships with the Quad but pursue a balanced engagement with all regional parties and do not take sides. Mohan, G. (2018). Europe’s Response to the Belt and Road Initiative. The German Marshall Fund of the United States. Available at: http://www.gmfus.org/publications/europes-response-belt-and-roadinitiative. Accessed 13 April 2018.

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in global affairs as America and Europe would strategically drift apart. This potential power upgrade of the EU along with a rising China would lead to a multipolar international system and check US power—a prime concern for Chinese national security. In fact, more than 50 experts in European studies from all over China gathered in Beijing in November 1990, to theorize on the evolving economic and political architecture of the European system after the unification of Germany and the future composite national power of the European Community (Zhang 2015). The consensus among the participants was that Europe was undergoing a transitory period and its future power would ascend, provided that the process of integration would continue. More importantly, participants were euphoric that in a postYalta system, a united Europe would eventually become a powerful pole transforming the system towards multipolarity (ibid.). Therefore, after the 1992 Maastricht treaty which further solidified European integration by introducing a common currency, Europeans could confidently assert that the power of a unified Europe would restore the global multipolarity that had been destroyed by four decades of Cold War bipolarity (Chang and Pieke 2018). This view was also shared by the superpower across the Atlantic with Samuel Huntington arguing that an integrated Europe would be ‘the single most important move’ balancing American hegemony and would lead to a ‘truly multipolar’ twenty-first century (Huntington 1999). For many Americans then the biggest threat to US power would be a politically unified Europe which would have the technological know-how and the economic clout to become America’s peer global competitor. This global consensus about EU’s ‘forthcoming halcyon age’ along with China’s need for export markets, global stability and a balancer to US immense power, motivated Chinese elites to closely engage with Europe. As a Chinese scholar put it, Since 1998, when the EU-China partnership was established, the EU has been represented in the People’s Daily as China’s co-operative partner. (Zhang 2015)

By the beginning of the twenty-first-century Sino-EU relations had started to enter a ‘honeymoon period’ culminating in the 2003 Comprehensive Strategic partnership. The strong reaction of Germany and France to US unilateralism in Iraq and the rising commercial competition

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between the US and the EU (Boeing vs. Airbus dispute and clash over food standards at the WTO) had made China optimistic of an increasingly autonomous EU which could partner with Beijing so much so that an eminent American scholar declared of an emerging Sino-EU axis (Shambaugh 2004). A 2004 power snapshot would attest to the power imbalance between China and the EU to the latter’s advantage. Back then the EU was the largest economy in the world with strong growth and a market of about half a billion consumers after its eastward enlargement internalized former Warsaw pact members (Huo 2004). Moreover, the EU was flirting with other potential candidates for further expansion in the Balkans and most importantly with Turkey and Ukraine with a combined population of more than 100 million. In addition, the Euro was then perceived as a successful currency and was slowly yet steadily viewed as a potential alternative to the US dollar. Shortly after the 2003 Sino-EU comprehensive strategic partnership, the honeymoon period ended abruptly. The EU, from a position of strength, had become more daring in showcasing its norms and value system across Eurasia and when the French president and German Chancellor met with the Dalai Lama in 2007—a year before the Beijing Olympics—Beijing cancelled the EU–China high summit and ended bilateral discussions on human rights and humanitarian assistance. By 2009 the power dynamics had clearly changed to China’s benefit (Holland and Chaban 2010). The Eurozone crisis (Lai and Zhang 2013) being exacerbated by unchecked liberal capitalism, political division within the EU and EU’s very inability to reignite economic growth, made European states increasingly dependent on Chinese investments and political support which China did not fail to deliver (The Diplomat 2015). With President’s Xi’s visit to EU’s headquarters in Brussels in 2014—a first time for a Chinese president—China offered a gesture of high symbolism to the EU and called for a new partnership ‘for peace, growth, reform and progress of civilization’ (Xi 2014). Nonetheless, according to some authors the motivation to reignite Sino-EU relations was also inspired by China’s strategic imperative to balance Obama’s pivot to Asia which Beijing considered as a strategy of containment particularly in trade and commerce with Washington spearheading the Transatlantic Trade Partnership (TTP) (Chang and Pieke 2018). Therefore, even after the complexities over human rights, as one author has put it,

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…today, in a context where the number of strategic partnerships has surged, the EU–China strategic partnership stands out as one of the most comprehensive between major powers. (Michalski and Pan 2016)

Today the BRI finds Europe and China in two very different positions of power. While China’s comprehensive national power will continue to increase in the years ahead, EU’s power will decline with its market shrunk after Brexit and its economy entrapped into a mode of anaemic growth and unsustainable demographics. China has already surpassed EU’s economy in PPP terms and Beijing is ahead of the EU in the number of unicorns; that is, start-ups valued over USD1 billion. China also enjoys significant lead in the internet economy and is promptly catching up in sectors that will shape the twenty-first-century industry such as industry 4.0 with president Xi declaring that China will soon, ‘…become a global leader in terms of composite national strength and international influence’ (Godement and Vasselier 2017). It is thus understandable that the EU is becoming increasingly timorous of the BRI seeing it more as a project which would crystallize Chinese power across Eurasia and ostracize European investors and commerce from the world’s most populous region. As the ECFR puts it, there are European concerns that ‘China’s trade advantage is moving upstream, into logistics, finance, cyber, and technology siphoning’ (ibid.). To build a shared strategic narrative accurately evaluating the dynamic change of power concentration in the system; the system’s polarity, China and the EU need to look outside of their bilateral microcosm of power and evaluate their relative power position in the global system. While it is true that China’s relative power will increase, it is important to realize that China’s power gap with the rest of the world will hardly reach the gap that America enjoyed after the end of the Cold War and in the beginning of the twenty-first century when the French declared the era of ‘Hyperpuissance’. This implies that however strong, China will be unable to act with the unilateral immunity that the US enjoyed. As mentioned earlier, Beijing is surrounded by other fast-growing powers or countries with big economies and strong militaries that will—to a certain extent—balance its regional influence and normalize China’s international conduct. To be sure, the EU’s national composite power will decline but its economy and diplomatic outreach will continue to be among the top 3 in the world for the decades ahead. In addition, if President Macron’s ambitious political initiatives materialize and the EU completes its fiscal union

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and the transition to a more solid defence cooperation then the decline of Europe will take place much slower than expected and could even be averted if the EU integrates its Mediterranean region.3 Meanwhile, across EU’s shores to the West, the US will also decline in relative terms yet Washington’s healthy demographics along with its sustained economic expansion will perhaps complicate transatlantic relations (The Economist 2002). In such a multipolar world, a revitalized Europe can act as a balancer and benefit from good relations both with a resurgent US and a rejuvenated China. The BRI in such a world of balanced power could become a project where the EU, China, India and other powers—perhaps even the US could participate in fair terms and promote strong economic interdependence and coordination. A shared power narrative would assert that the BRI is a project promoting reciprocal connectivity and engaging in global governance at an epoch of nascent multipolarity and hence work to make the project as transparent and as inclusive as possible: to multilaterilize it. Perhaps the early success of the AIIB into integrating European and Chinese investment norms and regulations should be used as a model for cooperation between China and European institutions (Shi and Trigkas 2015; The Diplomat 2015; Avgouleas and Trigkas 2020). Legitimizing the BRI: Performance, Principles and Procedures The crisis of the post-Iraq invasion world order, one prominent US scholar declared, is a crisis over international legitimacy, and this crisis can only be resolved not by hard military power but by ideas and norms (Kagan 2013). Legitimacy both domestic and international springs from either performance or procedures or principles, or an optimal combination of the three. China’s domestic legitimacy for instance has been based on the performance of its developmental model. As half a billion people have risen out of poverty, the CPC has been given authority to continue reform and development and citizens have willingly subordinated some of their individual rights to support a collective developmental goal. EU’s legitimacy springs mostly from procedures and principles or norms. The former stresses the rule of law the latter tells a story that justifies the outsourcing of national autonomy to a higher supranational authority in 3 For a Chinese view on EU’s defense reform and the PESCO see: Xu, Q., & Zhang, L. (2018). Strategic Autonomy and the Development of European Common Defense. Tsinghua Report on National Strategic Studies.

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Brussels.4 Thus, it is mostly in the world of principles and norms where the EU had long held a prime position. Framed as a normative power and inspired by its domestic legal order, Europe has been preaching for free trade, electoral democracy, liberal capitalism and diplomatic multilateralism as core tenets of a peaceful post-Cold War global order. Contrary to America’s coercive military interventions and draconian sanctions against what America frames as ‘illiberal regimes’, Europe has offered a more nuanced strategy of economic incentives with gradual liberalization and openness paying at least some respect to local cultures and social idiosyncrasies. As Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution put it, EU’s aversion to military power was based both on its incapacity to build a competent expeditionary force and its recent history of world war apocalypse. Europe had thus entered a post-modern age Kagan contended: ‘a post-historical paradise and achieved Kant’s perpetual peace’ (Kagan 2003: 3). The influence of post-modernity upon EU’s foreign policy was evident in its relationship with China and the bilateral dialogue on human rights, counterterrorism and global norms. The EU believed that the socalled ‘unconditional engagement’ with Beijing would gradually influence China’s polity to transition from performance legitimacy to principles and procedures. The freedom of goods would lead to the freedom of ideas as a new Chinese middle class would demand political participation and liberalization. To be sure, even realist America held such hopeful views about the power of free trade to liberalize China yet America also had a powerful military and a massive worldwide alliance system as a back-up. Europe lacked hard power completely and could not hedge its partnership with China strategically. For the early decades of the Sino-European relationship, EU’s confidence in its governance model was adequate to motivate Brussels to concede to Beijing’s demands on trade without any conditionality upon human rights and domestic political reform. At the highest point of EU’s normative power, in the beginning of the twenty-first century, Europe even clashed with the US

4 At the early stages of European integration legitimacy was based on performance with

coordinated policies and the common market boosting wealth. Gradually, procedures and norms became more important. Actually since 2008, inadequate performance has created a legitimacy crisis within Europe with procedures and principles been unable to keep the system calm, see Brexit, Greek 2015 referendum as well as the opposition to EU’s rule of law norms by Hungary and Poland.

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over the legitimacy of Iraq’s invasion and then confronted China on Tibet and domestic affairs. Yet since the 2009 Eurozone crisis, with its periphery in flames and with menacing demagogy rising at home, EU’s normative power has sharply receded (Lai and Zhang 2013). Rightwing populists—nationalists are now in government in Austria, Poland, Hungary and ascending elsewhere. Even in Germany which is the EU’s soundest economy, the xenophobic AFD has become the country’s third largest political party boosted by anti-immigration sentiment and fear of Islamic fundamentalism. While EU’s capacity to influence global norms has been in a precipitous decline, China has daringly entered its new era of Socialism with Chinese characteristics, declared confidence in its system at home and even asserted its relevance for other countries to learn from (Xinhua 2017). Since the early days of Xi Jinping in power it was evident that the era of keeping a low profile that Deng spearheaded in the late 70s would be replaced by the era of China striving for achievement and global recognition (Yan 2014). China’s economic clout would be compounded by the nation’s capacity to export its ideas and exemplary vision about the global order. Accordingly, under Xi China has followed a more entrepreneurial and ambitious rhetoric calling for a community of shared destiny, a new model of great power relations and it has domestically endeavoured to rejuvenate the nation with the Chinese dream. As two learned scholars have put it, to understand China’s effort for ideological confidence and global influence a study of the key terms in Xi’s political rhetoric is enlightening (Brown and Berzina-Cerenkova 2018). The most important terms include fuqiang (Rich and Strength), Minzhu (democracy), wenming (civilization), hexie (harmony), ziyou (freedom), pingdeng (equality), gongzheng (justice), fazhi (rule of law), aiguo (patriotism), jingye (dedication). It is self-evident that China is thus attempting to shift from performance legitimacy to normative and procedural legitimacy. This Chinese effort to shift towards normative legitimacy and strengthen domestic ideology has led to a backlash in the West with the US. Endowment for democracy framing China’s strategy to expand its ideology globally as ‘sharp power’ while others have warned of an ‘authoritarian advance’. In that adversarial ideological environment, the BRI has been wrongly framed by Western analysts as a tool for covert Chinese influence across Eurasia. The Economist magazine even called it a ‘debt trap’ and the MERICS in Berlin asked for a ‘Response to China’s

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Authoritarian advance in Europe’. Stressing the need for Europe to ‘act swiftly and decisively to inhibit the momentum of the CCP’s influence operations’ MERICS recommended a, ‘…stronger focus on leveraging the collective weight of EU member states, investing more resources into independent China expertise and providing alternatives to Chinese investments in Europe’. It is thus evident that the most difficult gap to bridge in forging a joint Sino-EU narrative over the BRI will be the one on ideology and normative sources of BRI legitimacy. Here is where the acme of creativity and political entrepreneurship is most essential.5 The starting point should be that neither political system is perfect and there is space for continuous political reform, opening up, development and mutual learning. For instance, the former president of the European Commission, Manuel Barroso is now working for Goldman Sachs a company that was implicated in the Eurozone crisis. That a former official of such high caliber is at the paycheck of an investment bank makes no sense to the governing morals of the CPC. Ideology and norms are also shaping the political economy. China is following a long-term development approach with emphasis on infrastructure while the EU is influenced by short-termism and quarterly capitalism as big financial corporations have hijacked the political process in Brussels and Frankfurt. As Anastas Vangeli of the Polish Academy of Social Sciences has put it, …the logic, which underpins China’s own development path, also informs the BRI, which is a vision that relies on government-to-government cooperation, with politics moving capital across borders, with the end goal being, paradoxically, to advance globalization.

Examining the case of China’s railway investments across the BRI which have been criticized as antieconomic by many western analysts, Vangeli (2018: 72) further asserts that for the Chinese, …a railway can be justified as having an added non-monetary value, as it contributes to flow of people, ideas and can therefore inspire new

5 For an elaborate analysis of BRI’s norms and discourse power see Vangeli, A., (2018). The Normative Foundations of the Belt and Road Initiative. In: W. Shan, K. Nuotio, & K. Zhang (Eds.), Normative Readings of the Belt and Road Initiative. Cham: Springer.

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entrepreneurial activity in previously unconnected areas. The promise the new railway holds is something that is worth getting into debt for—China is there to provide a loan, which will be repaid once the railway is built and contributes to the growth of the host country.

China of course has its own domestic economic inefficiencies and could learn from Europe’s welfare state and advanced legal tradition but Europe itself could learn from China’s success in infrastructure upgrade and Keynesian stimulus when monetary policy is locked into low interest rates (a liquidity trap). In addition, Europe should acknowledge that CPC’s governance has raised almost half a billion people out of poverty and has a positive global impact as China is now contributing to medical and environmental scientific research and is committed to a constructive behaviour over the global commons as in the case of climate change and global financial stability. Beijing could restart its dialogue with Europe on human rights and increase the interaction of the party with European intellectuals clarifying key ideological concepts and future reform paths thus helping to resolve ideological misperceptions. To be sure, it will perhaps be very difficult for the EU and China to jointly sponsor a BRIEurasian version of the ‘Atlantic Chapter’ yet they can both agree on a key premise that the BRI should be an initiative ‘safe for diversity’ where development and connectivity are key priorities and accordingly engage in a continental dialogue for plastic and amenable issue specific narratives. To facilitate such ideational convergence, mutual trust in politics, integration in economy and inclusiveness in culture should be at the heart of BRI’s principles and procedures and China’s actions should follow close on its public declarations and non-interference foreign policy narrative. Overall, mutual learning and dialogue about best practice and development could help in nurturing issue specific policy narratives.

Conclusion As Kevin Ruff, a former Australian Prime Minister and strategic intellectual of the first order has put it, a common narrative of mutually beneficial achievements will be essential for avoiding a Sino-US conflict. By similar logic a joint narrative on the mutual benefits of the BRI for Europe and China will be consequential (Rudd 2015). Without any doubt, there has been a lot of ink spilled evaluating the implications of China’s rise on the

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global order, development, industry, innovation, trade and many other aspects. The BRI for some authors will affect all these and if successful will drastically remake the world in China’s image. Yet this does not make justice to China neither to other important global actors like the EU. If the recovery of China from its century of humiliation is the disruptive narrative of the twenty-first century, then peace in Europe and the European integration was the keynote narrative of the late twentieth century. Yet, if the EU becomes more integrated, then the European story could still remain important into a world with rising securitization between Washington and Beijing. The upshot is that not only China but also the EU will be one of the pillars for global peace and stability in the decades ahead and due to their size both entities are too big and too important to fail; let alone compete into a zero-sum game for Eurasian domination. This realization on future power diffusion and China and the EU’s central positions into a multipolar system is the first input that Chinese and European strategic elites need to internalize in their operational code and thus shape a joint BRI strategic narrative accordingly. Neither China nor the EU will ever be able to enjoy US’s 1945 or 1991 unipolar moment. The constellation of power simply will not permit it. In addition, geographical specificities and the importance that Beijing and Brussels pay to domestic economic geography as well as regional and peripheral diplomacy can also help resolve the misperception that the BRI is a Chinese hegemonic project designed centrally by the occupants of the Zhongnanhai who strategize on locking Europe outside Eurasia. As we discussed in the first section of this chapter the BRI was conceived to mainly address regional and domestic developmental gaps. Furthermore, as Anastas Vangeli argued in a discussion with the authors, while most people see China as a monolithic international actor and the CPC as the mastermind behind the BRI, in reality, …the BRI is an organized assemblage of various bottom-up initiatives and programs, which is actually its main source of vigour and creativity. The most successful BRI projects are those with pronounced local-tolocal connection (e.g. Chengdu-Lodz cooperation) and those that serve to develop hubs and nodes of cooperation (e.g. special zones in Sihanoukville or Minsk).

Finally, the divergence between the political values and governance model of China and the EU while it remains the most difficult problem to

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resolve, it can nonetheless be bridged across the BRI if both sides support a Eurasia safe for diversity where each country and nation will develop and prosper based on its own cultural idiosyncrasies, and where the spirit of community and joint prosperity will prevail over great power politics. Human interaction flourishes when dialogue takes place under equality with respect to the ideas of both sides without any coercive imposition of narratives and norms. China and the EU should thus engage with communities across the BRI and listen to the local stakeholders and their needs while adjusting to cultural sensibilities. To catalyse a transition from a strategic narrative to a policy and issue specific narratives the empowerment of all venues of interaction between China and the EU is absolutely essential with a focus on people-to-people and entrepreneurial communities.6 City-to-city partnerships, educational exchanges and track 1.5, 2.0 fora should further be enhanced. The ongoing institutional partnership between AIIB and EIB should also serve as a model for greater cooperation among EU and Chinese ‘technocratic’ institutions and expanded accordingly. If past is prologue, then the EU should not be alienated from China’s BRI. Even the original BRI—the ancient silk road—had the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) as its natural end and this was never detrimental for the interests of Europe. Technology might have complicated the impact of the BRI today as countries compete for industrial resources and markets but neither China nor the EU can benefit by competing against each other in an international environment where the only rules are the rules of the jungle. The EU and China are blessed by geography to be far and thus minimize their security competition and also to be sufficiently near and populous to be each other’s most important commercial partners. The BRI should not change this status but instead boost it. To be sure the BRI is not a promethean venture that will resolve all global problem. Its success or failure will be owned by all the countries that will voluntarily participate in it. Europe will be stronger and safer engaging with the BRI and leveraging its vast resources with China. Yet, if it needs to also hedge its participation, then it needs to balance internally; that is to catalyze its own political integration, limit the wealth disparities between

6 As Asian culture highly values interpersonal relations, See: Holland, M., & Chaban, N., (2010). Perspectives on the Role of the EU: A Study of Asian Stakeholders’ Opinions from Six Countries. Stockholm: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

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European core and periphery, and ultimately celebrate its own unofficial 2049 anniversary along with China’s as an equal great power partner.

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PART II

Evaluating Narratives: Analytical Tools

CHAPTER 5

The Paradoxes Between Narrator and Audience in the China’s Narrative of Belt and Road Initiative Junchi Ma

Since the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, firstly announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, China and its partners have achieved many projects, for example X-Xin-Ou trans-continental railways, important to the transportation of goods between Asia and Europe.1 The Greek Piraeus port is another case, which will help to shorten transportation time, together with the China–Europe Land and Sea Express line through

1 The X-Xin-Ou trans-continental railway refers to several railways from Chinese mainland cities, to European cities such as Madrid and Berlin. All of these railways pass through Xinjiang province. Up to now, there are six of this kind of railways, Yi-xin-ou, Rongou, Shaan-xin-ou, Zheng-xin-ou, Han-xin-ou, and Yu-xin-ou. The author thinks that the Yu-xin-ou railway works better than others, since it brings more goods, especially high value-added goods, back to China.

J. Ma (B) Institute of European Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, People’s Republic of China e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A. Miskimmon et al. (eds.), One Belt, One Road, One Story?, Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53153-9_5

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Macedonia, Serbia, and Hungary.2 In Asia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, and other related countries have achieved some cooperation on highspeed rail and dams. These projects have drawn the world’s attention to China and its BRI, as audiences seek to understand the BRI and the goal of China behind it. Initially, no country understood the context and definition of it. After five years of China’s promotion with great efforts, there is clear division in attitudes toward the initiative. Some claim that it is a counter-balance, “divide and rule,” or “China-buys-the-world,” and there is even a “BRI”-phobia in some countries. However, others think that it is a good start to develop cooperation with China. This brings our focus to the issue of perception and communication between China, as the narrator, and its partner, as the audience. It creates a question: how is China’s narrative received and interpreted by its partners? Accordingly, the chapter takes Europe for example and tries to answer this question.3 Firstly, the author tries to give a picture of European perceptions toward the BRI, with the main focus on Central and Eastern Europe. Secondly, the author will address the question, under which condition does China behave as the narrator and its partners behave as the audience? The aim is to try to find the reasons behind the distinction between these European perceptions toward China and the Chinese narrative itself. Finally, the author will try to explore the further institutional mechanisms behind the narrator and its audience.

Part I: Views on the Narrator, the Narrative, and Its Aims This section gives a short overview of the recent foreign opinions on the BRI, mainly from the Central and Eastern Europe. Some are collected from five sets of anonymous elite interviews conducted by the author and some are based upon European scholars’ research published in recent years. The author organizes these opinions into three categories: the narrative, the aims of China’s narrative, and the narrator.

2 This project is still on the way, since it is the first large-scale infrastructure project in Central and Eastern Europe and has a great meaning for China’s presence in this region. This project is under investigation by EU. 3 “Europe” in this article represent EU, EU member states, and other non-EU countries.

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Views on the Cooperation with China—The Narrative Itself Lack of reciprocity in the cooperation between China and Europe is the dominant view concerning this topic. In the area of investment, there is lack of reciprocity of market openness (Seaman et al. 2017). According to this perspective, many European countries did not fully recover from the financial crisis and lack new economic dynamism. At that moment, China emerged as a giant through a great number of mergers and acquisitions in the name of the BRI. China took advantage of this situation and poured investment into the Central and East European (CEE) region as well as into Western Europe. However, China’s market remains comparatively closed. From those with this perspective, this situation also gives China an unfair advantage when bidding for European assets. Chinese investors are therefore able to leverage market access and outbid foreign competitors (ibid.), despite the fact that Chinese markets are more open than before.4 Europe calls for the opening up of Chinese sectors such as healthcare, education, telecommunications, energy, and public procurement. In addition, the so-called “Guanxi” or business network is also blamed by Europe. One possible way to avoid these is to sign an investment protection agreement with the Chinese central or local government (Brockova and Gress 2016). Furthermore, the form of Chinese investment cannot meet its European partners’ needs. At present, Chinese investment is merger and acquisition-oriented. However, although Hungary for example has the largest Chinese investment in CEE region, the inflow of Chinese FDI is highly concentrated and major industrial greenfield investments are still lagging in Hungary (Matura 2018; Éltet˝ o and Szunomár 2016). The case of Poland is similar: no recent big investment was initiated by China in Poland after the failure of the A1 highway project, which seemingly caused some hold-back on the Chinese side. In the area of infrastructure, the favorite investment mode for China is Build-Transfer (BT), which is also not preferred by European countries. According to Chinese partners, they prefer Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) or Public– Private-Partnerships (PPP), which can use local materials, hire local labor, and boost the local economy. In their view, traditional BT investment

4 Interview with the head of the economic section of Polish Embassy in Beijing. Place: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Date: 5 June 2015.

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can improve local infrastructure, but the future owner will face more risk. However, what China does is different from what its partners expected.5 In the area of trade, the trade deficit between China and Europe has not yet been resolved. Trade in goods between the EU and China is worth well over e1.5 billion a day, with EU exports amounting to e198 billion and imports to e374 billion in 2017 (EU–China Relations factsheet, 2018). The deficit even increased from 2014.6 In the trade of services, although there is surplus for EU, the value is not high and it is smaller than the deficit in the trade of goods.7 This situation is particularly obvious in the trade between China and Central and Eastern Europe. Thus, one of the main concern of these countries is how to boost their export to China. Views on the Goals Behind This Initiative—The Aims of China’s Narrative The dominant perception in this category is that the Chinese BRI is intended to reshape world order. This perception is not only shared by Europeans, but also by Chinese (Beeson and Li 2016; Chen 2016). Currently, China is promoting relations both eastward and westward. Eastward, China tries to hold and rebalance its relations with the United States; Westward, China enhances cooperation with countries on the Eurasian Continent and try to keep positive relations with Europe. If these countries maintain cooperation with China, then China will avoid many difficulties during its development. The alternative is that China will face obstacles both from its East and West at the same time. Firstly, China seeks less interference on what it regards as sensitive issues. To a certain degree, the bilateral relationships with China cause competition. This phenomenon is well illustrated in Central and Eastern Europe. Although China-CEE cooperation is built with the imagination of multilateral platform, it is much more like a combination of bilateral relations. There is lack of coordination and cooperation between CEE countries. As some scholars state, CEE countries take their neighbors as 5 Interview with an official in the European department of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Place: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Date: 26 January 2016. 6 http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/China-EU_-_internati onal_trade_in_goods_statistics. 7 http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/china/.

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a competitor in the cooperation with China, especially under the framework of 16+1 cooperation, in a wider competition for Chinese financial support (Simurina 2014; Przychodniak 2018). Today, in order to attract more Chinese investment almost every CEE country describes itself as a gateway to the West. Therefore, some think that China will take advantage of this logic to leverage these countries in order to guide them to overlook sensitive issues in China (Financial Times 2017). For example, the Czech Republic’s official attitude toward China and 16+1 cooperation has altered for this reason. Hungary did not condemn China on the issue of the South China Sea. Further, from this perspective, China may gradually gain political support in the EU in this way. Others think that since the EU do not award Chinese market economy status, China buys into CEE countries as a way to broaden its diplomatic influence, to establish a pro-China lobby within the EU (Kaczmarski 2015). Secondly, domestic stabilization is the internal goal of the Chinese BRI, as Chinese foreign policy is embedded in domestic issues. Today, one of the biggest challenges for China is the structural reform of its economic model, from investment- and export-oriented to domestic consumptionoriented. The dependency on export and low-wage labor is unsustainable under the current situation. At the same time, there is a long debt chain in the private sector with huge financial leverage, making banks try to hide large-scale bad debts. These negative factors will greatly affect domestic stabilization in China. Under this circumstance, China proposed the BRI to fulfill the need of Chinese people’s nationalistic sentiments (Sørensen 2015). From this perspective, the BRI is very helpful to unite the Chinese people in the current economic environment. It can build an image of a strong China, which shows great interest in infrastructure, industrial parks, and so on. All of this will stimulate nationalistic sentiment and makes Chinese people focus more on long-term, strategic goals, rather than the current economic environment. However, others think that nationalistic sentiment is the Sword of Damocles. China should cautiously balance, because if the nationalistic sentiment is stimulated too much then it will affect its neighbors and its own minorities. Nationalism could be a very dangerous tool with which China can achieve its goal (Fish 2014; Gruffydd-Jones 2017). Thirdly, China fosters legitimacy in the international economic and financial order through the BRI (Zhou and Esteban 2018). On the one

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hand, China gets a more important place in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. On the other hand, China has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and tries to achieve the legitimacy of China’s first international economic organization (Wilson 2017). Views on the Chinese Government—The Narrator Itself The BRI and government’s role are combined with the argument that central and local government’s intervention is still popular under BRI and possibly results in an un-sellable prospect for BRI. Although government repeatedly stresses that the market play be a decisive role in the economy (altered from “basic role”), the main Chinese big investors abroad are still the state-owned enterprises. BRI could even further boost the role of state capital in Europe (Hanemann and Huotari 2016). Besides, the stateowned companies are still playing a key role and enjoy their soft budget from the state-owned banks. Domestically, China uses the BRI to create competition between the provinces. Local governments try every means to exert their function in the BRI, in order to attract more attention from the central government.8 However, the most popular mode for the local government remains intervention. All of these will hamper the reform and if Chinese society and economy are unstable then China’s overseas engagement in the name of BRI will diminish too (Góralczyk 2016). In short, perceptions on the BRI are not just limited to the initiative itself, but are broadened to China, its government, its economic situation, and its domestic stabilization. From the short overview above, we can see that, when talking about the narrative, the narrator and narrator’s aim behind the narrative is always a concern. However, the behavior of the narrator, China, does not provide a very promising and clear prospect to its audience, Europe.

8 Interview with scholars in Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Place: Ljubljana, Slovenia. Date: 12 August 2016.

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Part II: The Conditions Under Which China as the Narrator and Europe as the Audience The Context for the Communication Between Narrator and Audience Lack of reciprocity in cooperation is the first thing that the two sides understand differently, and it is mentioned at every occasion concerning the BRI. The author will try to explain this issue from another angle. Regarding market openness, both China and Europe focus on the force of market, but in a different way. It is true that the Chinese market is not so open, transparent, nor regulated as the European one. During the time of Reform and Open, China did not implement such policies as Eastern Europe neither. The most famous saying about this is “Crossing the river by feeling the stones,” which represents a phased reform principal, contrasting to the shock therapy in some Eastern European countries. The author did not approach and value these two strategies as good or bad. The more important thing is the lesson learned by China and other countries during the last global financial crisis. At that time, Hungary, Latvia, and other Eastern European countries experienced a depression and Hungary, the so-called “frontrunner in transition” (Kezdi 2002), even became the first EU country to be rescued by the IMF after the crisis.9 Following the uprising of Viktor Orbán, Hungary started to limit the role of foreign-owned enterprises and experience a re-transition (孔 田平 2016). The lesson learned by China from this is that we must ask whether the transition and the neoliberal economic theory, represented by Washington Consensus, can really create growth with sustainability or not. Sustainable growth is welcomed by all countries, but the approach to achieve is still under discussion. Europe urges China to be more open, in order to let more European enterprises enter, however, what China ponders is that whether China would be another Hungary in the future. In fact, in the issue of lack of reciprocity, both Europe and China are in the same context and talking about one thing: Europe pursues the force of markets, while at the same time, China has a more cautious attitude toward that force. Moreover, the force of markets and the phased reform policy have changed China slowly and make Chinese markets heterogeneous. This

9 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2008/oct/29/hungary-economy-imf-euworld-bank.

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trend will continue in the future. For example, in the southern part of China the trade environment and the government is more open, the market is more regulated and policies are more transparent, since this part of China was the pilot for Chinese private economy during the “Reform and Open” era and are always the frontrunner in economic reform. In contrast, the north-eastern part of China is more closed since they are still suffering from over capacity of their industries, which was deeply influenced by the former centrally planned economy. The western part of China is now developing very quickly with the support of the government, since it is an important part of BRI. So the market forces do exert effect on China step by step. The only thing is that this change did not happen as Europe expected.10 As for the issue of investment, both China and Europe have concerns about supply and demand, but also in a different way. On the one hand, Chinese industries suffer from over capacity and low added-value, which hinders the Chinese economy. Although Chinese GDP is still increasing slowly, according to official data, these real structural problems remain unsolved. It is an urgent task for China to change its model for growth. On the other hand, there were some European enterprises who suffered from their capital chain and attracted attention from Chinese enterprises. Furthermore, after the global financial crisis, many assets were undervalued in Europe. From this point of view, China did not “invade” or “buy” Europe. Rather China discovered these opportunities and took advantage of these demands originating in European markets. In fact, the US also invested similar amounts and bought a lot of European companies during the financial crisis in a similar way (EY report 2015). It seems that they did not generate as much attention as China did. Perhaps Chinese investment itself is not the real concern for European and other partners. The very possible reason for it is the concern over national security or Chinese industrial upgrade in a big pace, since, through these investments, China can go directly from 2.0 to 4.0 (Bradsher 2017; Conrad and Kostka 2017; Casarini 2006). Moreover, the popular model for the investment from China is merger and acquisition, which is understandable if the investments are examined 10 In this paragraph, the author didn’t mean to deny the European market and its way to approach. The European enterprises do have the positive effect on China, when they increase a healthy competition in a market. It will help Chinese market and enterprises to be more competitive.

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by the demands of Chinese enterprises. To upgrade its industry, China needs to rise into the upstream of industrial chains. Generally speaking, merger and acquisition is the fastest way to achieve it. It is also the most secure way. Chinese investment into Europe faces unfamiliar regulations and markets, especially regarding the process of investment in the upper section of the industrial chain. This is unlike the western multinational enterprises, who invest into the lower part of the industrial chain and a destination whom they are familiar with, one related to home attributes, in order to find low-cost labor, for example, German enterprises in Eastern Europe (Davies et al. 2015). Upstream investment and greenfield investment are much riskier compared to downstream investment, since they involve a new learning process for enterprises. As for the investment issue, demand and supply are based on the strategies and demands of enterprises. Since China is still a new learner, it seeks the most economical and safest way to meet demand in Europe. However, Europe expects China to be as mature investor as themselves. Europe’s unfulfilled expectation creates the gap. As for trade issues, the issue of the trade deficit is exaggerated. Taking Central and Eastern Europe for example, these countries have been pushing for more export of their agricultural products to China. However, their annual production is too small to even meet the needs of market promotion in China. Therefore, China’s Agricultural Ministry and State Quality Inspection Administration will not start the process for import quotas, since it is a complicated and time-consuming process and the annual amount of this product is small. Moreover, both China and the CEE region are deeply immersed into global industrial chains. The volume of trade between China and this region partly depends on multinational enterprises. It makes the situation sophisticated considering that the final destination is not the CEE region and some are the intermediate products. These two factors have to be taken into account when the deficit issue is raised. Overall, the different attitudes toward reform, the different concerns over investment as well as some objective factors create the issues between China and Europe discussed here. However, when we try to approach these issues, we find out that the focus of communication between China and Europe is based on the same context: the market. The only difference is that the two entities see the same context from different perspectives and put emphasis on different aspects.

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The Narrator’s Methodology of Promotion Since BRI was proposed in 2013, it has received powerful high-level Chinese support and is backed by a large investment of political capital. However, to its audiences, “this elephant” is still too big to be fully understood (De Jonquières 2016). How to promote it becomes a big challenge for the Chinese government. At the beginning of the BRI, there was much speculation about its nature. Commentators around the world asked, was it a new Marshall plan, a new pivot to US and so on. Accordingly, Chinese government officials, scholars, and reporters all tried to clarify that what this initiative is not, in order to reassure these doubts worldwide and narrow the speculation. But the mechanical repetition of clarifications did not help and made people more confused. The meaning of BRI became more opaque. Phase two then arrived. In 2015 the Chinese government issued a document titled by “Vision and proposed actions outlined on jointly building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road,” which attempted to define the key priorities and the countries along the BRI. Public diplomacy kept filling the content of this initiative, explaining how it was not only about infrastructure projects or trade and investment, but also education, media, local development, and so on. According to one of the Chinese official news media outlets, some Chinese universities will even degree Belt-and-Road-Initiative-ology (or we can name it as BRI-ology) as an official major in the university (参考消息 2018). In this phase, BRI becomes an official slogan on every occasion. In phase three, BRI merged with previous policies. Some policies initiated before the BRI were absorbed into it, such as China-CEEC cooperation (16+1 cooperation). There were even some rumors that this cooperation will be decreased or ceased due to BRI, since according to official declaration, all 16 countries are “on” the BRI. From this brief history, we can see that the BRI keeps enlarging itself with the help of both government and public, from “what it is not,” through “outline and fill,” to “absorb the previous.” The transformation of its name also illustrates this. The early common name is “One Belt One Road.” The government changed it to “the Belt and Road.” The early name can be explained by the two routes, namely, “Silk Road Economic Belt” and “21st-Century Maritime Silk Road,” but the new name is much more abstract and looks like one entity. Until now there is still lack of a clear definition for this initiative, not to mention about the methodology

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of promotion. Therefore, in fact, none of these three phases can be called a clear methodology of promotion. Under these circumstances, BRI is still bound to be a geopolitical ambition in the eyes of its audience, despite the fact that the narrator and audience are within the same context. However, there are some principles worth noting during the promotion. Firstly, China is very cautious to avoid any interference in local politics in BRI partners. China is indeed rising in the world and draws global attention. But at the same time, as the opinions in Part I demonstrated, many state that China is still weak due to many internal structural problems. It seeks new dynamics of economic growth. It looks for a new role in the context of evolving global political and economic order. That is exactly why China calls for a peaceful rise. On the one hand, it does not want to stir up political conflict with its partner countries. On the other hand, it lacks the ability to deal with them. More importantly, the speed and historical period of China’s rising is different from the time of the US’s rise, or Germany’s rise, and the way each country rises is also different. Therefore, its audiences also need new ways of perceiving a new rise in a different time and different way. Secondly, China knows that its investments or funds cannot change political trends or institutions of its partners, and China does not intend to do this either. These two countries have been supported by EU funding for many years, but the funds cannot stop Mr. Viktor Orbán and Mr. Jarosław Kaczynski’ ´ attitude and their approaches to governance, respectively. The domestic political scenarios in Hungary and Poland are not stopped nor improved by the EU fund. The same goes for China. Chinese investment cannot change its partners’ political attitudes or modes of governance in their own countries, let alone bridge the huge gap in the amount between China and the EU. Therefore, China has no ability to change European attitudes toward some sensitive issues, like Tibet, Xinjiang or the South China Sea. Chinese partners have their own considerations and opinions on these issues. In this sense, CEE countries cannot be used as a way to broaden China’s diplomatic options, nor to form a lobby inside the EU. In summary, the narrator is trying to push its narrative to the audience but through an unclear methodology and principles. This severely hinders the narrator’s narrative. European experiences color their perception and interpretation of the BRI, and make themselves skeptical of China’s ultimate goal for the BRI. All of these factors manifest in the problem of

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interpretation. As a result, each audience can only perceive this narrative by its own historical experience and logic, which offsets the narrator’s efforts.

Part III: Paradoxes Between China as the Narrator and Europe as the Audience As stated above, although China and Europe are in the same context of a global market economy, the narrator’s original narrative cannot be accepted and interpreted as efficiently and accurately as in the narrator’s imagination due to the lack of an effective methodology for narrative projection and because of the embedded perceptions of European audiences. It is not an easy task, especially when there are some paradoxes aroused, which the author has indicated in the analysis so far. The first paradox concerns the double standard of audiences in the process of communication. Many western countries always express concerns about the Chinese approach to investment and trade, as mentioned above. For example, in the CEE region Poland complains about the trade deficit and Hungary complains that there has been no more greenfield investment since 2009. However, trade is decided by the needs of markets. Poland has a big trade deficit with China, which means Polish exports less products to China. The Chinese market needs less Polish products. Maybe the famous Polish apple is not tasty for Chinese people. The EU and some European countries always stress that the market economy status is not proper in China, and that the Chinese economy is not open enough. However, it seems that on the issue of trade deficit, they never realize what the market needs. If China will subsidize imports from Poland the trade deficit will improve, but China will be faced with more critics. Moreover, as explored in Part II, mergers and acquisitions are much safer for Chinese enterprises to invest in Europe. Mergers and acquisitions are also a popular and reasonable method in global business. Thus the first paradox is that in some areas, when China, the narrator, behaves according to the audience’s rules or norms (in this case, the norms of a market economy), Europe criticizes China, because this narrator cannot meet the needs or expectations of the audience. When China behaves in another way, they criticize even more stridently, because the narrator cannot promote its narrative in the audience’s context.

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The second paradox is about the kind of engagement a great power should undertake on a global scale. China is a rising great power in the world today. Accordingly, some expect China, as a great power with global influence, to be not only the motor of the world economy, but also an active actor in global geopolitical crises. Former Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said in a public speech in China that although the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy pays a lot of attention to neighbors’ geopolitical issues, the EU needs to build a strategic partnership with countries beyond the EU’s border. China is in first place. Any strategic partnership, he argued, especially an EU–China partnership, should not be limited to economic cooperation. Chinese BRI should go beyond the connectivity between Eurasian countries (Waszczykowski 2016). However, China takes more cautious steps to avoid doubts about its intentions. Take Ukraine crisis as an example. The Chinese position is an ideal approach to understand the narrator’s promotion of its narrative. During the Crimea referendum, China abstained from voting at the UN. The former Chinese ambassador to the UN, Liu Jieyi, stated that the current situation in Ukraine was highly complex and sensitive and has regional and international repercussions. The result is a complex intertwinement of historical and contemporary factors.11 This action by China made many countries unsatisfied. They considered it as an irresponsible action. But China thinks it should avoid stirring the dirty water again even in the case of losing big economic profits in Ukraine. China chose a low-profile way to show its narrative but its audience did not receive this signal. Assuming that China begins to play a larger role in South-Eastern European politics, particularly where the influence of Russia and Turkey is felt, Chinese action could be considered a way to drive Russia further away and block Turkey. For the EU, China would be a big obstacle for the EU’s integration efforts in the Balkan states. That would be such a really serious problem that China would no longer be able to implement the BRI. These actions will be interpreted as China’s evident geopolitical ambition. The narrator and its narrative will be completely rejected by its audience. For these reasons, China tries to stay far away from the political conflicts in its foreign partners, and just focus on pragmatic cooperation. This is what China is doing now. But it seems that the narrator is in a 11 Statement by Ambassador Liu Jieyi after Security Council Voting on the Draft Resolution on Ukraine, http://www.china-un.org/eng/hyyfy/t1140296.htm.

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trap. There are always critics from the opposition side when the narrator chooses one side. The third paradox is about the interpretation of great power. There are many smaller countries on the BRI. Historically, these states have been deeply influenced by traditional great powers like Russia, the US, Germany, and France. Even today, these great powers’ influence continues in many forms, such as NGO training, government official training, and religious networks. In the eyes of smaller countries, the phrase “great power” is not a very positive word. This kind of influence can even arouse serious security issues, as in South-Eastern European countries. One of the Assistants of the Serbian Foreign Minister said in an interview for this research, “Serbia is surrounded by EU and NATO. Germany also pushed Northern Europe and Baltic countries for sanction to Russia. All of these harm Serbian interest and all of these are the results of great powers’ influence.”12 Even between the big countries, the idea of balance between the great powers has been pursued for centuries. Therefore, in the eyes of small states, China as a new great power on the rise will definitely use the BRI as a tool to achieve a new geopolitical ambition. Accordingly, China avoids the use of ideological or geopolitical words as much as possible, and also puts pragmatic cooperation on the top of its agenda, in order to create a pragmatic environment to ensure the development of itself and its partners. However, it may not succeed because its audiences’ historical experiences mean that some of them will take almost all Chinese actions under the BRI as a long term geopolitical step. China hopes to deepen cooperation with Europe and promote its narrative in the audiences’ context, but the pragmatic slogan alone will not change its audiences’ historical experiences. That is why the more China promotes, the more new doubts emerge. The last paradox is about entities of cooperation under the BRI. In China, the government has more ability to lead the investment of capital, then promotes its narrative through the official level and drives stateowned companies and public organizations to project and promote the narrative at the same time. But its audiences use another way, on the contrary: the capital-driven, rather than government-driven. This essential difference makes China’s narrative harder to be accepted by China’s audiences, since big companies are backed by the Chinese government 12 Meeting during the author’s visit to Serbia. Place: Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Date: 18 June 2016.

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and not driven by the market. They will not appear independent to European audiences. However, it could be a big advantage of cooperation with China. How? Assuming the main entity of cooperation is private enterprise, which concentrates on short-term profit, it can hardly invest in a power plant, highway, or railway in Europe. These companies have more chances for immediate profit in locations closer to or inside China. They also need to pay extra costs for learning EU rules and regulations. If the BRI narrative is promoted by these private companies, then the whole BRI will never succeed. Under such circumstances, European partners will complain more about China, because few Chinese private enterprises are willing to invest in Europe—those enterprises all prefer a familiar market with looser regulations. So, to a certain extent, the Chinese government-driven way does achieve some projects under BRI, and it does promote the government’s narrative to its audiences. To its audiences, these state-backed entities do not help the interpretation of China’s narrative. However, to China, this is the most suitable and efficient way to promote the BRI.

Part IV: The Institutional Gap Behind the Paradoxes Until now, the author has given answers to the questions raised at the beginning of this chapter. It is these paradoxes that bring about the perspectives on the Chinese narrative and it is under these paradoxes that China acts as narrator and Europe as audience. However, the next thing to question closely is: How could these paradoxes emerge? If we approach this question from point of view of the transition economy and institutional change, one of the possible answers could be found: the two institutional systems decide the different economic performance and their attitudes toward a narrative from another economic institution. In Europe, during the three trends of democratization (Nineteenth Century, interwar period, post-war flourishing—see Huntington 1993), old Europe has been adapting to and benefiting from the development of democratic institutions for centuries. Meanwhile, the new Europe, Central, and Eastern Europe, is still under transition in both its political and economic institutions, although officially the transition is over after their entry into EU. Today new Europe suffers from some old problems rooted before the transition and some new problems directly from the transition. Due to all these factors, new Europe never realizes its dreams

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during its transition. They dreamt to catch up with old Europe and improve their lives, but in fact the big transitional recession was waiting for them. After entry into EU, the growth lasted for only a few years. The financial crisis came and they are still in the slow recovery now. This is the fundamental reason for the new Europe’s division with the EU and old Europe. The so-called Hungarian “illiberal democracy” (Orbán 2014) is indeed a political institutional change on the surface, but it is also an attempt to find another way to boost its national economy, because the liberalism-centered transition and entry into EU did not bring the results as they expected. They distrust EU institutions and begin a search for the Third Road.13 However, all of these deviations are heavily criticized, without a full understanding and interpretation. The only popular interpretation is how to limit and bring these countries back into traditional European institutions. A similar thing goes for China. In the last century, China chose a slow reform policy, not the shock therapy as Central and Eastern Europe did. Until now, China is still under slow reform, struggling with many old problems once faced by Central and Eastern Europe and many never faced by them. In the meantime, China also witnessed the transition recession unfolding in CEE region and saw their economies during the debt crisis, which makes China more conservative in its own reform. However, partly thanks to it, China did not suffer so much from the crisis as expected all over the world. And, at the same time, China proposed the BRI. Under this circumstance, China promotes its narrative to Europe, as an audience. Europe then needs an interpretation of two issues: How could China achieve relatively better economic performance during the crisis, and what is China’s ambition behind the BRI. However, to the audience, the narrator is still in another institutional dimension. How to cope with this institutional gap is a dilemma at the source of reception and interpretation of the Chinese narrative. Some of the European countries realize this gap and became “the first person to try tomato” in order to understand China’s narrative. Those who do not can only find an interpretation inside their own institutional and historical experiences, and still take China’s narrative as signifying its geopolitical ambition into Europe. The author does not intend to judge the two institutions by value, nor the question of which one is better. But the narrator and audience can 13 Interview with the deputy director of Néz˝ opont Institute in Hungary, about the 2018 election in Hungary. Place: Budapest. Date: 11 April 2018.

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only understand each other if they both jump out of their own institution and historical experiences, then try to promote, receive, and interpret each other. In the author’s opinion, the so-called “win-win cooperation” is not only embodied in a concrete project but also in the attempt to interpret and understand each other without institutional limits. The success itself is a win-win cooperation.

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CHAPTER 6

China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the European Media: A Mixed Narrative? Li Zhang

Introduction The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has in recent years become one of the most important topics in China’s relations with the European Union (EU). In the joint statement issued after the 17th EU–China Summit in 2015, both sides confirmed their strong interest in each other’s flagship initiatives, namely, the Investment Plan for Europe and the Belt and Road Initiative from China, and decided to support synergies between the two and develop practical avenues for mutually beneficial cooperation (China and EU 2015). Although five years have passed since then, we have not yet seen any concrete cooperation between the EU and China. At the member states level, President Xi held meetings with visiting European leaders in Beijing in the first months of 2018, i.e. the French President Emmanuel Macron, parliamentary leaders of the Nordic and Baltic countries, the UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Ignazio Cassis, Member of the Federal Council

L. Zhang (B) School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A. Miskimmon et al. (eds.), One Belt, One Road, One Story?, Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53153-9_6

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and Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of the Swiss Confederation. One common topic in these meetings was the emphasis by President Xi on the collaboration between China and the individual countries of Europe on BRI. The signal from the Chinese side for cooperation in the framework of BRI has been clear. Nevertheless, the responses from the European side have not been as unequivocal as China had expected. Neither Emmanuel Macron nor Theresa May gave formal endorsement to the plan during their visits to China. Rather, they raised various concerns over it. At the European institutional level, it is reported that the EU would issue its own blueprint for Eurasia connectivity later in 2018 (Zhang 2018). In this context, how would China and the EU link the BRI with the new Eurasia connectivity blueprint? Or would the two plans compete with each other in the region? What would its implications be for EU–China bilateral relations? To answer these questions, we need to explore how the European side interprets, projects and narrates the BRI and China’s role in Eurasia and the world as a whole. Taking the strategic narratives approach, this article probes the narrative of the BRI, focusing on an examination of the coverage by the European news media. It examines the media narrative from three major European countries, namely, the UK, France and Germany. The following text will first contextualize its analysis of the strategic narratives in EU–China relations and the projection and interpretation of the BRI narrative. Then it will explain the method of media analysis before moving on to an examination and comparison of the narrative of the BRI in the European news media. The final section concludes the chapter with a discussion of the role of media strategic narratives in EU–China relations and the potential for bilateral collaboration in the framework of the BRI.

Contextualizing the Strategic Narratives of BRI In the study of International Relations, media communication has played an increasingly important role. Scholars argue that the procedures of communication narratives can help to explain the major dynamics in international affairs, because strategic narratives are a means by which political actors construct a shared meaning of the past, present, and future of international politics that shapes the behaviour of domestic and international actors (Miskimmon et al. 2013: 1–2).

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In international affairs, one of the important soft power goals for international actors has been the rivalry to see whose story wins (Nye 2004b). The news media without question among the referees for the credibility or legitimacy of the resources of soft power (Nye 2008) have been chosen by international actors as key means of gaining influence and channels to project and form their narratives. With the development of information communication technology (ICT), we live in a mediated governing system. The transformation of media power has created new phenomena in foreign relations. The CNN effect argues that continuous media coverage of a humanitarian crisis has an impact on government decisions (Robinson 2002); media diplomacy refers to officials’ use of the media to communicate with state and non-state actors for building confidence and advancing negotiations, and for recruiting public support of political agreements (Gilboa 2001: 10). The news media can also serve as third parties in national and international conflicts by transmitting messages between the sides (Arno 1984). Hence, the media have joined the other actors in international politics. China in projecting its own narrative has given much attention to the international news media. With its reform and opening-up policies, China emerged as an international power. It has transformed itself from an outsider to a participant in the international community (Qin 2010). Correspondingly, it believes that it should project narratives that reflect its might as a great power in the international sphere, since this is also closely linked to China’s great power diplomacy and role in global governance. In its 13th Five-year Plan China stressed on building its international communication capacity and enhancing its right to speak in the international community (China 2015a). The media projection strategy in fact began even earlier. In 2008, China started to focus on external propaganda about the country and encouraged the Chinese media to ‘go global’. Although China has grown and risen as a power, the government believes that the Western media’s intention to project a demonized image of China (Li and Liu 1996) has not changed much; hence, the government should work on telling foreign audiences Chinese stories with a positive slant. It is said that in the Mao era, China resolved the problem of being beaten; in the Deng era, China resolved the problem of being starved; for the present Chinese generation, it is time to resolve the problem of being scolded (Mo 2013). China has been trying as President Xi Jinping proposed at the end of 2013, to project positive narratives of itself as a great civilization [wenming daguo], a great power in the East

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[dongfang daguo], a responsible power [fuzeren de daguo] and a great socialist country [shehuizhuyi daguo].1 This situation formed the context in strategic communication when the Belt and Road Initiative was first adopted and it provides the starting point for telling the story of the BRI to international audiences. The Belt and Road Initiative combines the Silk Road Economic Belt, introduced when President Xi visited Kazakhstan in September 2013, and the Maritime Silk Road of the twenty-first century, announced when he visited Indonesia the following month. This combination is one of President Xi’s flagship policies in international relations. Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has made three major contributions to China’s foreign policy. First, he proposed in 2012 the concept of a ‘new type of great power relationship’ that promised mutual respect and win-win cooperative partnership between two great powers. This new relationship is seen as a method for dealing with conflicts between an emerging power and an existing great power, mostly recalling Sino-US relations. Second, his foreign policy has focused on China’s neighbouring countries in Asia. Third, he established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and announced the simultaneous construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the twenty-first-century Maritime Silk Road, i.e. the Belt and Road initiative. Xi’s approach to foreign policy has been regarded as proactive or ‘assertive’ by the West. When Xi first announced the BRI, no official translation or detailed illustration was provided by the Chinese government. For this reason, foreign journalists, with no Chinese official documents to resort to, had to interpret the policy on the basis of their own knowledge and understanding. Many of the reports interpreted it as China’s Marshall Plan and wondered whether it heralded China’s neocolonialism. Strategically, the lack of narrative on BRI at the start put the Chinese government in a passive position in its response to foreign journalists’ misinterpretations. Only after such Western misinterpretation was widely circulated did the Chinese government and mainstream media in both Chinese and English explain the differences between the BRI and the US’ post-WWII Marshall Plan. The main difference was that the purpose of China’s plan was to seek mutual benefit and not to interfere in the internal affairs of the countries along the routes but respect their territorial integrity. 1 http://politics.people.com.cn/n/2014/0101/c1001-23994334.html, last accessed on 16 June 2018.

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Therefore, the Chinese government had to project an official narrative of what it was doing as soon as possible. In March 2015, three ministries in the Chinese government, namely, the National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Commerce jointly issued a document entitled ‘Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road’ (China 2015b). It narrates that the initiative seeks ‘mutual respect and trust’, ‘mutual benefit’ and ‘win-win’ cooperation between China and the countries along the Belt and the Road. It focuses on connectivity through building infrastructural facilities along both routes. The document also sets out five major promotional goals for the countries along the Belt and the Road, namely, ‘policy coordination’, ‘facilities connectivity’, ‘unimpeded trade’, ‘financial integration’ and ‘people-to-people bonds’. China attaches great importance to Europe, as the western point of the BRI. The document makes it very clear that the Belt and the Road run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asian economic circle at one end and the developed European economic circle at the other, encompassing countries with a huge potential for economic development (China 2015b). The transport that is envisaged would link China and Europe over land and sea, thereby helping to improve the long-term trade between the two sides. In this way, the EU and China can go ‘hand in hand and remake the world’ (Wang 2015b). The initiative emphasizes a multipolarized world order, economic globalization, cultural diversity and more widespread IT application (China 2015b). This description indicates that the EU and China, as the two poles of the world, could benefit from promote their prosperity, peace and friendship by Euro-Asian connectivity; it also takes up some of the points agreed in the EU–China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation (EU and China 2013). Although the BRI was first raised in Autumn 2013, its official recognition on the European side was not until 2015, when Premier Li Keqiang went to Brussels for the 17th EU–China Summit. Both sides decided to link the Belt and Road Initiative with EU’s Juncker Plan: Leaders decided to support synergies between these initiatives, and directed the EU-China High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue in September to develop practical avenues for mutually beneficial co-operation, including through a possible China-EU co-investment vehicle. (China and EU 2015)

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These official narratives sound positive and promising; however, there may be some discrepancy between the narrative that the political actor projects and the interpretation of it by other actors. How has the BRI been presented in Europe? What narrative of the BRI do the European media project to their audiences? To answer these questions, the paper next examines in more detail the BRI narrative in the European news media and explores the differences, if any, between the media outlets in Britain, France and Germany. Data Collection and Analytical Approach The study examines the narratives in six elite news media from Europe. British citizens voted for Brexit in the June 2016 referendum, but the UK is still a member state of the EU at the time of writing this chapter. Moreover, the UK was the first Western country to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a pilot for the BRI. Therefore, this study chooses the media from the UK, as one of the traditional Big Three countries of Europe. It examines two reputable media outlets from the UK and the two others as well. Assessing each medium’s popularity as well as its depth of analysis, the chosen six elite media outlets are The Guardian and The Economist for the UK, Le Figaro and Le Monde for France and the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), and Der Spiegel for Germany. The BRI has such names in these media as the New Silk Road, One Belt One Road (OBOR) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The paper used the key words ‘China’ and the above three variants for three separate searches. For example, ‘China’ AND ‘New Silk Road’, ‘China’ AND ‘One Belt’, ‘China’ AND ‘Belt and Road’ for the English language media; ‘Chine’ AND ‘nouvelles routes de la soie’, ‘China’ AND ‘l’initiative de la ceinture et de la route’, ‘Chine’ AND ‘la ceinture & la route’ for the French language media’; and ‘China’ AND ‘Neue Seidenstraße’, ‘China’ AND ‘Ein Gürtel, eine Straße’, ‘China’ AND ‘Belt and Road’ for the German language media. After removing the duplicated stories and the stories in which the BRI was mentioned only in passing, altogether 108 news items from 1 September 2013 to 31 December 2017 were collected for analysis from the six media outlets. This number suggests strongly that the BRI issue was very marginal in the European elite media coverage of China, which is now in the news every day. For instance, a keyword search of ‘China’ in the Guardian for one year would generate hundreds of items.

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Besides the collection of media stories, face-to-face interviews were also used as a supplementary method. The author of the article is currently conducting a relevant study and has so far interviewed around 15 EU officials and European businessmen in China and Europe. Some material in the interview transcripts would also be used to help to explain the research findings if it is useful, though media analysis is still the major method for this study. Among the news items collected, 57 items came from the British media, 31 from the French media, and 20 from the German media. Only two stories appeared in 2013 and 5 in 2014. The French newspaper Le Figaro was the one first to report the issue, and one month later, in December 2013, another report appeared in The Economist . The BRI has gained more attention from the European media only since 2015. One major reason for this is that Premier Li Keqiang went to Europe in 2015 for the 17th EU–China Summit and introduced BRI to his European partners. The trip was fruitful; the Summit’s joint statement announced a link [dui jie] between the BRI and Europe’s Juncker Plan. The BRI finally drew the attention of Europe two years after it was announced. The coverage increased to 23 news items in 2015, had a slight drop in 2016 with 22 articles, but a big increase to 56 items in 2017. In 2017, also, China organized a Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which invited leaders from the countries along the BRI routes to participate. This was well reported in the European elite media. The present study employs the strategic narrative approach in analysing the representation of BRI as a news story. As argued by Miskimmon et al. (2017b), strategic narratives shape the structure, politics and policies of the global system and are tools with which political actors promote their interests, values and aspirations for the international order. ‘Narrative’ is normally understood as a sequence of events tied together by a plot line (Archetti 2017: 220). It is a kind of storytelling and helps readers understand where an event comes from and where it goes. The stories in the news provide a narrative of events happening in a place with news value. The Belt and Road Initiative, promoted as one of China’s most important foreign policies in recent years and which is pertinent to three continents, is an event of this kind and worth reporting by the European elite media. The way in which the stories on this Chinese policy are narrated may forge a shared meaning for European audiences and may therefore construct their understanding of China’s identity in the world. The analysis in the present study focuses on three levels of strategic narrative (Miskimmon

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et al. 2013): (a) issue narratives, which explore how the European elite media understand and project various aspects of the BRI to their audiences; (b) system narratives, which explore how the European elite media interpret China’s role in the international order or the media’s assessment of how the world order may change with China’s rise and the promotion of the BRI; and (c) identity narratives, which explore how the European elite media from three countries speak of Chinese identity in the world system. The present analysis will also be linked to China’s narratives about itself regarding policy, the international order and the identity discussed in the previous section. To understand how the European elite media interprets, projects and narrates the BRI at the above three levels, the study codes various variables. The policy nature variable mainly looks at the economic and political lenses through which the BRI is narrated; the policy intention variable analyses the interpretation of the reasons why China raises and promotes the plan in relation to the media construction of China’s identity in the region and the world as a whole; the policy consequence variable identifies the projection of China’s role in the international system in comparison to other global players, particularly vis-à-vis the United States. Furthermore, the positive or negative attitude the media stories adopted for the BRI is also coded. Both quantitative analysis of the variable coding in terms of proportion and representativeness and qualitative analysis of the variable discourses in terms of prominence are used to explore the three levels of media narratives of the BRI as a policy issue, China’s role in the world system and China’s identity. The following text presents and analyses the research findings in turn.

Media Narrative of the BRI as a Policy Issue Explaining exactly what China’s BRI signifies is not easy, even for the Chinese. Relatively, perhaps, the New Silk Road is an easier concept for Europeans to understand. The ancient Silk Road was a term coined by a German geographer in the nineteenth century. It refers to a network of trade routes linking China’s merchants with those of Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe, which was formed in the seventh century but was unusable for hundreds of years after ancient wars. Because ‘Silk Road’ is a more familiar concept for Europeans, it is a major reason in Europe for also calling the BRI the New Silk Road. For Europeans, the two-part ‘BRI’ is a very confusing name. However, the ‘belt’ is the

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‘New Silk Road’, a set of roads, railways and power projects aiming to tie China’s western regions closer to Central Asia and eventually to Europe. Moreover, the ‘road’ part of the rubric is not a land road, but a ‘Maritime Silk Road’ over the sea that is intended to link China’s landlocked south-west to South-East Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and beyond (The Economist 2017a). One news story comments that the BRI is being promoted because the Chinese President Xi wishes to look back on the old Silk Road era as a golden age, a time of Pax Sinica (The Economist 2016a). One prominent BRI media narrative focuses on defining the nature of the policy. Is it an economic and investment plan serving the interests of China and the other countries along the route? Or is it a geopolitical policy with certain political intentions? As discussed in the previous section, when President Xi first announced this policy, the Chinese government had no strategy of telling the world what the BRI was meant to do, in the first place. This then left a narrative void for other actors to fill in. The European elite media represented Xi’s Silk Road-building as China’s Marshall plan, a reference to America’s post-war policy of using its rising economic strength to secure its foreign policy ambitions (The Economist 2014a) and ‘a blueprint as clear as can be for colonisation’ (The Economist 2017b). The Chinese side attacked any comparison between the efforts of China to invest and the U.S. Marshall plan and refuted any link with imperialism such as the West once showed. Citing the Chinese newspaper the Global Times, Le Monde reported that …it is not a “Marshall Plan” because there is no “ideological discrimination” … This is not neocolonialism… because Beijing does not interfere in the internal affairs but respects the territorial integrity of the States… Its goal is the common development of countries along the Silk Road, regardless of ethnicity, religion and culture, and whether they are capitalist or socialist. (Pedroletti 2017)

Similarly, the British newspaper The Guardian cited a US consultancy to say that ‘the plan has the potential to massively overshadow the US’ post-war Marshall reconstruction plan, involving about 65% of the world’s population, one-third of its GDP and helping to move about a quarter of all its goods and services’… this scheme is ‘the biggest development push in history’ (Phillips 2017a).

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It can be said that the concept of BRI is not yet fully developed. Even in the official document entitled ‘Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road’, the definition is vague: that ‘[t]he Initiative is an ambitious economic vision of the opening-up of and cooperation among the countries along the Belt and Road’ (China 2015b). The document further adds: To be specific, they need to improve the region’s infrastructure, and put in place a secure and efficient network of land, sea and air passages, lifting their connectivity to a higher level; further enhance trade and investment facilitation, establish a network of free trade areas that meet high standards, maintain closer economic ties, and deepen political trust; enhance cultural exchanges; encourage different civilizations to learn from each other and flourish together; and promote mutual understanding, peace and friendship among people of all countries. (Ibid.)

From this narrative, the nature of the BRI can be understood as a huge investment and economic plan. Therefore, it could be expected that Europe’s elite media coverage would arguably have set BRI in an economic dimension. However, the coding results of the policy nature variable show that economic policy narratives were found in 61% of the European elite media, while 39% covered the BRI from the geopolitical standpoint. Comparing the media coverage from the three countries shows that 64% of British stories were inclined to describe the BRI as an investment policy with economic implications, while only 58% of French media stories and 55% of German stories did so. More German media stories, however, tended to report the BRI through a geopolitical lens. The British media were relatively inclined to narrate the BRI as an economic policy for co-development. Wording such as ‘Xi Jinping’s “One Belt, One Road” economic plan’, ‘China’s enormously ambitious infrastructure project, One Belt One Road’, ‘its “New Silk Road” plan to boost trade and economic relations with the rest of Asia, Africa and Europe’ and ‘China’s “One Belt, One Road” economic development strategy’ often appears in the news stories. This is hardly surprising. Since 2000, Britain has more often been China’s outward destination for foreign direct investment than any country in the EU. In the Sino-UK joint statement published in 2015 on ‘building a global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century’, the two sides pledged to

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‘enhance bilateral trade and investment’ (China and UK 2015). For the UK, at least in David Cameron’s administration, China and the UK were able to deepen the partnership between their financial services sectors and their cooperation on major initiatives, including Britain’s National infrastructure plan and Northern Powerhouse, and China’s One Belt, One Road project to improve transport links with Europe (China and UK 2015). In terms of the attitude, the proportion of positive elements in the BRI stories from the British media, 23%, also surpasses the proportion in the French and German media. Theresa May’s delayed approval of a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset funded by Chinese investment cast a shadow on the ‘golden era’ of UK–China relations. ‘But Brexiteers had promoted a vision of Britain outside the EU with closer ties to emerging markets like China’ (The Economist 2016b). In January 2017, a train named ‘East Wind’ carried goods from Yiwu, China to London. A few British newspapers reported this positively. The Guardian published a reader’s letter to the effect that the trip, ‘faster than a ship and cheaper than a plane’, fulfilled a marvellous purpose; not only would Britain benefit from this New Silk Road, but also the whole of Europe and central Asia surrounding the train’s route. The letter continued, ‘[a] successful New Silk Road will open up a new era of east-west economic and trade relationships… China deserves praise for this New Silk Road, which shows that a nation can achieve economic progress in partnership with others. Such a move does not require guns and bombs’ (Mathew 2017). In contrast, the French media coverage was the most negative, taking up 35.5%. It describes the BRI as a policy of global expansion to consolidate China’s position as the world’s second economic power and establish its global influence. One newspaper reported that ‘The Chinese pretend to engage only in the economy, but when we talk about transport infrastructure, it is about geopolitics’ (Vitkine 2015). Some even used very negative wordings, such as ‘China is advancing its pawns through its concrete diplomacy’ (Leplâtre 2017), ‘President Xi Jinping takes over the powerful myth of the Silk Road to advance its diplomatic and economic pawns on the scale of Eurasia’ (Falletti 2017), and warns that BRI is a ‘purely Chinese project that places China in its center’ and is ‘underestimated by the Western world’ (Pedroletti 2017). The German media did not print much about BRI until 2016. The acquisition of Kuka, a leading German robotic firm, by a Chinese company, Midea, can be regarded as a turning point. This acquisition

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raised German concern over China’s intentions. Since then Germany has tightened its investment screening rules. The German media interpreted the BRI as a geopolitical project that China plans to use to expand its influence on the world’s economy and politics (Süddeutsche Zeitung 2017a). It is in this way that the Chinese government wishes to increase its global power through economic expansion (Süddeutsche Zeitung 2017b). The German media show intense anxiety over this Chinese policy and have concern for the role of Germany in the region and the world. Their news stories describing the BRI often use words such as “aggressiv” (aggressive) and “offensiv” (offensive). This has continued in heated debates over Huawei’s proposed involvement in building Germany’s 5G infrastructure. While Angela Merkel has sought to keep open the prospect of cooperation with China, there has been substantial cross-party scepticism within the German Bundestag about cooperation in China which is reflected in reporting of relations in German news media. Speaking of concerns about Huawei, SPD member of the Bundestag Nils Schmid said recently that ‘The discussion about Huawei is becoming much more critical now in Germany…It is part of the broader debate about China as a system in competition with Europe, with a completely different governance model’ (Financial Times 2019). This resonates with the EU’s own designation in 2019 of China as a systemic rival. For European policy-makers, BRI so far is amorphous. The idea is not clear and the Chinese seem to tie everything to it.2 However, for many reasons BRI does matter and it has attracted increasing attention from the European elite media. China decided to invest $40 billion in the BRI countries to ‘break the bottleneck in connectivity’. This amount is much bigger than that required for the Marshall plan, which was said to amount to $13 billion (McFarland 2017). The vast project also brings opportunities, not only for Chinese companies, but also for Western ones, even though the Chinese ones may gain more.3 One news report says that the Silk Road strategies are presented as Xi’s gift to a region in need of infrastructure, and it is the foreign dimension of his ‘China dream’ of a rise to pre-eminence (The Economist 2017a). Certainly, it would also bring challenges to the US, with regard to traditional patterns of global trade and perhaps to the shape of the world order. The elite media from three

2 Personal interview with EU officials, Beijing, May 2017. 3 Personal interview with British businessmen, Beijing, June 2017.

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European countries have provided slightly different narratives on China’s role and identity in the world system from the promotion of the BRI.

Media Narrative of BRI on China’s Role in the World System Ever since the end of the Cold War, both the EU and China have been seeking multipolarity in the world order and have regarded themselves and each other as the poles in this new world system. In 1998, Song Mingjiang, then Head of China’s Mission to the EU, said when the two sides established a comprehensive partnership that ‘China and the EU are two important powers in the world… In the world of multipolarization and economic globalization, to reinforce their relations will benefit both sides’ (Wei 1998). During the past two decades, particularly with the deepening of EU integration, a multipolarized world order with a multilateral approach to international affairs has also been implicit in the narratives in the European news media. Nevertheless, no country can ignore the rise of China, particularly since it sailed through the global financial crisis and became the engine of the world economy. Now China has started to promote the BRI, which, from its rhetoric at least, would link over 60 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. This may suggest a different view of it, if we look at the world’s main trading blocs today. One bloc is the trans-Atlantic one, the other the trans-Pacific one. The former includes Europe, while the latter includes Asia; both take the US as their focal point. However, the BRI combines Asia, Africa and Europe in one big project. As one writer in The Economist points out, it ‘treats Asia and Europe as a single space, and China, not the United States, is its focal point’ (The Economist 2016a). To what extent does this mean that China would bring challenges to the current world order? The media cited above, from three European countries, on the one hand share the same narrative that China is one big pole in the multipolar world; on the other, their interpretations projected in different countries, differ slightly on the implication of the BRI for the world system. The British media argue that China may not change the existing system but that it is reshaping the economic and political order in the Asian region. One story is that ‘[a]s for multilateral efforts, China’s most eye-catching initiatives have worked around the existing system, not through it’ (The Economist 2017c). Similarly, another one says ‘In their open-handed approach to China’s periphery, Mr Xi and his fellow

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leaders have America in mind. They hope that countries brought into China’s developmental embrace will feel less willing to remain part of the American-led order of regional security’ (The Economist 2017a). In this way, as the majority of policy consequence coding suggests, perhaps as a long-term prospect, ‘China is not just challenging the existing world order. Slowly, messily and, apparently with no clear end in view, it is building a new one’, ‘starting in Asia’ (The Economist 2014b). If the BRI means more than infrastructures and transport, Euro-Asian connectivity also indicates that the economic centre of gravity is moving eastwards. The former British Prime Minister David Cameron and the former Chancellor George Osborne put China in a closer position for cooperation. In 2015 the UK was the first Western country to join the AIIB. In his visit to China, Osborne urged ‘Let’s stick together and make Britain China’s best partner in the west’ (Phillips 2015). This seems to have changed since the May administration took over. But the media seem to disagree with the government. One Guardian story in July 2017 opened ‘The UK ignores China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road plan at its peril; Post-Brexit, the UK will need to look east. So why does its transport investment strategy ignore the world’s greatest infrastructure programme?’ (Cram 2017). Another piece, beginning ‘[w]e are obsessed with Brexit and Trump: we should be thinking about China; It will no longer do to skip over the detail of the superpower’s beliefs and ambitions. What Xi Jinping says and does will shape our world’, comments that ‘[f]or many of us, skipping the big read on China has become a dangerous habit. We know we ought to try harder because China so obviously matters’ (Kettle 2017). Unlike the British media, the French media think the BRI is a manifestation of the new ‘balance of power’ created by China on the world stage. They believe that China is not just in the process of shaping the world order in Asia, but in fact it has already gained parity to the US. When China tries to connect the three continents of Europe, Africa and Asia, said Le Monde, it is in fact connecting ‘three world centers’: Europe, epicentre of the crisis financial but big consumer of Chinese products; the Middle East and North Africa, ‘epicenters of conflict’ but energy producers; and East Asia, ‘the epicentre of global growth’ (Vitkine 2015). A story in Le Figaro noted that ‘The largest foreign acquisition ever made by a Chinese company is part of a long-term vision in a sector considered crucial by Party strategists, with a focus on rivalry with the United States’ (Falletti 2016). The newspaper also saw European countries’ joining in

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the AIIB as ‘Beijing succeeds in marginalizing the United States’ (Baverez 2015). By way of contrast, the German media think that China is becoming a new centre in the multipolar world. It reports that for years, Xi Jinping has been unsatisfied to see Washington allowing his country very little say in institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (Follath 2016). Now China has set up two multilateral financial institutions of its own. One is the New Development Bank, also known as the BRICS bank, based in Shanghai, and the other is the Asian Infrasturcture Investment Bank (AIIB), based in Beijing. China is going to break the political dominance of the West and be the new centre of the global order instead of the United States (Follath 2016). In July 2016, President Xi said in his speech on the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party that the Chinese people were fully confident of providing a ‘Chinese solution’ to humanity’s search for better social institutions. The French newspaper Le Monde once interviewed the German ambassador to China, who said that in his view BRI was ‘a purely Chinese project that [placed] China in the centre and [was] underestimated by the Western world’ (Pedroletti 2017).

Media Narrative of BRI About China’s Identity How the European media narrate the new world system and China’s role in challenging the old one is closely related to the way in which they define China’s identity on the global stage. In international studies, a political actor’s identity influences its foreign policy (e.g. Wendt 1999; Katzenstein 1996). When an actor behaves in a certain way, it reflects its perceived capability and self-identity. A narrative of the US as a great power in the Cold War system was established over the 1940s and 1950s through several international cases where the US played an important role (Miskimmon et al. 2013: 43–44). The EU has since positioned itself as a normative power and has been exporting its norms and values to third countries (Manners 2002). Promoting a ‘China solution’ for development shows China’s confidence and perception of its own identity as a global power and participant in international communities. The BRI focuses on mutual respect, mutual benefit, win-win cooperation, joint responsibility and a shared destiny for mankind along the New Silk Road. These conform to China’s narrative of itself as a great civilization, a great power in the East, a responsible power and a major socialist country. However,

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not surprisingly, the media narrative in Europe pays little attention to China’s narratives about itself; rather, it focuses more on intentions and implications. The European representation of the BRI as a foreign policy move reflects the way in which Europe identifies China’s characteristics and identity. The French media provided a diversified characterization of China, for instance, ‘a great maritime power’, ‘a financial power’, a ‘future banker of the world’, a ‘global power’ and so on. The most prominent one, shown in the policy intention variable, sees China as an Asian superpower. Le Figaro reports that ‘[u]nlike America and Russia, contemporary China has no great military victory to its credit. She does not seek to shine by arms even though she knows how to use military intimidation in her quest for control of the South China Sea. She wants to become the undisputed lord of all Asia’ (Girard 2017). This resonates with the French media’s projection of China as having parity to the US in the Asian order. Le Monde also writes ‘OBOR is the mirror of Chinese ascension in this first half of the 21st century, the symbol of China’s return to the super ranks. OBOR must have a status, just as the economic architecture of the postwar era had, with American preponderance’ (Frachon 2017a). But in the future, perhaps, ‘in 2050, China, thus connected to Europe, will rise to the forefront of the world in terms of global power and international influence’ (ibid.). Unlike the French media, the British media think ‘it is still too early to call time on the pivot and declare China the next Asian hegemon’ (The Economist 2016c). In the eyes of the British, besides China there is India, another fast-growing economy in South Asia, and Japan in the East, the world’s third largest economy. Moreover, there is Russia who also competes with China for influence in Central Asia. Despite this, the British media do believe that China’s economic development has not only bound Asia into ever-closer economic interdependency, but more importantly, that ‘China’s rise is also uniting its neighbourhood in another way: in apprehension of its strategic ambitions’ (The Economist 2016d). Noticeably, the British media have pointed out that ‘China is a revisionist power, wanting to expand influence within the system. It is neither a revolutionary power bent on overthrowing things, nor a usurper, intent on grabbing global control’ (The Economist 2017d). Hence, ‘talk of “guiding globalisation” and a “China solution” does not mean China is turning its back on the existing global order or challenging American leadership of it

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Table 6.1 European media narratives of China and the BRI

Issue narratives

System narratives

Identity narratives

British elite media

French elite media

German elite media

The BRI is an economic plan for co-development China is a pole in the multipolar world, and it is reshaping the economic and political order in Asia China is a revisionist power to the world order

The BRI is China’s global expansion

The BRI is a geopolitical project

The world is multipolar, but China has gained parity to the US in the region of Asia

China is becoming a new centre in the multipolar world

China is an Asian superpower

China is an emerging superpower

across the board’ (ibid.). So far, China is only reshaping the world order in Asia. In the German media, China is an emerging superpower, which might be the centre of the world order in the future. Der Spiegel writes that ‘a rising China is changing the world’ (Buschmann 2017) and asks ‘do Chinese companies need globalization to help with their economy and to find a way out for over capacity? Or it is a plan to break the Western hegemony and conquer the word?’ (Follath 2016). The news story says that Xi believes that China is now strong enough to show its strength (Zand 2017). Table 6.1 summarizes the various assumptions and conclusions of the chosen representative media voices.

Conclusions Communication is power. Strategically telling your story so as to wield soft power has been highlighted by scholars in public diplomacy and nation branding (e.g. Melissen 2005; Anholt 2008). Media platforms have become a battleground for different narratives on international relations and foreign policy. But all media wear their ‘domestic glasses’ (Nossek 2004). China’s flagship plan of a BRI can be regarded as a story, but both the Chinese and the European media try to project their own narratives to serve their country’s interests. This chapter explores

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and compares the elite media narratives of the BRI in three European countries, namely, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. In all six European elite media, the coverage of the BRI is marginal in comparison to the media reports on other topics pertaining to China. But the British media has a higher volume of coverage. Since 2015 there has in general been an increase in the amount coverage in all three countries. Although the European elite media from these three countries are in some ways similar in reporting the BRI, they project slightly different narratives on the BRI as a foreign policy and on China’s identity and role in the international system (see Table 6.1). The British media tend to regard the BRI as an investment and an economic policy for co-development. They see the potential for UK–China cooperation on BRI projects and think that the British government should work more with China on trade and investment projects particularly in the context of Brexit. They represent China as a revisionist power who is reshaping the political and economic order in Asia, but not changing the world system at the global level. The French media regard the BRI as part of China’s global expansion strategy. They believe that China is a superpower in Asia and has parity with the US in the region, though at the global level it is still a world of multipolarization. The German media treat the BRI as a geopolitical project with a certain intention to challenge the current world order, so that China can, as an emerging superpower, become the world’s new centre, replacing the US. Global power brings dominance over ideas, agendas and models. When an emerging power appears in the international community, it dissects the narratives, arguments and assumptions of the West and counters them with a different view of the world (Zakaria 2008, cited in Miskimmon 2017: 87). The European media write that in ‘building a “new silk road” across Asia to Europe as part of a far-ranging diplomatic and economic offensive’, China ‘is preparing for a “post-western” world’ (Nougayrède 2015). When China provides a view that counters this vision of itself, Der Spiegel argues that for Europeans ‘the problem is not that China has a strategy, but that we have none!’ (Buschmann 2017). The narratives in the German media show more anxiety about China’s rise and the promotion of BRI for Europe. A recent article published by a German think tank also observes that China’s rapidly increasing political efforts to influence Europe and the self-confident promotion of its authoritarian ideas pose a significant challenge to liberal democracy as well as Europe’s values and interests (Benner et al. 2018).

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In the past, the countries of Europe usually looked across the Atlantic for allies that could ‘ensure their stability in the world’. ‘But the habit of mind that assumes that 21st century Europe and North America will continue to evolve together much as they did in the 20th century is no longer sound’ (Kettle 2017). Both President Macron and Chancellor Merkel’s visits to the US in April 2018 produced no perceptible progress on the US’s imposing tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Europe. In the meantime, the world economy is moving eastwards. Shouldn’t Europe have a look at the East? There is a huge potential for Europe and China’s working together for better Euro-Asian connectivity and collaboration. Based on mutual respect and joint responsibility, the two powers in the multipolar system could enter a win-win game. Acknowledgements The research is supported by China’s National Social Science Fund, Project No. 17BXW044. The author would like to thank Li Cui and Xiao Ou Xing for their assistance in part of the data collection, coding and translation.

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CHAPTER 7

Chinese Strategic Narratives of Europe Since the European Debt Crisis Zhongping Feng and Jing Huang

The sudden outbreak of Global Financial Tsunami and the European Sovereign Debt Crisis in 2008–2009 has flung the world, including major powers such as the European Union (EU) and China, into an unexpected long period of economic, social, and political adjustment. The last decade (2009–2019) has seen the world undergoing profound transformation, as both domestic and international norms have met challenges unseen after the Second World War. China’s perception and policy toward the EU and Europe, as a consequence, have been undergoing great changes. This chapter explores Chinese strategic narratives of Europe during the last turbulent decade. It first looks into the change of narrative in terms of identity, system and issues respectively, then gives two case studies— “China saving Europe” and “Belt and Road Initiative” (the Silk Road

Z. Feng · J. Huang (B) China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, Beijing, China e-mail: [email protected] Z. Feng e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A. Miskimmon et al. (eds.), One Belt, One Road, One Story?, Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53153-9_7

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Economic Belt and the twenty-first-century Maritime Silk Road, sometimes referred to as One Belt One Road or OBOR), and last comes an assessment of how Chinese strategic narratives of Europe have been formed, projected, and received.

Change of Narratives Europe has long been taken as a significant “Other” in China’s formation of its identity since it entered the modern world. The encounter with Europe has produced extremely rich literature in China on what kind of power Europe is, what kind of world Europe has created and is contributing, and what the nature of Sino-European relations are. By looking into Europe (and the West by large), China finds its identity and place in the world. Generous research funds from the EU since the late 1990s, when European integration quickened its pace, has raised Chinese intellectuals’ awareness of the EU. Academic publications as well as news coverage on European integration have multiplied. Both Chinese strategic elites and the public held very favorable view of the EU.1 In October 2003, against the backdrop of the United States’ invasion of Iraq and a strained transatlantic relationship, China and the EU established Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in the 6th China–EU summit. Two weeks before the summit and less than a year before the EU’s boldest enlargement in history, Beijing published its first policy paper on the EU, acclaiming that “the EU will play an increasingly important role in both regional and international affairs” and that “China-EU relations now are better than any time in history” (Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China 2003). Since then, the EU has almost become the synonym for Europe in Chinese narrative. Europe enjoyed the best image in China since the beginning of the modern world. The EU was regarded as a peaceful, postmodern group of the most advanced countries in the world, from whom China can learn a lot in regional integration, welfare, and so on. It is also regarded as a strategic pole in an

1 The GlobeScan survey in 2005 shows that, 66% of Chinese interviewees would like Europe to be more influential and 77% hold positive views of Europe, both among the highest in the world. Moreover, younger Chinese (54 vs. 41%) and better educated Chinese (49 vs. 44%) are more likely to have a positive view of Europe. See WorldPublicOpinion.org (2005).

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increasingly multipolar world, thus a natural strategic partner of China against US hegemony. In spite of more intense trade frictions since 2006 and a public opinion clash on Tibet and the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the Chinese pubic still hold a relatively positive view of Europe (Cass Research Team 2008; Zhou et al. 2009). However, a series of crises in Europe, including the European Sovereign Debt Crisis (2009), the Ukraine Crisis (2013), the Refugee crisis (2015) and Brexit (2016), have exposed a different and much more intriguing image of Europe. The situation in Europe has constituted a real puzzle for Chinese elites. And because of deep economic interdependence between the EU and China, they felt an urge to understand the situation. Numerous platforms, conferences, media discussions on Europe have been held in China in the last decade. Very divergent views emerged. A new journey of rediscovering Europe unfolds. Content of the Narrative—Identity The journey of rediscovering Europe is at the same time a journey of rediscovering China. The review of the EU is accompanied with a deep reflection on China, though sometimes unconsciously. The first thing Chinese people have put under scrutiny is the European welfare system. For most Chinese, that system has long been a sign of national wealth and social progress. Chinese officials in charge of welfare have gained inspiration from their regular exchanges with European counterparts and visits to Europe. However, after the outbreak of the debt crisis, there is a trend among the Chinese intellectuals, the officials, and the public that the generous welfare system in Europe is a major culprit of the crisis and is unsustainable in the long run. Qu Xing, then Director of the China Institute of International Studies, a think tank of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), has vividly captured the logic shared by many Chinese: “such high levels of welfare have proven difficult to sustain as the growth of public spending has outpaced the growth of the economy…they (the Greeks) are willing to accept spending cuts only if those cuts do not affect them personally. This phenomenon is indicative of a structural imbalance” (Qu 2012a). Worse still, it is not uncommon in Chinese cyberspace to claim that the European welfare is a system for “the laziness,” thus China should save money for its own social ills rather than helping Europe. Such calculation reverberates even long after the end of the debt crisis among Chinese

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official news outlets (see for example Pan 2011; Ren 2015). The refugee crisis in 2015 constitutes a further proof that generous welfare system has many tangible side-effects, such as more refugees (see for instance Zheng and Xia 2016). As a result, the Chinese intellectuals and the news media have begun to reflect whether it was appropriate to follow the “high welfare” impulse. A preliminary conclusion seemed to be that “social welfare should be in accordance with the economic development level of a country,” which meant that China should be more prudent in carrying out social welfare (Li 2016). After welfare comes democracy. In the first years after the outbreak of the debt crisis, it was the inefficient decision-making on the EU level, in contrast to a highly efficient decision-making system in China after the global financial crisis, that has grasped the Chinese. But at that time, most Chinese intellectuals still thought democracy worked well on the member state level. However, as the crisis deepened, since 2012, there has been rising uneasiness that the debt crisis was not only an economic crisis, but also a political one. Chinese intellectuals diagnosed that Europe’s democratic ills had gone beyond inefficiency or a mere lack of legitimacy. Populism, lack of leadership, polarization, fragmentation of the party system, and political instability have all become noticeable symptoms. Compared with the topic of welfare, it was the intellectuals, rather than the public, that have dominated the debate. But the debate has been very high-profile in mainstream journals and has attracted wide public interest. The fact that democracy would retreat in the “Western Core” has been noted by many Chinese intellectuals. While Chinese experts on Europe frequently resort to European exceptionalism for explanation, such as postmodern social context, multilevel governance structural, and declining role in the world (for example Huang 2014; Li 2017), experts on democracy have found the whole Western political system in trouble. Several journals, including Qiushi (Seeking the Truth, a journal of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China), Hongqi Wengao (Red Flag Dossier, attached to Qiushi), and Dangdai Shijie (Contemporary World, a journal of the International Department of the Central Committee of the CPC), have become platforms for diagnosis of Western democracy and have published a series of articles in this field (for instance Chai 2013a, b; Zhou and Jiang 2013; Wang 2017; Song 2014). Many scholars went further to argue that Western democracy’s demise has made the Chinese political model’s success stand out. A scholar from the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC pointed out that

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the Chinese democracy has “surpassed the Western democratic political model” and predicted that “the socialist democratic politics with Chinese characteristics” will set an example for the world, especially for the numerous developing countries (Liu 2017). Though there have been voices calling for a more balanced and nuanced view, such voices are relatively rare (for example Li 2016). International Relation experts seem to have arrived at a consensus that the whole system in the West, including economics, political, society, and culture, was off track. Almost all top International Relations think tanks in China, which have close relations with the government and are active in the media, have vaguely suggested that the West’s systematic problem has shown that the Western model is not a universal one, and has meanwhile opened a window of opportunity for China to find its own way both domestically and globally (Yang 2012; Qin 2012; Feng 2017; Qu 2012b). Some scholars contrast China’s rise and Europe’s decline from the angle of civilization. Wang Yiwei claims that Europe’s problems stem from its sea-bound civilization, thus the world needs a “Chinese dream” (Wang 2013). His opinion has attracted wide public interest, but the academic circle has been in general very cautious about the loosely defined concept and logic of civilization. Zhang Weiwei, another star scholar in the media, after various publications on the unstoppable China’s rise, finally attributes the source of China’s rise to its unique combination of civilization and nation-state (or the so-called “civilizational state”) (Wang 2017). Both Wang and Zhang’s books and ideas sell very well in the market. Perhaps the only topic that has been widely debated by intellectuals from various disciplines and by media outlets of various political standpoints is “universal values.” According to China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) database, academic articles on “universal values” barely existed in the 1990s. The number of articles very slowly climbed to 40 in the year 2007. However, the year 2008 saw a sudden surge of articles on “universal values,” tripling the number of that of last year. The number of articles reached its peak in the year 2009 at 191 and maintained more than 100 until 2017. It is safe to say that the discussion of universal values in China has been growing largely in line with the development of the crisis in the West. The essence (or purpose) of the debate, as a matter of fact, is whether China should be “Westernized” or not. It is not difficult to have a general impression that among the Chinese journals, the view that “there are no

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such things as universal values” finally gets an upper hand (for example Zhang 2013; Guo 2008; Ling et al. 2017; The Education Ministry Research Center on Deng Xiaoping Theory and “Three Representative” Thoughts 2018). In 2017, Wang Weiguang, then the President of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, indicated in the first sentence in his article on universal values that this was “a false social thought that has been clearly opposed by the central government” (Wang 2017). Perhaps it is not a coincidence that on November 8, 2012, Chinese President Hu Jintao proposed “Three Confidence” in his report to the 18th National People’s Congress, referring that the Chinese should hold confidence in their path, theory, and system. On July 1, 2016, when celebrating the 95th anniversary of the CPC, Chinese President Xi Jinping expanded “Three Confidence” into “Four Confidence,” referring that the Chinese should hold confidence in their path, theory, system, and culture. During his first visit to Europe as the Chinese president, Xi Jinping mentioned in a keynote speech at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium on April 1, 2014, that: “(t)he world’s development is multidimensional, and its history is never a linear movement. China cannot copy the political system or development model of other countries, because it would not fit us and it might even lead to catastrophic consequences” (Xi 2014). In the same trip to Europe, Xi and EU leaders outlined a new orientation of China–Europe relations: China and Europe should be partners in four fields, that is, in peace, growth, reform, and civilization. It would have been difficult for China, from the authors’ point of view, to see itself as an equal partner of growth and reform with Europe before the debt crisis. Content of the Narrative—System Chinese narrative about Europe’s position in the world in the last decade has been shaped by two considerations. One is China’s faster rise (becoming the world’s second-largest economy in 2010), the other is the prospect of European integration. The former is only a latent factor in narrative while the latter has been openly and heatedly debated. In the year 2010, not long after the outbreak of the European Sovereign Debt Crisis, the mainstream sentiment in China was that the EU would find its way out. However, toward the end of 2011, as the crisis deepened, views began to diverge.

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Pessimists were mainly composed of economists and financial experts who have been heavily influenced by Anglo-Saxon perspectives or by conspiracy theories. They either argued that from the economic point of view, especially according to the theory of Optimum Currency Area, the current structure of the Eurozone was unsustainable; or argued that from the geo-economic point of view, the fragile Euro was doomed to fail since it had challenged the US dollar’s hegemony. Tan Yaling, a former analyst with the Bank of China, rapidly gained popularity by asserting that the Euro is doomed to die (for example Yu 2011; Hexun.com 2012). Many pessimistic economists, especially those occupied top positions in various regulatory or financial institutions, preferred to express their opinion in a more low-key, subtle, and academic way. The optimists camp was mainly composed of university professors, think tankers, and government officials who had been trained in the fields of history, political science, international relations, and so forth. Compared to economists, they were familiar with the history and dynamics of European integration, thus tending to see it as a postnational, unfinished, and reflective project. Almost all the annual meetings held by the Chinese Association for European Studies since the debt crisis have been dominated by a critical, cautious, nevertheless still somewhat optimistic mood toward European integration. Several important think tanks in the fields of European studies, including the Institute of European Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the European Studies Institute of China Contemporary International Relations, have let their opinions known by decision-makers through a burgeoning government-academic network. The Chinese officials have been influenced both by the pessimists’ and the optimists’ camps. Nevertheless, due to consensus that a derailed EU was against China’s economic and strategic interests, they extended heartfelt warm support to the EU and appeared to be very optimistic of European integration. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao gave a speech entitled “Confidence and Cooperation Will See Us Through Difficulty” at the Hellenic Parliament during his visit to Greece on October 3, 2010. He asserted that: “China is committed to advancing China-EU relations. This is not an expediency, but a long-term strategic policy.” On May 16, 2011, Chinese President Hu Jintao, when he received President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy in Beijing, held that “an economically stable and prosperous Europe is good for both the world and China” (Xinhua 2011).

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In 2014, the Chinese government published its second policy paper on the EU. After a cool-headed assessment that “(d)ue to the impact of the international financial crisis, the EU is facing the most serious challenge since the end of the Cold War and has to urgently address a series of deep-seated structural and systemic issues,” the paper continued: “its strategic direction of integration remains unchanged…A 28-member EU, the biggest economy in the world with strong overall strength, continues to be a global player of great strategic importance and a key part in the evolving international landscape” (Wen 2010). Content of the Narrative—Issues The narratives of Europe have been developed along the occurrence of events. Several crises in Europe in the 2010s have set the rhythm of Chinese debate on Europe and China–Europe relations. But whether such debates would have practical and lasting impact depends on how they interact with Chinese needs. After the outbreak of the debt Crisis, as the country holding the largest foreign reserve in the world (of which a quarter was in Euros, as widely speculated), China had to make assessment whether to increase or to decrease the holding of Euro assets. As a consequence, the debt crisis has generated a heated debate in China about European competitiveness and the prospect of European integration. In general, China has behaved like a “savior” of Europe in the aftermath of the crisis and the popular “China-saving-Europe” rhetoric in China has implied a changed power balance between China and Europe. The “savior” image has given China a leverage to see through a solar panel tariff dispute with the EU in 2012–2013. Such a dispute attracted wide attention in China, especially from industry, because it offered a reference for the debate on the viability of China’s stimulus policy after the global financial crisis and the future of China’s green industry. As China and the EU reached an agreement on solar panels’ prices and tariffs in July 2013, the public’s interest in the issue faded away. Since the year 2014, the Belt and Road Initiative has become a new, and somewhat dominant narrative framework of Sino-European relations. The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he visited Central Asia and Southeast Asia in September and October of 2013. Xi took office early that year and had conducted swift reforms within months of his presidency. The Belt and Road Initiative

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was such a bold break of the previous hiding-capacities-and-biding-time diplomacy style that some Chinese scholars claimed it “a Copernicus Revolution of the Chinese diplomacy” (Zhao 2015). While China was still somewhat in the “impact and response” mode in the China-savingEurope debate, the Belt and Road Initiative narrative has manifest a much more proactive China in the China–Europe relations. It is interesting to note that due to Europe’s increasing relevance in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese strategists would like to maintain good and stable relations with Europe, thus having ignored or downplayed some unpleasant events. The Chinese news media hailed the China–UK “Golden Era of Partnership” in 2015, brushing aside a showdown with the UK three years ago due to UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s reception of the Dalai Lama. The EU’s refusal to grant China an automatic Market Economic Status by the end of 2016 has annoyed Beijing, but has not been heavily condemned by the Chinese media. Rather, the issues related with China’s market behaviors (overcapacity, investment, market access, and so on) have stirred wider and more emotional debates in Europe than in China. In the year 2016, two unexpected events have forced China to further review Europe and its role in the world. The first event was the Brexit referendum in June 2016. It was a blow to Chinese confidence in the revival of European integration. Chinese strategists as a result are more open than before to various kinds of views about the future of Europe. The second event was the US presidential electoral victory of populist tycoon Donald Trump in November 2011. Trump’s presidency has driven US foreign policy-making into uncharted waters. In Chinese eyes, the two events are somehow related, indicating fundamental changes in the West. Chinese strategists have to think hard again the role of Europe in an age of strained transatlantic relations and collapsing international order. The evaluation still goes on. The next part of the chapter will further elaborate how Chinese narratives on Europe and China–Europe relations have changed and formed during the China-saving-Europe and Belt and Road debates.

Two Cases China Saving Europe The China-saving-Europe debate developed in three phases. The first phase lasted until the second half of the year 2011, during which time

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China was an active, reliable partner who had made strong commitment to the euro and the EU. Thanks to the global financial crisis, which broke out at the end of 2008, the China–EU relationship bounced back from the earlier clashes on Tibet and Beijing Olympics. In 2009 Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visited Europe twice and cohosted two China–EU summits, advocating stronger partnership in combating the global financial crisis on every occasion. At the end of 2009, a sovereign debt crisis broke out in Greece and did not take long to become a Euro crisis. In October 2010, Premier Wen Jiabao visited Greece, Belgium and Italy and cohosted the 13th China-EU summit. During the visit, Wen assured Greece that China would buy more Greek government bonds, import more Greek goods and invest more in Greece. Similar stands have been reconfirmed throughout the year 2011, when the then Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang visited Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom in January, when Premier Wen received Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in April, and when Wen visited Hungary, the United Kingdom and Germany in June. Beijing reckoned that due to high economic interdependence between China and Europe, “whether the European economy can recover and whether some European economies can overcome their hardships and escape crisis, is vitally important for us,” as a vice minister from the Chinese Foreign Ministry indicated (Phillips 2011). Beijing also thought that “saving Europe” could provide China with a bargaining chip. Wen’s first trip to Europe in 2009, the so-called “confidence in Europe trip,” has been designed to circumvent France, the loudest opponent of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. There still remained some tricky issues in China–Europe relations. The European Commission issued a communication document “Trade, Growth and World Affairs” in November 2010, hoping to revive the economy through more aggressive exports (European Commission 2010). Pressing the Chinese currency RMB to appreciate remained a big concern for many European countries until 2010. “Market economy status” and “arms embargo,” two persistent, tough issues in China–EU relations, still lingered. Premier Wen said during his trip to Greece in 2009 that he hoped the EU would recognize China’s full market economy status as soon as possible, ease restrictions on the export of high-tech products to China and reject trade protectionism in order to create an environment conducive to the healthy growth of trade (Su 2010).

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However, by the end of 2011 and early 2012, a more cautious position has been set to replace the earlier one. The debate entered the second phase. In the latter half of 2011, the European debt crisis worsened. On October 26, the EU summit decided to expand its bailout fund to one trillion euros. However, the EU needed to find money for the fund. Hours after the summit, Klaus Regling, EU bail fund chief, arrived at Beijing and asked for help. China did not make any commitment (Florcruz 2011; AFP 2011). On November 3, Chinese President Hu Jintao said to French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the G20 summit in Cannes: “It is mainly up to Europe to resolve the European debt problem … We believe Europe has all the necessary wisdom and the capability to resolve the debt problem” (Rettman 2011). On the other hand, Beijing still showed its support to Europe. During the 14th China–EU summit on February 14, 2012, top Chinese leaders offered reassurance that China was ready to increase its participation in resolving the EU debt problems (Xinhua 2012). The next day, the chief of China’s central bank Zhou Xiaochuan claimed that the bank would increase its euro assets (AFP 2012). China’s wavering attitude was due to the following reasons. First and foremost, Europe’s problem was much worse than expected. Greece’s sudden announcement of a referendum on the bailout plan on October 31, 2011, shocked the world, including China. Chinese Vice Financial Minister Zhu Guangyao talked to the BBC on the same day, saying “like our European friends, we did not expect the Greek referendum” (BBC 2011). Lou Jiwei, the head of China’s sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation (CIC), expressed pessimism about the Eurozone and pointed out on many occasions that euro sovereign bonds were not an ideal choice for long-term investors such as CIC (Reuters 2012). Second, China has not seen political “returns” from the European side. According to Reuters, Beijing had offered help in return for European support in three things: more influence at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), market economy status in the World Trade Organisation, and the lifting of a European arms embargo. But by the end of 2011, Europe had spurned all these three key demands (Lim and Edwards 2011b). Third, the Chinese public and some intellectuals opposed “saving Europe.” They argued that since the euro is structurally defective, China would lose its money by “saving Europe.” Besides, since Europe was

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much richer than China (in terms of GDP per ca pita and social welfare), China should save money for its own problems (for example, Wu 2011; Pan 2011). Ahead of the G20 summit of 2011, tens of thousands of ordinary Chinese vented their anger online, demanding the Chinese leadership to “save Wenzhou (a Chinese crisis-hidden city) than Ouzhou (Europe)” (Lim and Edwards 2011a). In the 5th Lanting Forum in December 2011, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MFA) major public diplomacy platform, Fu Ying, a popular MFA vice minister, changed her prior position and made it clear to the public that “the proposition of China-saving-Europe is false.” She claimed that “Europe has the capacity, wisdom and resource to solve the crisis” and asked “how come a China with $4,000 GDP per ca pita can save a Europe with as high as $30,000?” (Chen 2011). Since late 2012, the debate has entered the third phase. Despite lingering (but increasingly weaker) opposition, the Chinese government stuck to a “savior” position and has struck a balance between demands from various sides. In June 2012, China announced on the 7th G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico that it would contribute $43 billion to the International Monetary Fund’s global firewall against Europe’s debt crisis. In the Chinese delegation’s press conference after the summit, He Jianxiong, director of the international department of China’s central bank, explained (mainly to the Chinese public) that the investment was “safer” and with “higher returns.” He also said that China’s biggest help to Europe was to maintain stable economic growth itself (ChinaNews.com 2012). Since the G20 summit, the IMF became the major channel for China to help Europe. According to Ding Yifan, then Deputy Director of China Development Research Center, a government think tank in China, China’s investment in the IMF was a very rational move. It could boost the euro, thus securing an option other than the US dollar. It would help improve the system of global governance, thus fighting against protectionism. It would ensure the safety of China’s investment. Finally, it would increase China’s weight in global governance decision-making in the future (Ding 2012). With hindsight, China has indeed achieved most of its aims by contributing to the IMF. Two months later, at the end of August 2012, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had an official visit to China, in hope that China could make new commitments in helping Europe out of the crisis. Premier Wen pledged that China would continue to buy European government bonds

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after meeting with Merkel. However, he did not make concrete commitments and said that China has to “fully evaluate risk,” including whether Greece would leave the eurozone, whether Italy and Spain would take comprehensive rescue measures, and whether the debt-ridden countries had the determination for reform (von Hoffman 2012). Though China still has concerns about “saving Europe,” it has reconfirmed its posture as a reliable partner of Europe. In fact, compared with other major powers in the world, China has been so supportive of the EU in the last decade, that on August 31, 2017, the MFA spokeswoman Hua Chunying retorted German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel’s remarks of China trying to “divide Europe,” saying that: “I wonder if anyone in Europe could list one country that is more steadfast than China in consistently and unconditionally supporting the European integration, whether in public or in private” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2017). Belt and Road Initiative In November 2012, Xi Jinping became the general secretary of the CPC. He was elected four months later as the president of China and the Chairman of the Central Military Commission of China. Immediately after taking office, Xi has surprised many both at home and abroad by pushing through a great deal of bold changes to both China’s domestic and foreign policies. In Chinese diplomacy, there used to be a tacit “division of labour” among the top leadership. Normally, the president handled relations with the US while the premier with Europe. For example, Premier Wen Jiabao had become the main person in charge of China’s relations with Europe between 2003 and 2012. But Xi Jinping, the new president, has a very bold global vision and would like to make his creative ideas happen by overseeing every key breakthrough. Many new concepts regarding China–Europe relations have been put forward by him. It has become increasingly clear that Xi has put the China–European relationship in a much broader picture of China’s diplomacy revolution, which culminated with the Belt and Road Initiative. It seemed that Central Asia and Southeast Asia rather than Europe was the targeted audience when Xi raised the Initiative in 2013. In 2013, the first year of his presidency, Xi had visited Russia, the US, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, but not Europe—though Chinese new premier Li Keqiang took Europe as the destination for his first foreign visit that year. One

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could claim in 2013 that it was still uncertain what role Europe would play in Xi’s new picture of diplomacy. As a matter of fact, even highlevel officials did not include Europe into the consideration of the Belt and Road Initiative as late as early 2014. For example, in a conference in March 2014, Vice Foreign Affairs Minister Zhang Yesui only mentioned domestic reform, Asian regional integration and peace in Eurasia as three considerations behind the initiative (Renmin Net 2014). Chinese top leaders actually had a broader picture in mind, however. In late March 2014, five months after the concept of the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed, Xi made his first presidential visit to Europe. The visit was a significant one. It was designed to set the tone of SinoEuropean relations in the following years and to complete geographically Xi’s creative global diplomacy. Xi also gave the first-ever Chinese head of state’s visit to the EU headquarters during the European trip. During this visit, the Belt and Road Initiative was not in the spotlight. However, Xi had quietly done some “greenfield investment.” He chose the city of Lyon as the first stop in France, which was the end of the ancient Silk Road. He mentioned the ancient Silk Road and elaborated the history of Sino-European cultural exchanges in his speech at United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris (Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2014). During the German leg, Xi pointed out in his speech to the German audience that: “China and Germany are located at the two ends of the Silk Road Economic Belt, and both are two major economies and growth poles of Eurasia. Cooperation (between China and Germany on the Silk Road Economic Belt) is beneficial to both countries, to Europe and to the world” (Huanqiu Net 2015). A joint China–EU statement after Xi’s meeting with EU leaders specified that “in view of the great potential to improve their transport relations, both sides decided to develop synergies between EU policies and China’s ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ initiative and jointly to explore common initiatives along these lines” (European Commission 2014). But Xi’s visit has not seen quick rewards. For about a year, Europeans talked little about the Initiative. A Chinese scholar claimed that “compared to the heated discussion in China, the Belt and Road Initiative has obviously not attracted enough attention in Europe …European intellectuals have not yet begun the real discussion and research on the Initiative” (Dagong Net 2015).

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Finally, European countries’ unexpected warm support of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has aroused Chinese attention to the huge potential Europe can exert on and contribute to the Belt and Road Initiative. The AIIB was initiated by 21 Asian countries including China and India in October 2014 and has been widely regarded as an important international financial instrument of the Belt and Road Initiative. In the following 138 days, six more countries joined, all of which were Asian countries except for New Zealand. However, the UK’s announcement to join the AIIB on March 12, 2015 changed the picture. Despite warnings from the US, more and more US allies and partners scrambled to join the AIIB, including 17 European countries such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and so on. A Chinese newspaper commented that the dramatic turning point has changed the AIIB from an “Asian self-entertaining club” to a “real new-born international multilateral institution” (Liu et al. 2015). Since then, Europe has become an apparent geographical end and an indispensable part of the Belt and Road. In many Chinese eyes, without meaningful interplay with Europe, the Belt and Road Initiative will be a dead-end project. The Belt and Road Initiative guideline “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Belt and Road” issued by the Chinese government in March 2015 asserted that: The Belt and Road run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and developed European economic circle at the other, and encompassing countries with huge potential for economic development. The Silk Road Economic Belt focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe (the Baltic); linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia; and connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road is designed to go from China’s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China’s coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other. (National Development and Reform Commission 2013)

With the 17th China–EU summit in July 2015, acclamation of China– EU cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative reached a new height. The summit’s joint statement claimed that “leaders decided to support synergies between these initiatives (China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the EU’s “Juncker Plan”), and directed the EU-China High-Level

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Economic and Trade Dialogue in September to develop practical avenues for mutually beneficial co-operation, including through a possible ChinaEU co-investment vehicle” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2015). Chinese media coverage on the summit has been heavily focused on “strategic synergies” (for example Wang 2015a; Sun 2015). Since then, the Belt and Road Initiative has become a major prism through which the Chinese strategic analysts observe and interpret the development of Sino-European relations. Such a prism has brought subtle and incremental changes to the former narrative framework. First, in previous Chinese narratives about Europe, Europe in many contexts was equaled to the EU. But under the Belt and Road Initiative cooperation, Europe has been regarded as a vague assemblage referring to various European players, such as the Central and Eastern countries (CEECs), the Baltic States, the UK, the EU, the City of London, and so on. The main reason is that China’s cooperation with Europe on the Belt and Road Initiative has not been a unitary or linear one; rather, it spiraled upward as wind-whipped waves, with various points, levels, and centers interacting with each other. Various actors ranging from states, local authorities, private business to regional organizations and blocs from both China and Europe have joined the Initiative. A noticeable example are the CEECs. 16 CEECs (including five non-EU countries) have been seen as the core European participants in the Belt and Road Initiative. In a widely circulated list of 64 “countries along the Belt and Road” in the Chinese media, the 16 countries are the only European countries that have been included. Second, after the Initiative, the narrative about China–European cooperation on world affairs has been widely broadened and enriched. This system narrative has gone beyond merely building a “multipolar world order” against the US hegemony. Because the Belt and Road Initiative has created a global network of business, the Chinese are eager to cooperate with European governments and companies to cooperate on the soil of the third parties. For example, China, France, Spain, and Portugal have cooperated on entering markets in French, Spanish, and Portuguese speaking regions. Thus “DisanfangHezuo” (cooperation with third parties) has become a buzz word in Sino-European relations. China’s joint statement with France to enhance their cooperation with third parties in June 2015 “set a benchmark” according to many Chinese scholars (Mao2015; China News Agency 2015). In addition, because the Belt and Road Initiative is to a large extent based on an open, networked,

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win-win perspective of the world, Chinese officials are increasingly talking about “global governance” rather than “multipolarity.” Compared with the 2003 paper, which stressed an “independent foreign policy” and “new international political and economic order,” China’s 2014 policy paper on the EU sounds less “revisionist” (Chinese Foreign Ministry 2014). The 2014 policy paper stressed that “(China) works to build an open world economy and a new type of international relations featuring equality, mutual trust, inclusiveness, mutual learning and win-win cooperation, with a view to contributing more to world peace and common development” (European Commission 2014). China’s embrace of global governance chimed well with the EU, a long-time leading proponent of global governance. After Donald Trump won the US general election in 2016, China and European partners have especially enhanced their coordination on climate change and globalization. Third, China has changed from a narrative receiver to a narrative projector by proposing the Belt and Road Initiative. The China–Europe relations used to be framed by Europe, including issues on human rights, arms embargo, Market Economy Status, trade balance and even strategic partnership. The only noticeable Chinese contribution to China–EU relations discourse was multipolarity. The Belt and Road Initiative has changed that. It is proposed by China, based on a traditional Silk Road imagination, and has injected new content, ideas, and dimensions into the discourse of China–Europe relations, a discourse from which Chinese leaders can narrate their strategy. European China watchers sharply point out that: Not only Chinese diplomats, but also researchers from Chinese think tanks and universities, Chinese companies and Chinese English-language media often refer to OBOR when addressing European audiences. China promotes not only the actual instances of Sino–European cooperation on connectivity, which are still relatively few, but also OBOR as a narrative…A key component of the Chinese public diplomacy effort is systematic outreach to foreign actors for ‘OBOR brainstorming’ opportunities in China, Europe and beyond…This provides the Chinese government with the dual advantage of not only appearing to be a listener, potentially diffusing criticisms of an offensive/assertive strategist, but also at the same time collecting ideas and information that will ultimately be helpful for the fine-tuning of its OBOR implementation process and communication strategy. (van der Putten et al. 2016: 7)

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In short, the Belt and Road Initiative has given China new narratives about Europe, which are more intriguing, forward-looking, and proactive. This change is not only an honest reflection of the new dynamics inside Europe, but also a product of a more proactive China, lead by Xi Jinping, in a world in rapid transition.

Assessment In 1975, When China and the European Economic Community established diplomatic relations, Chinese narratives about China–Europe relations have been dominated by the Chinese Central Government. In 2003, when China and the EU announced the establishment of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, the narratives have been led by the Chinese government and a small number of opinion leaders as “experts on Europe” who seldom challenged the official policy. In the last decade, some noticeable changes have taken place. As the exchanges between China and Europe deepened, there are more and more actors shaping China’s Europe policy. Though the narrators of China–Europe relations still form a hierarchy where the top officials exert paramount clout, it is already impossible to take out the other actors’ voices from the picture. Local governments, think tank staff, business leaders, and even the public have been playing increasing roles. Besides, not every Chinese government department or social groups are intertwined with Europe to the same degree or in the same way. Their interests, perceptions, and narratives toward Europe are therefore not necessarily the same. Along with the MFA, the Ministry of Commerce, the National Development and Reform Commission, the International Department of Central Committee of CPC, the central bank, and other institutions have emerged as important participants of China–Europe relations. There is coordination between different government departments, of course. But they do not necessarily see completely eye to eye with each other. For example, after the debt crisis, the central bank held a more positive view of the Euro bonds than the Chinese sovereign fund CIC. That said, Chinese top leaders still have a fast grip of shaping Chinese narratives toward Europe. The most noticeable example is that on November 20, 2013, ahead of the 16th China–EU Summit in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping outlined a brand-new definition of China– Europe ties in his first meeting with EU leaders after he took office. Xi pointed out that, as the biggest developing country and the biggest group

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of advanced countries, China and the EU are “two powers” for world peace; as two important economies in the world, China and the EU are “two markets” for common development; and as important birthplaces of Eastern and Western cultures, China and the EU are “two civilizations” for humanity advancement (China Review News Agency 2013). Such a definition of China–EU relations has been reiterated during Xi’s first presidential visit to Europe early the next year and has been included in China’s second policy paper on the EU weeks after the visit. The last decade has opened a new age when China sees Europe on a more equal footing. Such change can be seen in many ways. First, both the European market and the elites become very sensitive about Chinese remarks on Europe. In May 2010, the UK newspaper The Financial Times reported that China was reviewing eurozone bond holdings and this news has stirred the international exchange market (Oakley and Anderlini 2010). Less than 24 hours later, the Chinese State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) denied the report and the Euro exchange rate against the US dollar bounced back (Li 2010). In March 2012, the governor of China’s central bank Zhou Xiaochuan said Europe was the “biggest uncertainty” for the Chinese economy. Such plain comment has been widely covered and even amazed European scholars. One European scholar said: “It used to be the other way around, Europe bashing China. But ever since the financial crisis, and in particular since the EU saw it necessary to postpone an EU-China summit in October due to a rapidly deteriorating situation at home, the tables have been turning” (Ebels 2012). Second, Chinese academia and media have been questioning the “European Model,” and the debate has had an impact on the official narrative of Europe, though the Chinese government is still among the most supportive partners of Europe. China has long been looking up to Europe as a “teacher,” thinking that as long as China thinks and behaves like Europe, China will at long last become as advanced as the European countries. Even the havoc of the two world wars and the depression in the 1970s have not moved such belief. Since the outbreak of the global financial crisis however, and especially the European debt crisis, the “European Model” has been gradually losing its appeal. Third, China has changed from a narrative receiver to a narrative projector. The Chinese side has been actively shaping China–European relations in the last few years. The Xi Jinping leadership has given a new orientation of China–Europe relationship and has put forward many new

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fields of cooperation, such as the third party cooperation, 16+1 cooperation, RMB internationalization cooperation, and other activities. By creating the Belt and Road Initiative, China not only has actively framed its global presence and identity, but has also involved the world, including Europe, to participate in the “brainstorming” and “constructing” of the Belt and Road. A large number of academic conferences, policy discussions, and media coverage on the Initiative, some of which sponsored by the Chinese government, have led to increasing visibility of the topic and more in-depth research results from the European side. Nevertheless, the transition to a more “equal” narrative is not easy. China has met resistance from the European side. Brussels has been on alert to Chinese’s attempt to shape China–Europe relations, for example the China–CEEC framework. Many EU officials grumble that China is playing the “divide and rule” game. To address such concerns, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has emphasized at the China–CEEC Commercial Summit in 2015 that “cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries on connectivity projects may be fully integrated into the broader framework of China-EU infrastructure cooperation” (Li 2015). Besides, the sudden change has aroused anxiety among European elites. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that the only great power at the moment that has a grand geopolitical strategy is China. Portugal’s former Secretary of State for European Affairs Bruno Macaes worried that “our relationship with China will be a very troubled one and a very intense one,” but “still there are no clear ideas about what to do” (Macaes 2018). Some European think tanks have warned the “authoritarian advance” of China in Europe and asked for a concerted response from the EU (Benner et al. 2018). Though China is now seeing Europe on a more equal footing, China still sees Europe as a valuable partner in the international system. During the Cold War, Chinese perceptions of Europe were framed by the West– East confrontation. Europe was regarded within the alliance of the US, and thus in some ways an enemy of China; or as the major constituents of the Second World in Chairman Mao Zedong’s Three World Theory, and thus a power that China could coax. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Chinese views of Europe have been preoccupied by Europe’s unique and accelerated pace of regional integration. The deepening of the EU (for example through the birth of the Euro) and the enlargement of the EU (especially the inclusion of post-Communist Eastern European

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countries) have demonstrated the unbound potential of regional integration, propelling the EU as a strategic pole in the globalized, multipolar world. Unfortunately, the crises in the 2010s happen to be all touching the core of European integration. Nevertheless, China still thinks high of Europe for the following reasons. First, China needed a good international environment and a relatively stable and smooth China–Europe relationship is important for China. As China became the world’s secondlargest economy and the South China Sea dispute accelerated in the year 2010, Americans become more assertive toward China. Europe has proved to be more supportive than the US in the international institutions. Second, Europe still has the market, technology, and expertise that China’s further development requires. That is why China is very keen to build partnerships in growth and in reform with the EU. China’s journey of rediscovering Europe is just at the early stage. The change of global power structure and of global norms, which is the factor contributing to Chinese strategic narratives of Europe, is still going on and might last for decades. The review of Europe and China–Europe relations in the last decade has helped China better understand itself and the world. The review will continue.

References AFP. (2011, October 28). EU Bailout Fund Chief Says ‘No Special Deal’ with China. France24. Available at: https://www.france24.com/en/20111028china-bailout-fund-klaus-regling-investment-bonds-efsf. Accessed on 29 May 2019. AFP. (2012, February 15). China Pledges to Keep Buying Eurozone Debt. The Telegraph. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/ 9083297/China-pledges-to-keep-buying-eurozone-debt.html. Accessed on 29 May 2019. BBC. (2011, November 3). China Refuses to Commit to EFSF amid Greek Concerns. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15567853. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Benner, T., Gaspers, J., Ohlberg, M., Poggetti, L., & Shi-Kupfer, K. (2018). Authoritarian Advance: Responding to China’s Growing Political Influence in Europe. Global Public Policy Institute and Mercator Institute for China Studies.

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CHAPTER 8

Choosing the Better Devil: Reception of EU and Chinese Narratives on Development by South African University Students Floor Keuleers

Introduction This chapter focuses on how others view the EU–China bilateral relationship. Although it is important to understand key dyads in international affairs such as EU–China, scholars must maintain a focus on the varied and interlocking relationships states have across many different fields— international organisations, alliances, trading blocs and so forth. As this volume makes clear, strategic narratives are important to study as they uncover contestation over the meaning of international affairs in an interconnected world. Understanding the reception of narratives projected by states to citizens is under-researched, leading to unfounded assumptions about how non-elites view the world. This chapter addresses this gap through the presentation of findings of a study of how university students in South Africa view the EU and China as development partners for Africa.

F. Keuleers (B) International Crisis Group, Brussels, Belgium © The Author(s) 2021 A. Miskimmon et al. (eds.), One Belt, One Road, One Story?, Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53153-9_8

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The chapter is set against the background of a new dynamic that has shaken up the field of international development cooperation since the early 2000s: the rapid rise of so-called ‘emerging donors’, as large nations from the South explicitly profile themselves as development partners in their own right. Within Africa, the increasing engagement of China has been particularly noted. Trade, investment and aid relations have increased exponentially, and the relationship has been institutionalised at the highest political level through the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (Brautigam 2009; Cheru and Obi 2010; Taylor 2012). This has been accompanied by an increase in ‘softer’ forms of engagement, including in the fields of media, education and culture (Jedlowski and Röschenthaler 2017; King 2013). Underpinning these ties has been a much-discussed Chinese rhetoric on mutual benefit and respect, shared challenges and goals and non-interference in domestic affairs. The Chinese stance has been described as ‘exceptionalism’, in that it ‘accentuates a basic but fundamental difference in its relationship with the continent as compared to other actors—notably in a shared history of colonialism and experience as a developing country—while at the same time promoting political principles based on a stronger conception of state sovereignty, noninterference, territorial integrity and political equality’ (Alden and Large 2011: 22). In the West, China’s increased engagement has led to concerns that formerly accepted notions of how to organise developmental trajectories and development cooperation are being challenged. The term ‘Beijing Consensus’, which was coined by an American analyst rather than Chinese sources, is indicative of such concerns (Ramo 2004). This chapter argues that this dynamic can be conceptualised as the rise of a new ‘strategic narrative’ on development and cooperation, one that sits uneasily with existing narratives in the field. The notion that international development thinking can be analysed through a strategic narrative lens is a recent one. This perspective usefully draws attention to the fact that ‘the idea of international development is a story […] with no fixed content’ (Singh 2017: 136). As explained in the introduction to this volume, the study of strategic narratives revolves around three central processes: narrative formation, projection and reception (Miskimmon et al. 2013: 8). The historical formation of the Chinese discourse towards Africa, and how it differs from existing approaches, has by now been well covered in the literature. More and more analyses are also becoming available on Chinese

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projection efforts on the African continent, which are closely linked to its public diplomacy strategy. Yet when it comes to the reception of these narratives by their African audiences, the literature is characterised by an important gap. This gap is indicative of a broader orientation in research on Africa’s changing international relations, which ‘tends to suggest that African states are rather passive recipients of external actions, mere backdrops in front of which […] “the new scramble for Africa” […] plays out’ (Harman and Brown 2013: 79). While studies focusing on African perspectives were initially almost non-existent, recent years have seen a welcome increase in research on African attitudes vis-a-vis different international actors. So far, however, no research is available that sheds light on the more complex ways in which African audiences interpret, appropriate and adapt the competing international narratives on the development of their continent. This is in part due to the methodological complexity of studying narrative reception. Because narratives are complex constellations of different elements and views, they are impossible to grasp through the standardised questionnaires of large-scale survey research. This chapter uses Q methodology, a qualitative yet systematic approach, to study how young, highly educated South Africans interact with the very different narratives on development and cooperation promoted by the European Union (EU) and China. Rather than simply identifying whether these future elites agree or disagree with core narrative elements, the study focuses on the complex ways in which they construct their own narratives about Africa’s international relations. The next section offers a brief overview of how past studies have approached African perceptions of international actors. Section “South Africa’s Balancing Act” discusses South Africa’s peculiar position within the new international landscape, which makes it a particularly interesting focus for a study of narrative reception. Q methodology is introduced in section “Methodology”, along with a discussion of the sampling procedures and interview design. Section “Findings” then presents the results of the study, followed by a conclusion that summarises the main findings.

African Perceptions of Development Partners: Attitudes Versus Narratives Within the literature on changing development relations and new partners for the African continent, African perspectives were initially neglected, with many contributions reflecting either the official discourse of the

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Chinese government or Western concerns about the China–Africa relationship. In recent years, an increasing number of studies on African public opinion has become available. Most of these have focused on citizens’ attitudes towards one particular actor, including the EU (e.g. Fioramonti and Olivier 2007; Fioramonti and Poletti 2008; Kiamba and Bachmann 2015), the United States (e.g. Tella 2016) and China (e.g. Hanusch 2012; Park 2013; Sautman and Yan 2009; Shen and Taylor 2012). Recently, a more comparative approach has emerged, in which perceptions of ‘emerging’ and ‘traditional’ partners are contrasted (Barceviˇcius et al. 2015; Fioramonti and Kimunguyi 2011; Keuleers 2015; Lekorwe et al. 2016). The majority of these studies, and all of the comparatively oriented projects, have studied African perceptions through survey data. This is an understandable choice, since the use of standardised questions, combined where possible with representative samples, allows to unambiguously capture attitudes and to generalise the resulting patterns to a broader population. Depending on the study, the attitudes measured have varied from very general indicators such as positive or negative feelings towards a country, or perceived importance of that country, to more specific ones, for instance perceived impact on the domestic economy or preferred model for development. The results arising from these surveys have been very useful in debunking common myths and establishing a more nuanced and empirically based understanding of African attitudes towards different development partners. At the same time, however, they remain inevitably ‘thin’, in the sense that they ‘reveal little in the way of texture, context, change over time, or the reasons that underlie variations’ (Strauss 2013: 160). Knowing how many respondents answered ‘a lot’ when asked how much the EU or China helps their country is a very useful starting point, but it does not tell us why they chose this option, or how we can explain that many respondents equally appreciate two such seemingly different partners. It does not reveal whether people had a strong opinion on the topic to begin with, and if the questions asked were at all relevant to them. The survey approach simultaneously aggregates people and separates different survey questions, preventing us from seeing how individual members of the audience combine their views and opinions into an overall outlook on the different partners for their country. This gap is not unique to the literature on Africa’s international relations, but reflects a broader challenge for the study of public responses

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to strategic narratives. Across different subfields of international relations, ‘scholars analyse policymakers’ narratives and public attitudes’—‘they do not analyse public narratives’ (Roselle, et al. 2015: 4). As a result, ‘we do not have any data on how publics stitch events into sequences to form an understanding of the past, present and possible future of international relations’ (ibid.: 4). One development in strategic narrative research is the exploration of Q methodology to study public narratives in a more holistic fashion (Roselle et al. 2015; Spray and Roselle 2012). The study presented here employs this innovative approach to offer a ‘thicker’ account of African perceptions of the EU and China. It invites young South Africans to engage in depth with the different narratives on development and cooperation put forward by China and the EU, and to express their own narratives on the international relations of their country and continent. Before moving on to a more detailed discussion of Q methodology, the next section explains why South Africa is a particularly interesting focus for such an in-depth study.

South Africa’s Balancing Act South Africa’s external relations are currently characterised by a balancing exercise. Under the Mandela administration, the country’s post-apartheid foreign policy began with a focus on promoting human rights and Western-style democracy in Africa and beyond (Anthony et al. 2015: 6; Van der Westhuizen and Smith 2015). This specific moral identity naturally aligned with Western narratives on development and cooperation. Its continuing legacy is an important factor in explaining why the EU regards South Africa as a potential partner for trilateral cooperation with other parts of Africa (Masters 2014). In recent years, however, and especially under president Jacob Zuma, there has been a ‘discernible turn to the global South’ (Fioramonti and Kotsopoulos 2015: 472). As argued by Black and Hornsby, ‘the more “solidaristic” or “Third Worldist” orientation has become increasingly predominant in the interstate dimensions of these relations, as reflected in the growing prioritisation of relationships with such global South and/or revisionist entities as the African Union (AU), Brazil, China, and Iran’ (Black and Hornsby 2016: 154). Importantly, this shift is commonly understood to be not just geographical but also normative in character, from ‘Western-based humanistic values’ to ‘developmental pragmatism’

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(Alden and Wu 2016). Alternatively, it has been construed as not so much a move away from specific values, but rather a more collectivist reconceptualisation of what those values mean (Alden and Wu 2016: 222; Anthony et al. 2015: 13). For concrete expressions of the shift, observers point to the sharp anti-Western rhetoric in ANC documents; South Africa’s voting pattern within the United Nations, which strongly aligns with that of China (e.g. Bradley 2016); and its stance on the Libya crisis in 2011 (Fioramonti and Kotsopoulos 2015: 472). The announcement that South Africa would withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), an institution that it once championed, was likewise regarded as epitomising this change (Du Plessis and Alllison 2016). Yet the strong rhetoric and occasional bold moves by the ANC government belie a more complex reality. To begin with, the country remains in many ways dependent on good relationships with partners from the global North (Landsberg 2014: 165–166). In addition, South Africa’s growing tilt towards China and its critical stance on various international issues is contested domestically, by a vibrant civil society and the court system (Black and Hornsby 2016: 881–886; Bradley 2016). The result is a foreign policy characterised by a complex balancing act between different and sometimes contradictory relationships and sensitivities. The situation has been described as an ‘identity crisis’ (Bradley 2016: 11), as that of an emerging middle power but with ‘residual interests and norms characteristic of a more traditional middle power’ (Black and Hornsby 2016: 154), and as a set of concentric circles representing different international priorities (Landsberg 2014). These characterisations imply that South Africa is experiencing a complex and domestically contested process of redefining its international identity and relationships. This vacillating posture is all the more salient given the economic and moral leadership position South Africa occupies (or aspires to occupy) within Africa (Alden and Schoeman 2013), and in light of its role as a development partner for the rest of the continent (Besharati 2013). It is in this peculiar context that this chapter seeks to shed light on the geopolitical orientations of young, highly educated South Africans. Has the ruling party’s ‘anti-Western, pro-Chinese’ rhetoric (Bradley 2016: 887) been able to convince students of the shift towards China as a development partner? Or is the societal level characterised by more inertia, and do even its younger sections hold on to the international identity of the immediate post-apartheid period?

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University students form a particularly salient group. In the terminology coined by Risse-Kappen, they are part of the ‘attentive public’ which has a general interest in politics that sets it apart from the ‘mass public’ (Risse-Kappen 1991: 482). University students can also be considered as (part of) the future elite of their country, whose views will influence international relations in the decades to come (for a similar approach see Barchak [1990]). This is especially true for the universities covered by this study, which rank as the top institutions of South Africa and indeed the entire continent. The important position of students appears to be recognised by China, which has targeted this specific group in many of its public diplomacy initiatives, offering them courses, exchanges and scholarships (for an extensive discussion see King [2013]). Lastly, previous findings that ‘the EU’s role as a geo-economic power is often regarded […] in the context of prior forms of European imperialism during the colonial period’ (Bachmann 2013) give rise to the question of how this legacy plays out in the narratives of younger generations.

Methodology The Q Approach Q studies do not measure respondents’ views in terms of predefined questions or attitudes, as is the case in survey research. Rather, the data collection starts from the participant’s own viewpoint on the topic, which is captured in a holistic way. This makes Q similar to other qualitative approaches, such as unstructured interviews. In contrast to these, however, Q procedures are highly systematic and supported by statistical techniques. This allows the researcher to systematically compare the views of different respondents and to identify patterns in the data. Q methodology hence seeks to combine the flexibility of qualitative research with the rigour and transparency of the quantitative tradition (Addams and Proops 2000: 14). This makes it a unique approach to the study of subjectivity. The Q procedure for data collection is known as ‘Q sorting’. Participants are given a stack of short, subjective statements on the topic of the research, usually between 40 and 80 (Watts and Stenner 2005: 75). The statements are selected to cover different dimensions of the overall debate and to represent a range of different viewpoints. The participants are asked to sort these statements into a quasi-normal distribution

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(see Fig. 8.1 for an example), which ranges from ‘most disagree’ at one extreme to ‘most agree’ at the other. This distribution, the ‘Q sort’, is then recorded. The most important feature of Q sorting is that it invites participants to express their point of view in a holistic way, by actively building a unique constellation out of the different elements provided. Within this constellation, what is most relevant from the respondent’s point of view, rather than that of the researcher, will come to the fore. Factor extraction and rotation are then used to systematically compare the Q sorts composed by different participants, identifying different ‘core views’. Very importantly, they emerge out of the data itself, rather than being determined by a priori expectations or decisions of the researcher. Because Q methodology is aimed at identifying the range of viewpoints that exists on a topic, rather than their relative prevalence, Q studies use relatively small and non-representative samples. A sample size of 40– 60 participants has been deemed ideal for uncovering the core views that exist within the broader population, provided that the sample is sufficiently diverse (Brown 1980: 260; Watts and Stenner 2005: 79). Q studies and their non-random sampling are not able to infer how prevalent each opinion is within the broader population (Stenner et al. 2008: 221).

-4 disagree

-3

-2

-1

0 neutral

most

Fig. 8.1 Distribution for Q sorting

+1

+2

+3

+4 agree most

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There is hence a trade-off between depth of understanding and potential for generalisation. It is precisely in this trade-off that the complementarity between survey research and the Q approach lies. Set-Up of the Study The first step in applying Q methodology is the selection of the statements for Q sorting. Since the aim of this study was to let South African students engage with the EU and Chinese narratives vis-a-vis Africa, the set of statements as a whole needed to be representative of those narratives and to cover different subthemes and ideas. Strategic narratives are ‘often formalized in policy documents that outline future objectives’ (Miskimmon et al. 2017: 4). A total of 27 white papers, agreements and declarations on EU–Africa and China–Africa relations was analysed inductively in Nvivo, through the identification and coding of thematic nodes (the list of documents can be consulted upon request to the author). This generated a large number of potential statements. These were reduced using a ‘structured sampling strategy’: different component themes within the material are identified based on theory or observation (Watts and Stenner 2012: 59). In this case, the distinction between system, identity and issue narratives was used as the starting point (Miskimmon et al. 2017: 8). A fourth type, relationship narratives, was added after further inspection of the material. For each actor—the EU and China— five statements were then sampled for each of the four narrative types. This resulted in an initial set of 40 statements. These were tested for clarity and relevance in a pilot study with 38 South African students in early 2016, leading to a final set of 41 statements (the set of statements can be consulted upon request to the author). The second step was the selection of participants. In Q research, diversity is the most important sampling consideration. Care was hence taken to include relevant types of diversity in the sample. Interviews initially took place on two opposite sides of South Africa, in the north-eastern province of Gauteng and the south-western province of the Western Cape. While students resided there for their studies, they originally

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Table 8.1 Demographic characteristics of the participants Gender Age

Male: 35 Mode: 22 y

Race

Black: 29

University Discipline

UJ: 16 Politics: 25

Female: 33 Median: 24 y White: 26 UP: 15 Economics: 20

Mean: 26.15 y Coloured: 7 SUN: 14 Law: 16

Indian: 5

Asian: 1

UCT: 10 Dev Studies: 7

UWC: 7

WITS: 6

hailed from a variety of provinces.1 The interviews covered six universities: University of Pretoria, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Johannesburg, University of Cape Town, University of the Western Cape and University of Stellenbosch. All are top-ranked universities, yet each has a distinct historical background and student demographic. Students were selected from four different disciplines: political science, economics, law and development studies. The sample included respondents from all major racial groups in the country, as well as from different socio-economic backgrounds. Table 8.1 presents the basic demographic characteristics of the participants. The main data collection took place in September–November 2016, during which a total of 68 individual and face-to-face interviews with graduate university students were carried out. Participants first filled out a few preliminary questions, followed by the actual Q sorting exercise (using the distribution depicted in Fig. 8.1) and finally an interview. The aim of the interview was to gain more insight into each student’s Q sorting decisions and to give participants a chance to bring up extra elements they felt had been missing from the provided statements.2 The resulting Q sort data was analysed through factor extraction and rotation. More details on the specific statistical procedures used are provided in the footnote.3 1 Because South Africa is such a diverse country, a citizenship requirement was deemed

too limiting. Instead, students were eligible for participation if they had resided in the country for at least five years. 2 In six cases, time constraints on the respondents’ part meant that the participation was limited to the preliminary questions and the Q sorting exercise. 3 The Q sort data was analysed with the help of the software package ‘PQMethod’ The analysis largely followed the approach set out by Watts and Stenner (2012). Centroid

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Findings From the analysis of the Q sort data, four different factors emerged. In other words, while each of the participants sorted the statements in a unique way, four groups of participants can be identified. Within each group, people share a certain core view on the EU and China as development partners. The four views can be summarised as follows: 1. Cautious embrace of the EU, distrust of China 2. Primacy of universal human rights—powerful actors exploit Africa 3. Primacy of universal human rights—Africa should work with and learn from China 4. West harms African development and sovereignty, turn to China The remainder of this section presents each of these views in turn and considers how they contribute to narratives about the EU and China. The starting point is always the ‘factor array’, which represents how a hypothetical participant who aligned perfectly with this viewpoint would have sorted the statements. Of particular importance in these arrays are the statements placed at the extremes of the distribution, as well as any statement rankings that distinguish that factor from the other three. Another factor analysis was chosen over Principal Component Analysis (PCA). An initial extraction of seven factors (the maximum for centroid factor analysis in PQ method) showed that all factors had eigenvalues higher than 1. As an additional criterion, therefore, the unrotated factor matrix was inspected. Five factors were found to have two or more significant loadings at the 0.01 level, two of which were on the borderline with only two such loadings (p. 107). A solution was therefore run in which five factors were extracted and rotated using Varimax rotation. The fifth factor had only one significant loading after rotation, both when using the p < 0.01 criterion and when applying the automatic flagging procedure of PQ Method. The final solution hence extracted and rotated four factors, each of which possessed between seven and fifteen significant loadings. Together, the factors account for 47% of the study variance, which is considered very satisfactory (p. 199). The next step is to identify the ‘factor exemplars’ for each factor, i.e. the participants who ‘exemplify the shared item pattern or configuration that is characteristic of that factor’ (Watts and Stenner 2005: 81). Several criteria are available to identify such defining participants (see Brown 1993: 109; Schmolck 2014; Watts and Stenner 2005: 87–88; Zabala 2014: 165–166). The analysis presented here followed Watts and Stenner’s guidelines. Starting out with a threshold for a significant loading of 0.40 (which corresponds to P < 0.01), the threshold was further raised to 0.44 to reduce the number of confounding sorts and maximise the number of participants included in the creation of the factor arrays. This led to 48 out of the total of 68 respondents loading significantly on one factor only.

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common focus in Q studies are so-called ‘consensus statements’, i.e. statements that do not distinguish between any pair of factors. In this case, however, there was not a single consensus statement, which points to the high level of contestation over the different narrative elements. Each factor array is further illustrated and brought to life through quotes from the interviews with participants who loaded significantly on that factor. View 1: Cautious Embrace of the EU, Distrust of China Twelve participants load significantly on this factor alone. Seven are male, five are female. Their ages range from 22 to 44 years old. Six students are black, five are white, and one is coloured. They come from four of the six universities: UJ (4), UP (4), SUN (2) and UCT (2). Six study economics, and two each study political science, law, and development studies.

The first factor holds a relatively positive view towards the EU. The EU is seen as an important partner on the international scene, with which Africa should work together in international organisations (S33, +3) and which can help Africa to improve its status within the international community (S37, +3). These participants also strongly agree that the EU is an important source of learning for Africa, for instance in the field of regional integration (S10, +4). One respondent expressed a preference for learning from the EU over developing ‘African solutions’: ‘developing your own African or Southern way of developing, we don’t have time, because poverty is a problem, and with that time constraint we need to emulate things that are proven, where there is a 90 per cent chance of succeeding’. Others were more critical. One respondent noted that ‘the EU has become one of the leading authorities in everything from trade to development to economic activity’, but added that ‘obviously they have done something wrong with Brexit ’. Another stated that ‘the EU is also at risk of dissolving currently, so we can learn from them but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we will learn positively from them’. Compared to the other factors, this view is also the least negative about the equality of the relationship with the EU (S11, −2 and S28, 0). Similarly, it is somewhat less critical of the statements that describe the EU approach to Africa as driven by norms and values (S29, 0), and as mainly motivated by African development (S38, −1). On norms and values, one participant said that ‘the EU thinks that it is having fair dealings with

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Africa when it comes to the general values and the ethical aspect, and if you look at it at face value it is generally ethical. […] But the issue is that it is promoting the reliance [of African countries] on natural resources and the way things have always been’. On the EU being driven by African development, a participant stated that ‘I think they [the EU] worked very hard on it for the last 30 years, really trying to correct a lot of the wrongs of the past in how they implement policies and agreements, the policies as a whole are pro African development ’. There is also cautious agreement that the EU shows solidarity with African countries in their fight against poverty (S32, +1). Yet this ‘embrace’ of the EU is far from absolute, as most of the scores just mentioned are still negative. One participant stated that ‘it’s not like I love the EU, but the other option [China] is just not an option for me, so I take it ’. Looking beyond the specific Africa–EU relationship, Factor 3 stands out as the only factor that does not strongly agree with the statement that ‘The international order is fundamentally unequal and unfair, putting developing countries at a structural disadvantage’ (S31, +1). When it comes to the international aid architecture, Africa’s development partners should adhere to internationally defined principles of effective development cooperation rather than developing their own model (S18, +3), and the relation between Africa and its development partners should be governed by legally binding contracts with clear obligations and rights on both sides (S39, +4). According to this first view, the focus of development partners’ support to Africa should be promoting democracy, human rights, and good governance (S17, +4). Development partners should ask African governments to engage civil society in all development processes and dialogues, and if needed even bypass governments to work directly with civil society (S20, +4). One respondent added that these elements are ‘super important and we can learn from Europe about those institutions, and not from China […] we can learn a lot more about good governance and institutions from Europe and more developed countries in the West ’. A focus on infrastructure and economic development is not rejected, but closely follows in the ranking (S23, +3). In line with the EU narrative, human rights are understood to be universal, indivisible and interrelated (S30, +2). The Chinese view that different countries can have different understandings and priorities regarding human rights and should be able to decide their own path of human rights development is rejected (S3, −3), as is the statement that development partners should respect the will and sovereignty of African

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countries, and hence not make cooperation dependent on what they do internally (S4, −2). Other elements of the Chinese narrative do not find much resonance among this group of respondents either. At the system level, this factor does not agree that Africa and China should work together to reform the existing international order and make it more fair and democratic (S13, −3). During the interviews, participants connected this to China’s own political system: ‘China isn’t particularly democratic, so I don’t think they should play much of a role in that ’, and ‘China is autocratic, what do you expect China to teach other people about democracy?’. Nor does this factor believe that China can help Africa to improve its status within the international community (S16, −2). One participant argued that ‘China does not want to disappoint big powers, so they will not support Africa. For instance, China was benefiting a lot from Libya economically, but it did not veto intervention in the UN Security Council. Only for very soft issues they will support Africa. If an issue is critical and it may disappoint the Americans and the Europeans, then China will turn its back to Africa’. This critical stance extends to the wider BRICS format. This is the only factor not to agree that South–South cooperation is very different from North–South cooperation (S19, 0). One respondent said: ‘South-South cooperation likes to present it as a new thing and something that has never been seen before, while the same basics still apply’. Another echoed this sentiment: ‘the differences are more perceived than real […] the strategies that are used and the types of cooperation are really the same’. The China–Africa relationship is not considered to be mutually beneficial (S27, −4), China and Africa do not interact as equal partners (S21, −4), and the idea of China as a historically loyal partner is rejected (S8, −3). This view is also the only one of the four to disagree with the statement that the current China–Africa relationship contributes to African development (S34, −1). Chinese enterprises operating in Africa are evaluated particularly negatively. This view rejects that they are helping African countries to translate their natural resources into development (S24, − 4), that they are making efforts to respect the natural environment (S41, −4) or to have good relations with local people and develop projects for their benefit (S1, −4). China was described as ‘a bit of a bully’, ‘trying to extract as much as they can for as cheap as possible’, ‘exploiting as much as possible’, ‘so set on acquiring resources ’, and aiming ‘to reach superpower status at all costs ’. China’s environmental role in Africa was

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again connected to its domestic situation: ‘Beijing is certainly not the ecocapital of the world, and if they are not doing it at home, then why the hell would they do it here’. Other issues that were frequently mentioned are the ‘import’ of Chinese labour and the lack of technology transfer. To summarise, this first view cautiously embraces the EU as a development partner, while engaging very critically with different elements of the Chinese narrative. View 2: Primacy of Universal Human Rights—Powerful Actors Exploit Africa Fifteen participants load significantly on this factor alone. Eight are male, seven are female. Their ages range from 22 to 31. Nine students are white, three are black, two are Indian and one student is coloured. There are eight students of political science, four students of law and three students of economics. They come from all universities except UWC (four from SUN, three from UP, three from Wits, three from UCT, and two from UJ).

A focus on human rights is central to the second view. These participants consider human rights to be universal, indivisible and interrelated (S30, +3). In the words of one participant: ‘at the end of the day, a basic human right is a basic human right, you know what is right and wrong ’. Another respondent described the alternative conception of human rights as context-dependent as ‘a smokescreen for allowing or excusing inexcusable behaviour’. Human rights should be the focus of development partners’ support (S17, +4), and in case of severe violations financial support should be suspended (S25, +4). This last point sets this view apart from the other three, which see the suspension of support as (slightly) undesirable. In the interviews, a dual rationale emerged for the suspension of aid. On the one hand, it is a matter of internal–external consistency: ‘if they carry on sending financial support, it is almost like they are implicitly condoning it, and then how can they look their own people in the eye and preach human rights within their own country?’. The second rationale is more instrumental: aid that is given to regimes that violate human rights is unlikely to benefit the population, and the (threat of) suspension of aid may exert pressure on such regimes to change their policies.

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This factor is also most supportive of the notion that development partners should encourage African governments to support the ICC (S6, + 2). However, several respondents were quick to point out that the functioning of the ICC needs improving, stating that ‘there are also Western development partners who […] are linked to these crimes whether directly or indirectly’. The view is hence that ‘With the cooperation of African countries and with time, the ICC will gain enough power to prosecute leaders from all over the world and not just Africa, but Africa has to buy into it ’. Given the strong focus on the protection of universal human rights, this group of participants might be expected to prefer the EU narrative over the Chinese one. However, the concern with human rights is set against a world view that sees the existing international order as fundamentally unequal and unfair (S31, +4). One of the participants summarised this as follows: ‘Africa is sort of a victim of the international system, anyone coming in a lot of the time will be very exploitative and neo-colonial and neo-imperialist ’. Africa is not seen to be treated as an equal in international relationships, whether with the EU (S11, −4) or with China (S21, −4). Rather than a conscious choice by the partners, this is the automatic implication of the wide disparity in structural conditions: ‘They are just so unequal: the wealth of the EU versus that of Africa, the unequalness [sic] of the governmental structures, how Europe runs versus how Africa runs, what both sides have to gain from the engagement ’; ‘China is an enormous economic power and Africa is not, and that automatically gives China the upper hand’. Because of this inequality, the relation between Africa and its development partners should be governed by legally binding contracts with clear obligations and rights on both sides (S39, +4). Concerning the relationship with the EU, this factor disagrees that it has evolved over time towards a more equal relationship (S28, −3). The EU’s claim that it is driven by norms and values in its relationship with Africa is rejected (S29, −3), as is the idea that the EU’s main motivation is African development (S38, −3). During the interviews, an image emerged of the EU as an essentially self-interested power, looking after its own economic and political priorities. As put by one respondent: ‘the main motivation is not development, it is trade and self -benefit, to a large extent ’. The most positive version saw the EU as interested in African development but having other, more pressing concerns. Others were more critical: ‘a lot of what the EU does is all talk, and they don’t actually care so much about the development of African countries, because

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there is still so much that they can get out of them in the vulnerable state that African countries are in now, and they can use that vulnerable state to their advantage’. As negative as the evaluation of the EU–Africa relationship may be, China is not seen as a viable alternative partner. The idea of mutual benefit in the China–Africa relationship is rejected (S27, −3), and the environmental and social role of Chinese companies is evaluated very negatively (S1 and S41, −4). During the interviews, China’s approach to Africa was characterised in terms of self-interest and resource extraction, with little regard for local impacts. One element that was mentioned frequently is the (perceived) lack of local employment: ‘The fact that so often they build these developments but they don’t employ Africans and bring in Chinese labour shows they don’t really care about the development of local people’. An element that sets this factor apart from all others is that it rejects the idea that Africa can learn a lot from China (S14, −2). The follow-up interviews showed that this was mainly a reaction to the specific example given in the statement, namely poverty reduction. As one participant put it: ‘I would never see China as a champion of poverty reduction, I don’t think they’re very people focused’. Another respondent concurred: ‘China is known […] for the amount of people living in poverty, and it does not actively combat poverty, it is more trying to increase their position on the global scale’. In short, the second view combines a focus on human rights with concern about international inequality. The EU and China are both seen as essentially self-interested partners, which interact with Africa in highly unequal ways. View 3: Primacy of Universal Human Rights—Africa Should Work with and Learn from China Seven participants load significantly on this factor alone. Six are male and one is female. Their ages range from 22 to 32 years old. Four participants are black, and three are white. Three study economics, two are students of political science, and two study law. There are two students from UP, and one each from the five other universities.

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The third view shares central elements with the previous one, as it combines strong convictions about human rights with a focus on international inequality and improving Africa’s international status. Where the two factors differ, however, is in their assessment of human rights and democracy promotion by external actors and in their view of China as a partner on the international scene. Of all factors, this one is most convinced of the universal, indivisible and interrelated character of human rights (S30, +4). One participant explained: ‘if you look at South Africa, you could say that during apartheid we had our own form of human rights, it is a slippery slope, a cultural take on human rights can be an excuse for leaders to infringe upon human rights, there is a clear international set of human rights ’. By the same token, these students disagree most strongly with two other ideas: that different countries can have different understandings and priorities regarding human rights (S3, −4), and that development partners should respect the will and sovereignty of African countries and hence not make cooperation dependent on what they do internally (S4, −3). Compared to the previous factor, however, this group appears more hesitant about human rights and democracy being made the focus of development cooperation. A focus on infrastructure and economic activity (S23, +3) is preferred over one on promoting democracy, good governance and human rights (S17, +1). This view also disagrees slightly with the suspension of financial support in case of severe violations of human rights or democracy (S25, −1). Like the previous group, these students consider the existing international order to be fundamentally unequal and unfair (S31, +3). One respondent stressed: ‘that is the one I agreed with most strongly of all, if there was a +5 or +6 [category] I would have put it there. It is inherently and growingly unequal, unequal in every single way you can imagine […] This is the biggest theme I have come across: asymmetrical relations, and how hard it is to turn the tide’. This concern is also apparent in the appraisal of the relationships with both the EU and China. The EU does not treat Africa as an equal partner (S11, −4) and does not respect African ownership (S15, −4). According to one participant, ‘the EU still comes with a patronising approach […] they sit there in an ivory tower and want to tell African countries what to do’. Another noted: ‘it’s like a white saviour complex, white man’s burden, “we want you to take the lead”, but as soon as someone takes a step in a different direction then that is seen as proof that you are not capable, the EU’s own

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models are seen as the only way’. Furthermore, the EU’s relationship with Africa is considered to be motivated by other concerns than African development (S38, −3). One respondent said, ‘it seems to be more based on trade and economics, not the development of the continent, it serves the EU, obviously they need the minerals, it is based on trade and self -serving for the EU as opposed to developing Africa’. Another sees the EU’s promotion of norms as instrumental for the pursuit of these interests: ‘the EU is […] an interest-driven society, it is not driven by … of course there is an element of values, I think the EU understands that if Africans accept these norms and values, it will be easier for them to pursue their interests ’. Likewise, China does not treat Africa as an equal partner (S21, −3). The relationship was described by one participant as ‘not at all equal, not at all mutually beneficial, it is extraction of primary resources, development is secondary, the benefits are very unequal, they only in small part go to African countries ’. Another respondent summarised his view of both relationship as follows: ‘Africa always gets the shorter end of the stick. As much as they might talk about trying to develop Africa and assist, there is always something to gain, especially in terms of mineral resources ’. Chinese enterprises are also seen in a very negative light, particularly when it comes to their social and environmental practices (S1, −3 and S41, −4). Where this third view is different from the previous one, however, is in the appraisal of China as a source of learning and an international partner. While the previous factor rejected the idea of learning from China, this one strongly prefers China (S14, +4) over the EU (S10, 0) as a source of learning. One respondent argued that ‘the EU model cannot be applied on the ground – the fascination with the EU is counterintuitive in the long run’. Another noted that while ‘obviously they [African countries] can learn from everyone else’, ‘the way they [China] have done it is quite different from the way African countries have been told to go about it ’ and ‘having the autonomy of deciding how you want to develop, that is a better model to develop from’. Another participant echoed this focus on autonomy: ‘the China story is a big success, because they are the only one that went in against the Western way and developed. It showed that there can be other solutions, China is a beacon of that ’. Students who align with this third view are also very positive about Africa and China working together on the international scene. China can help Africa to improve its status within the international community and to become better represented in international organisations (S16, +4).

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Africa and China should also work together in international organisations to defend the interests of the developing world (S35, +4), and to reform the existing international order and make it more fair and democratic (S13, +2). One participant explained: ‘I am very much pro-BRICS, because the current sort of world order disadvantages … that is where you see the ICC issues coming up, African countries feel they are not represented. With countries like India and China growing and having a bigger influence, Africa should turn towards them. China will always have its own interest at heart at the end of the day, but African countries have a bigger chance of having shared goals with China, economic development, levelling the playing field, that is why it is important that they work together’. Cooperation with the North, while ranked slightly lower, is also perceived quite positively. The EU can help Africa to improve its status (S37, +3) and, more broadly, the North and South can work together to address common concerns and global challenges, including poverty and underdevelopment (S40, +3). One respondent explained this as follows: ‘I don’t think Africa should be picking sides […] a combined effort from both sides will help to ensure that development is something that is achievable in Africa’. Another saw it in more strategic terms: ‘The Chinese could be used by the Africans to leverage the Europeans […] we can play these two sides against each other to get what we want ’. To summarise, the third view shares the previous factor’s emphasis on human rights and international inequality, but is more apprehensive about external human rights promotion and more optimistic about China as a partner on the international scene. View 4: West Harms African Development and Sovereignty, Turn to China Fourteen participants load significantly on this factor alone. Eight are male, six are female. All are between 21 and 34 years old. Ten students are black, two are white, one student is coloured and one student is Indian. There are five students of development studies, five of political science, three of economics and one of law. Seven study at UJ, three at UP, two at UWC, and one each at SUN and Wits.

Like the previous two views, the fourth and final factor considers the existing international order to be fundamentally unequal and unfair (S31,

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+4). Its diagnosis of the problem and of the way forward is, however, quite different. View 4 sees unequal and exploitative North–South relations as the heart of the problem. According to one participant, ‘African countries as a whole, they are not benefitting from any relations that we as African countries have with either the Americans or the West […] they are looting our resources, destroying our culture, undermining our knowledge’. Another respondent put it as follows: ‘Basically, developing countries are doomed, and I feel that the EU has done this on purpose. They know, based on previous experience, what puts you in a vicious cycle of poverty and they have set the wheels in motion for Africa to remain in a vicious cycle of poverty’. These respondents feel that Africa is not treated as an equal partner by the EU (S11, −4), that the relationship with the EU has not become more equal compared to the past (S28, −4), and that the EU does not respect African ownership (S15, −4). The idea that the EU’s main motivation in the relationship is African development is firmly rejected (S38, −4). Instead, ‘the main motivation is to make Europe great, for the EU ’. This was often put in a historical context: ‘the development of the West and the underdevelopment of the South happened through a single process, extraction, colonialism, so you can’t say the motivation to date is development ’. The EU’s trade policy will not help Africa integrate into the world economy (S26, −3) and, in short, the current EU–Africa relationship does not contribute to African development (S12, −2). Unsurprisingly, this factor does not believe the EU should take a leading role in international efforts to promote Africa’s development (S2, −3). The negative appraisal of the EU–Africa relationship is combined with a concern about sovereignty and respect for African choices, which closely echoes the Chinese narrative. This factor is the only one to agree with the statement that ‘Different countries can have different understandings and priorities regarding human rights; countries should be able to choose their own path of human rights development in light of their own national conditions’ (S3, +2). One participant noted that ‘Universal human rights are more Eurocentric, human rights are very subjective, you can’t have a template for the entire world, we can’t pin the same human rights to countries if we are to respect diversity’. Development partners should respect the will and sovereignty of African countries, and should hence not make cooperation dependent on what African countries do internally (S4, +3). One respondent said: ‘I believe that the way we do things and the way our partners do things, what we value and our principles, they differ. So when

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we talk about human rights, there are things that we do not perceive the same way that they do. For them some things might be a right, and for us it is not. So they should respect us, the way we do things, and we will respect what they value the most, but they should also respect us ’. Another participant stated that ‘hegemonic powers like Europe cannot keep changing the rules about sovereignty to suit their own interest ’. A similar sentiment was voiced about human rights being instrumentalised: ‘These Europeans, […] they come up with these human rights and they use them as a scape goat to destroy African countries ’. This group disagrees that development partners should encourage African governments to support the functioning of the ICC (S6, −3). The main gripe is the ICC’s failure to prosecute Western leaders. According to one respondent, ‘We turn a blind eye when the West is doing it, the rules need to be fair, and we are just not seeing that with the ICC ’. For developing countries, the most important human right is the right to development (S5, +3). Asked what this concept means to her, one respondent said it is about ‘acknowledging that people need to develop in ways that many people almost take for granted. As much as people critique human rights violations in China, there is economic development and wellbeing, there is access to food, internet, basic living conditions, which are not present in Africa. […] I am not saying certain things must come first, but you can’t tell a starving person that they must recycle’. Development partners should hence focus their support on infrastructure and economic activity (S23, +4) rather than on human rights and democracy (S17, + 1): ‘I feel like they [EU and China] should be economic and trade partners more than anything else, because when you get into human rights and everything, you start interfering in sovereignty’. This fourth view is very critical of the global North and South working together to address common concerns and global challenges (S40, −3). As one respondent put it: ‘The relationship hasn’t worked to address the problems of the South, I feel like there has only been one benefactor, and it has been the North unfortunately’. South–South cooperation, one the other hand, is seen as very different (S19, +4). Participants said the main difference lies in how African countries are treated: ‘North-South development generally has an incredibly paternalistic and quite frankly very disrespectful narrative around it […] I get why Africans want to work with people from the Orient, because they are just more respectful ’; ‘South-South development cooperation, […] it is about encouraging or pushing each other into our

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own limit, and North-South they oppose it […] the North is looting the South and the North doesn’t want to listen to the South’. International cooperation with China is desirable, both to defend the interests of the developing world (S35, +3) and to reform the existing international order to make it more fair and democratic (S13, +4). This factor is also convinced that Africa can learn a lot from China (S14, +3). ‘We should not follow the European strategy, we should follow the Chinese, the Chinese people as a whole went from being underdeveloped to an industrialised society’; ‘They did it internally, there was no dependence, they closed of their country and developed internally. There was no democracy in China’s model, but there was decisive leadership, which is what is important to get development ’. The fourth factor’s relatively positive appraisal of the relationship with China is further apparent from the slightly more optimistic placement of statements that generally receive very negative rankings (S1, 0; S41 and S21, −2). During the interviews, however, it became apparent that the choice for China was for many students mainly a choice against Europe and the West, rather than an unqualified embrace of China. This sentiment is illustrated by the following quotes: ‘Africa still gets more of a benefit from the relationship with China than from the one with the EU, I see it as a lesser of two evils kind of situation’, ‘I do not fully agree with what [the Chinese] are doing, but at least it is better than what the Americans and Europeans are doing ’; ‘China is not any better themselves, it’s just that […] twenty years after democracy hopefully we have learned from what has gone terribly wrong with the EU, and set strict rules for China’; ‘See, I have a problem with China, but at the same time I feel it is a better devil than Europe’. In sum, the fourth factor expresses a deep frustration with North– South relations, together with a concern about sovereignty and respect for African choices. In turn, its reaction to the Chinese narrative is the most positive of all four factors.

Discussion and Conclusion The emergence of China as an important partner for African countries has led to contestation between different narratives about development and cooperation. While the formation and projection of these narratives has garnered significant attention, the crucial process of narrative reception by African audiences remains overlooked. The increasing availability

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of survey data on African attitudes towards international partners is a welcome development. However, the general and fragmented nature of such indicators means that they cannot reveal the more complex ways in which African audiences engage with competing narratives about their continent’s international relations. To contribute to filling this gap, this chapter used Q methodology to study reception of EU and Chinese narratives among South African university students. While the previous section offered an in-depth discussion of the four ‘core views’ found among these future elites, this section discusses the broader significance of these findings. First, the findings testify to the complexity of African views on different international partners and relations. While public opinion is often (out of practical necessity) narrowed down to broad and even simplistic attitudes, the Q sort approach brings out the nuance that underlies these attitudes. In all four core opinions, different central elements of the EU and Chinese development narratives were evaluated differently. One example concerns the social and environmental practices of Chinese enterprises operating in Africa, which is sometimes taken as proof that China has a general ‘hearts and minds problem’ on the continent. While such concern was found (to varying degrees) in each of the four core opinions, it did not keep students from simultaneously appreciating China as an important source of learning and a valuable international partner in an unfair global order. Similarly, the widespread focus among students on human rights and even on a ‘Western’ conceptualisation of human rights does not automatically imply a preference for the EU as a development partner. Julia Strauss has stressed ‘how much the individuals experiencing China-Africa interactions express both agency and the ambivalence about China’s impact on Africa’ (2013: 164). The findings here have shown how this ambivalence and complexity further increases when competing narratives are being evaluated, as assessments of (historical) relations with the West are brought to bear on the evaluation of China as an alternative partner (and vice versa). On a more general level, the findings contribute to the research agenda on strategic narratives in international relations, and particularly to the nascent focus on public narratives. They provide further evidence for the claim that ‘individuals, when exposed to various narratives (contested narratives) do not choose one narrative over another, but remix narratives, taking parts of various narratives to construct something new’ (Roselle et al. 2015).

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A second insight to arise from the findings is the high degree of contestation. The four core views that were found offer widely diverging assessments of the EU and China, and of Africa’s international relations more broadly. In addition, none of the 41 statements qualified as a ‘consensus statement’ according to Q statistical procedures. This is particularly remarkable given the study’s focus on university students, a group which is fairly homogenous in terms of both age and level of education. Basic demographic characteristics of the four groups of students were presented along with the findings, and they can provide first hints about the patterns underlying the variation in views. It should be stressed, however, that Q methodology was not created to establish such relationships and that additional research would hence be needed. Another point that deserves further study is whether differences in students’ outlooks are related to differences in their news consumption, which ties in with the growing research agenda on Sino-African ties in the media sphere (Madrid-Morales and Wasserman 2017; Wekesa 2017). In any case, the present findings indicate that South Africa’s so-called ‘identity crisis’ in the field of foreign policy is a profound one, which goes far beyond a rift between the government on the one hand and ‘society’ on the other. More broadly, the high degree of contestation indicates that narrative competition in the field of development is not just taking place at the abstract level of official speeches or scholarly analyses, but also permeates the societal level. The findings testify to the deeply contentious nature of such core notions as ‘development’, ‘human rights’ and ‘cooperation’ in Africa’s changing international relations.

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CHAPTER 9

Visual Analysis of the Belt and Road Initiative: The Securing of a Regional Geopolitical Order, China’s Identity, and Infrastructure Development Narratives Carolijn van Noort

Geopolitics of Central Asia and Infrastructure The geopolitics that shape the perception and practice of infrastructural development and regional integration has intensified in Central Asia in the twenty-first century. China has substantially increased its engagement in Central Asia, while competing and collaborating with Russia. This chapter explains why and how images about foreign policy actions in infrastructural development assist in securing regional geopolitics, by evaluating China’s visual communication about the Belt and Road Initiative. The triangular relationship between Russia, China, and Central Asia is

C. van Noort (B) School of Education and Social Sciences, University of the West of Scotland, London, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2021 A. Miskimmon et al. (eds.), One Belt, One Road, One Story?, Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53153-9_9

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important because of the countries’ geographical proximity, contemporary developments in the area of infrastructure, the region’s substantial energy reserves, and the areas’ conflictual history (Liu and Dunford 2016). Examining the communication that is supporting regional ordermaking is important due to Central Asia’s springboard position between China and the European Union. This chapter develops EU–China analysis by examining how China attempts to forge meaning for third parties— in this case Central Asian states and their societies. It develops strategic narrative theory by analysing identity narratives through the lens of “ontological security” (Steele 2008), as well as using concepts of utopia (continuity of society in time) and geopolitics (presence of society in space and regional context) to show how such an identity narrative and sense of ontological security is anchored through the representation of space and time. Infrastructural development involves the design and implementation of ports, roads, airports, bridges and dams, and technical cooperation and knowledge exchanges, among others. Rising powers actively design and implement large-scale infrastructure projects at home and abroad. External activities in infrastructure contribute to rising powers’ shared aim to pursue a more democratic and multipolar world order. Schweller ascribes this development as follows: “emerging multipolarity is attributed to the diffusion of economic, scientific, and technological power” (Schweller 2014: 85). Political actors make use of “strategic narratives” to give meaning to these foreign policy activities and to secure concepts of the Self within a regional order. Strategic narratives are “a tool for political actors to extend their influence, manage expectations, and change the discursive environment in which they operate” (Miskimmon et al. 2013: 2). Thus, well-formed strategic narratives are instrumental for political actors because they make sense—by creating order—to a sequence of events. Russia expanded its infrastructure network in Central Asia in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to accommodate its expansion into the region. The Russian Tsars developed, in competition with Imperial India, an efficient network of railroads to oversee their extended territories. This political competition is frequently described using the Great Game narrative introduced in the novel Kim by Rudyard Kipling (1901) and explained in great depth by Peter Hopkirk (1990). Since the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Central Asian countries were subjected to Soviet rule for most of the twentieth century. From an economic and

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political development perspective, infrastructure and logistics intensified to support the cotton cultivation in Uzbekistan and wheat production in Kazakhstan, among others. Subsequently, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Central Asia has been a hotbed of activity. In particular, a surge of new actors has been pursuing the access and control of the Caspian petroleum reserves (Edwards 2003). Consequently, a number of infrastructure narratives to discuss the pipelines necessary to access these reserves have emerged, including narratives regarding “what route should they take, who should be responsible for their construction and safety, who charges and profits from them – and the composition of the consortia and firms responsible for this” (ibid.: 86). China has actively developed its foreign policy in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century using infrastructure as a central pillar. Specifically, the much-commented Belt and Road Initiative (“BRI”; also named the One Belt and One Road “OBOR”), publicly introduced in 2013, has drawn significant academic attention. Building on the historical networks of trading routes known as the Silk Road, the BRI targets cooperation and connectivity across Asia, Europe, and Africa. The BRI promotes cooperation and facilitation in trade, energy and security overland and across the sea. If effective, it will connect 65 countries, which represents 55% of the world’s GDP, 70% of the total global population, and a spectacular 75% of identified energy reserves (Zhao 2016). The BRI combines the New Silk Road Economic Belt and the Twenty-First-Century Maritime Silk Road and is a direct extension of the China Dream, which is the dominant theme of the administration of Xi Jinping (Ferdinand 2016). While China mostly narrates the BRI as an apolitical set of win-win infrastructural developments, greater geopolitical implications coming from the BRI may arise. We know that China’s infrastructure investment is contested in other parts of the world (Keuleers 2015) and diverging geopolitical perspectives on the BRI are likely to emerge from the European Union and Russia (Gabuev 2016). In light of all these activities, and as Gorbunova and Komarov argue, “‘Big Eurasia’ now represents a kind of battlefield for ambitious large-scale integration and liberalization initiatives with overlapping sets of participants” (Gorbunova and Komarov 2017: 230). Therefore, it can be argued that the narrative battle about the conceptualization, institutionalization, and practice of China’s foreign policy actions in infrastructure is shaping the perception and effectiveness of China’s geopolitics in Central Asia.

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This chapter contains five parts. The first part sets out the theoretical framework, providing a brief overview of ontological security, narratives, and aesthetic power. The second part explains what infrastructural development narratives are, and why they matter for ontological security studies. The third part explains the visual methodology used for the study of infrastructural development narratives in the visual communication of the BRI. The fourth part presents the findings of the visual analysis, which is structured using the four core objectives of the BRI. The fifth part discusses these findings through the theoretical lens of ontological security. This discussion elaborates on the ambiguous cosmetic image of the BRI, the function of infrastructural development, China’s identity, and regional order-making narratives for ontological security, and the visual communication of the BRI as a regional utopia. Overall, this chapter highlights the significance of images in the formation of strategic narratives, their function in ontological security, as well as the perpetual vulnerabilities in these political endeavours.

Ontological Security, Narratives, and Aesthetic Power Narratives give shape to infrastructural developments (as objects), and they are understood through narratives (as method of understanding). The goal of the political formation of narratives is to influence the discursive environment about a policy debate. Strong strategic narratives adhere to a narrative grammar, in which elements are narrativized (Dimitriu and de Graaf 2016). For instance, mission narratives in international security attempt to persuasively convey the purpose of a sequence of events, and relate to “long-term, overarching purposes and ambitions” while at the same time to “existing national interests, cultural norms, and values” (Dimitriu and de Graaf 2016: 7). Narratives of legitimacy try to justify actions, and they “include the highest-level justifications for states and regimes” (Price 2012: 11). Counternarratives, or competing narratives, present alternative meanings in a policy debate. These can be strategically employed in a visual construction to legitimize a preferred discourse. But there is a risk that the presence of counternarratives are perceived the wrong way. Overall, political actors pursue narrative verisimilitude to influence audiences. According to Bruner, narratives “are a version of reality whose acceptability is governed by convention and ‘narrative necessity’ rather than by empirical verification and logical requiredness

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[sic]” (Bruner 1991: 4). A narrative interpretation is never true or false, but more or less applicable to a particular cultural and historical context (ibid.: 4). Political actors attempt to accommodate in their narratives on infrastructural development a mixture of objectives, combining interests in the areas of economic partnership, geopolitical hegemony, cultural allegiance, regional peace, and security, among others. While these narratives aim to be overarching (that is showcasing plausibility), they are at risk of contestation and disagreement. This chapter uses the concept of “ontological security” to explain why states seek consistent perceptions of the “Self” by narrativizing foreign policy actions, as described by Brent Steele (2008). The concept fits within the “narrative turn” in International Relations Literature (Roberts 2006) due to the instrumental emphasis of narratives in identity-building and power transition. The central argument in Steele’s book is “that states pursue social actions to serve self-identity needs, even when these actions compromise their physical existence” (Steele 2008: 2). Steele seeks to understand moral, humanitarian, and honour-driven behaviour in international relations using the ontological security definition as set out by Anthony Giddens (Steele 2008; Giddens 1991). Ontological security expands the traditional focus of physical strength by examining how states pursue consistent self-concepts using narratives (Steele 2008). This process requires reflexive agency within a social environment, and the need to change behaviour in the face of disruptions. The ontological security approach has been used to study humanitarian actions, war, and national identity (for example, Croft 2012; Suboti´c 2016; Zarakol 2010), and scholars are actively developing the concept for future studies (see the Special Issue on Ontological Security in Cooperation and Conflict; including Browning and Joenniemi 2017; Croft and Vaughan-Williams 2017). This chapter claims the applicability of the ontological security concept for the study of infrastructural development narratives. The narration of routine actions in the area of infrastructural development is aimed to secure and “maintain consistent self -concepts ” (Steele 2008: 3, italics in the original). The securing of the Self is then extended to narratives of a desirable regional order. Under this idea, the material practices of infrastructural development are complemented with the social actions of being a moral and honourable leader in a changing world order. China’s new identity as global economic power, global investor, and energy importer (Liu and Dunford 2016) has destabilized the state’s historically shaped

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identity narrative. The concept of “ontological security” then makes us question how China sees itself and understand its motivations in external relations. We can argue that China requires, due to the changing conditions, a set of narratives to bring order and continuity to maintain ontological security. This chapter identifies and explains the infrastructural development narratives in China’s visual communication of the BRI. It aims to answer how these narratives add to consistent imaginations of the “Self” as well as their construction of a desirable, regional order. Geopolitics and identity are closely linked. Klaus Dodds explains that “[t]he making and remaking of national identities is a creative process and also inherently geographical because they are associated with particular places” (Dodds 2014: 71). The formation of this identity operates on various geographical scales; from the national, the regional to the global (ibid.). For instance, in response to separatists’ movements in Western China, the Central Government has pushed for a strategy that links geopolitics and identity to enable a coherent and consistent selfconcept, including by means of “economic investment” and “via foreign policy decisions such as the pursuing of close cooperation with Central Asian states and Russia” (ibid.: 87). Objects are important in the strategy and practice of geopolitics. This includes the use of flags and maps as well as the visual communication of infrastructure projects, because the “geopolitical imaginations and practices are embedded and emboldened by their relationship to a vast array of things” (ibid.: 96). Dodds refers to the example of a James Bond film which dramatized the “geopolitical stakes” involved in the securing of energy reserves in Central Asia, using “[m]aps, pipelines, tankers, nuclear bombs, and submarines” (ibid.: 102). The framing of events, actors, and objects is a reflexive activity. As Steele describes it: “Narrative provides a coherence to the Self ” (Steele 2008: 20, italics in the original). The concept of ontological security is further explained in Steele’s work on “aesthetic power” which explains how “centralized bodies of power utilize resources to apply a cosmetic image to the operation of power” (Steele 2010: 25). Its usage can help to “regiment the legitimacy of power” (Steele 2010: 26). A successful dissemination of aesthetic power is nevertheless subjected to instability: The aesthetic as it is realized through motion and action in these accounts has the stated intention of creating a more secure environment for a community or Self (a “show of force” or “demonstration of will”); it

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instead leads to pockets of vulnerability that arise because the aesthetic of power that had been operating in ambiguity becomes revealed through such action. (Steele 2010: 27)

Strategic narratives that give meaning to foreign policy actions can demonstrate a state’s goodwill. But these actions are vulnerable due to that same cosmetic image because it hides the instability of the Self. The meanings imbued into these actions are exposed to other unintended emotions, including suspicion and fault. The outcome of aesthetic power is what defines the Self; a secure or insecure state body.

Infrastructural Development Narratives Narratives are instrumental because they intend to shape the expectations and perception of foreign policy actions in infrastructural development. Large-scale infrastructural projects are disruptive in the political, social, economic, environmental, and security senses. States gain from well-formed strategic narratives to achieve order, adding to their ontological security. There is no perfect formula to create persuasive strategic narratives (Freedman 2013: 612). Nevertheless, political actors engage in the communication of strategic narratives because well-formed strategic narratives can help shape the conceptualization, implementation, and maintenance of infrastructural development projects. Infrastructural development narratives aim to give meaning to the promotion of hard infrastructure, including the development of ports, roads, and rails; as well as to soft infrastructure, including custom unions, specialized banks, and the encouragement of people-to-people interactions (that is technology and knowledge-sharing). However, suspicion of geo-economic pursuits may arise due to geopolitical concerns, as seen in the case with China and India (Yu 2017: 366). Political actors create “strategic narratives” about infrastructural development to facilitate a positive sense of the Self. Strategic narratives have a temporal quality as they are “a means for political actors to construct a shared meaning of the past, present, and future of international politics to shape the behavior of domestic and international actors” (Miskimmon et al. 2013: 2). This sense-making aims to secure the self-identity. This then explains the narration of foreign policy actions. Narratives have the ability to illuminate a history of political isolation, economic dependency, and conflict, to rationalize present developments in infrastructure.

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Narratives about the present might explain and imagine new political relations and economic activity, such as in the case of China in Africa (Wasserman 2015). Political actors also use strategic narratives to shape the perception of the future, to secure a continuous imagination of the Self within a preferred world order. Subsequently, strategic narratives aim to give meaning to political and economic organizations, including to the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (Gorbunova and Komarov 2017). The effectiveness of narrative scriptwriting depends on a symbiosis of rhetoric and actual policy-processes as well as the coherency and strength of the narrative itself (Dimitriu and de Graaf 2016: 6–7). Infrastructural development narratives are contested if the degree of ambiguity is not sufficient, the formation process is perceived unfair, and or its relation to actual actions lacks credibility (Miskimmon et al. 2013: 111). The infrastructure plans in China’s foreign policy strategy, for instance, try to add to a consistent self-identity. The political communication or “tellings ” of these actions which “link by implication a policy with a description or understanding of a state ‘self’ constitute a state’s biographical narrative” (Steele 2008: 10, italics in the original). A crisis or critical situation that undermines a positive reading would put the constructed identity narrative of the Self in jeopardy. In that case, new actions will be sought to restore order and bring symbiosis in the rhetoric (extended in the visual communication) and the actual foreign policy actions. The Silk Road has shaped the infrastructure discussion in Central Asia. This was not only an ancient trading route, “the constant movement and mixing of populations also brought about the transmission of knowledge, ideas, cultures and beliefs, which had a profound impact on the history and civilizations of the Eurasian peoples” (UNESCO 2018). The history of the “Silk Roads” (plural) is explored in great depth by Peter Frankopan (2015), who explains the rise of the Silk Roads in current times. The contemporary reference to the Silk Road emphasizes the importance of language to shape the meaning of policies. In popular culture, the Silk Road is considered a place of adventure, a crossroad of exotic cultures and luxury products, and a network of roads that connects Europe with the Far East (see the numerous travel adventure books, Thubron 2007; Wood 2017). The resilience of the Silk Road is significant for its contemporary adaptations in modern policies: The Belt and Road Initiative, Hillary Clinton’s New Silk Road to integrate Afghanistan, and the Virtual

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Silk Highway Project of NATO, among others. Despite the romanticized story of the old Silk Road, current policymakers will face the complexities to shape an overarching narrative that is coherent and strong for the divergent national and regional interests. Infrastructure accommodates the movement of freight and people. However, it also facilitates the movement of ideas. In this interdependent world, the narrative environment of institutional, material, and symbolic practices (Somers 1994) will increasingly lead to struggles about accepted norms, values, and practices. So far, this chapter has introduced the research problem, set out the theoretical framework about ontological security, narratives, and aesthetic power, explained what infrastructural development narratives are, and why they matter for ontological security studies. The following section will discuss the visual methodology used for the study of images about foreign policy actions in infrastructural development in the Chinese communication of the BRI.

Visual Methodology For this study, I have used a visual methodology in order to gain insights into the use of images to shape strategic narratives on infrastructural development, and subsequently, to create a coherent self-identity. Strategic narrative analysis combines a constructivist and realist approach, in which self-interested political actors use language and images to shape narratives of identity and power transition (Miskimmon et al. 2013: 89). Bringing strategic narrative analysis into the visual domain exemplifies that “[r]esearchers will mix methods together in different ways, and we expect to see in the next decade a series of patchwork, adaptive, broader methodologies” (Miskimmon, et al. 2017: 24; building on the work of Crilley 2015). There are four sites of a critical visual methodology; production, the image itself, its circulation, and its audiencing, and there are three types of modalities to study these sites; technological, compositional, and social (Rose 2016). This study analyses the image itself using social and compositional modalities. Gillian Rose explains the “social” as “the range of economic, social and political relations, institutions and practices that surround an image” (Rose 2016: 26). “Compositional” addresses the “specific material qualities of an image or visual image” including “content, colour and spatial organisation” (Rose 2016: 25). Access to these images is through the site of circulation. Hence, the social implications of the images are shaped by the projection process (Miskimmon et al.

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2013). Further data collection is required to determine how the site of circulation affects in what way the audience view, use, and engage with the image. However, for the purpose of this study, the image itself is the primary data. A “case-narrative approach” is used to examine the routine practice of foreign policy actions because “armed with a refined theoretical account, it reconstructs a particular ‘story’ in the case by looking for conjunctures that would not have been recognized, would not have appeared, may not have even existed otherwise” (Steele 2008: 9, italics in the original). This approach helps to explain the construction of the Chinese “Self”, in particular in disruptive times. Though a major disjuncture has not immobilized the BRI yet, the international community are more vocally expressing their concerns about China’s initiative (see for example, Phillips 2017; The Times of India 2018). China’s intentions to be a moral power resulted in reflexive agency of what that entails. The visual communication of the BRI interacts with this reflexive process and the images therefore attempt to secure and maintain a consistent self-identity. A visual methodology seeks to understand, for instance, the mapping component that underpins and facilitates the sense-making of the BRI. Because of the confusing wording of the Belt and the Road Initiative— the Belt describes the overland corridors and the Road describes the sea routes—geographical maps have been used to visualize and capture China’s initiative. These maps position Eurasia at the middle of the map, and, often fail to include the American continent (see for example the map disseminated by Xinhua, the Chinese news agency). The spatial composition and colouring of countries on a world map contribute to the aesthetic power of the Self. To visually rearrange the centre of the world is a visual cue to imagine order transformation. The geographical maps of the BRI typically include lines to explain trading routes between urban areas. As Summers argues, “the spatial configuration of these flows are to be predominantly across a network of major urban nodes” (2016: 1636). These lines help to indicate the connectivity purposes of the economic corridors, which is one of the core aims of the BRI. There are geopolitical implications in these spatial compositions because it adds to a coherent sense of the Self. The cosmetic image of these maps hides the perpetual insecurity of a state by legitimizing the latest geopolitics in the region. But this formation is ongoing due to the continuous necessity to conceal an insecure Chinese self-identity.

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The maps of the BRI are supported by the dissemination of news articles. It is the digital distribution of the images in these news articles that are examined in this study. Acknowledging the complex media environment of the twenty-first century (Miskimmon et al. 2013; Castells 2013), the Chinese Agency for Government Relations circulates information concerning the BRI through various social media outlets. The sample of images used for this study was gathered from the LinkedIn page of the BRI. On April 24, 2018, this LinkedIn page had 423 updates, which consisted of news referrals of the China Daily (the European, United States, and African editions). The China Daily is a national newspaper that is considered the “Voice of China” or the “Window to China” (see China Daily Editorial 2018). Criteria for selecting the images were as follow: updates on the LinkedIn page from March 16, 2018 to April 24, 2018. This is a random sample which is relatively small but it still allows for a coherent visual analysis. The articles are in English and more importantly, they each include an image. In total, a selection of 100 images was included in the data sample. These news articles are also disseminated on the Belt and Road Portal. The LinkedIn portal is a popular business-oriented social network with a small but growing membership of Chinese citizens (Xinhua 2017). Within an international media environment, China attempts to negotiate and communicate a consistent sense of the Self using a page on this platform. A strategic narrative analysis was used to understand how these images claim meaning about infrastructural development, regional integration, and China, within the past, the present, and the future. The interpretation lens used in this chapter corresponds with the epistemology in Steele’s concept of “ontological security” (2008). There are certain drawbacks associated with the interpretive lens, in particular in terms of its validity. In accordance with Gillian Rose, “there is no absolute right or wrong way to interpret a visual image” (Rose 2016: 148). The visual analysis studies the importance of power, the role of the context, as well as the “underlying continuity the decision for those actions serve” (Steele 2008: 7). The real motives of China’s communication of infrastructure projects cannot be elicited from this method (coinciding with the argument of Krebs and Jackson (2007)). But this method does reveal the visual construction of the Chinese “Self” in a geopolitical context and explains how communication on foreign policy actions in infrastructure attempt to support their self-identity (Steele 2008). The wide circulation of these images in the online sphere and the state’s inability to control their meaning adds to

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the potential opportunities and vulnerabilities that states encounter in the construction of their self-identity. The images were assessed on four core objectives: first, the promotion of connectivity; second, the establishing and strengthening of partnerships among the countries along the Belt and Road; third, the setup of all-dimensional, multitiered and composite connectivity networks; and fourth, the aim to realize diversified, independent, balanced, and sustainable development in these countries (main aims in the “Vision and Actions Plan”, Belt and Road Portal 2015). The four aims intend to make sense of social and economic relations. This next part evaluates how the images embody strategic narratives about infrastructural development and aim to secure the self-identity of China, as well as a secured regional geopolitical context.

The Infrastructural Development Narratives of the Belt and Road Initiative The findings are described in four sections, corresponding to the core objectives of the BRI. The sections address the social and compositional modalities of the visual communication of the BRI. The Promotion of Connectivity Connectivity is an umbrella term that aims to “promote the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas” (“Vision and Actions Plan”, Belt and Road Portal 2015). It reinforces the principle of peaceful coexistence as it stipulates to uphold “mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence” (ibid.). Connectivity corresponds with the country’s vision of peaceful coexistence, harmony and inclusion, economic relations and mutual benefits. The promotion of connectivity is sought after through the dissemination of mission narratives, narratives of legitimacy, and counternarratives. These narrative efforts attempt to secure China’s self-identity as a moral leader, while justifying its being as inseparable from the world. The dissemination of mission narratives is visualized using an assemblage of political symbols. For instance, a China Daily article used a graphic image of a panda bear and an elephant surrounded by embracing

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arms to imagine a China–India partnership (Singh 2018). The two animals face each other and are on the same horizontal axis. This composition reinstates the aspiration for connectivity, cooperation, and equality between nation-states. Another article shows a graphic image of a Chinese girl and a Russian matryoshka (nesting doll), representing the countries’ friendly relations (Yixuan 2018). This composition of political symbols explains inter-state relations but adds primarily to how China sees itself in this interaction; a friendly leader who advocates for horizontal relations. Narratives of legitimacy justify the promotion of connectivity. Legitimacy is elicited using the visual indication of holding hands. This action is depicted graphically by two shaking hands, coloured by their national flags. The friendly relations between China and Russia (Li 2018) as well as China and Latin America (Aquino 2018) are, for instance, depicted with handshakes. Legitimacy is further negotiated in political photography whereby the Chinese president and the Chinese foreign minister are shaking the hands of international state leaders (for example, Qingyun 2018; Yunbi 2018a; Xinhua Editorial 2018e; Yunbi and Jin 2018). Next, legitimacy is sought after by means of third-party consent. The China Daily hosts a variety of articles in which foreign experts complement China’s foreign policy actions. These foreign experts include scholars, media officials, and government officials (see for example, Phelps 2018; Liu 2018; Moody 2018; Xinhua Editorial 2018c). In particular, the reprint of Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming’s article in the Daily Telegraph (UK) demonstrates the “show of force” (Steele 2010: 27) that accompanies the search for ontological security (Xinhua Editorial 2018b). This China Daily article included a copy of the newspaper with the image of Ambassador Liu Xiaoming. Another example of third-party consent is the article by a UNDP resident representative, who advocates for the potential of the BRI to contribute to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (Rosellini 2018). This article included a graphic image of the earth with China positioned in the middle, encircled by a ship, a high-speed train, a plane, skyscrapers, and trees. This image legitimizes China’s power and aligns it carefully with its foreign policy actions in infrastructural development. Overall, the communication of narrative-support from the international community is a reflexive exercise to maintain a consistent image of the Self. The counternarratives are closely related to the legitimacy stories. Counternarratives perpetuate the state to act reflexively, because it forces “states to justify the disconnect (between actions and justifications)”

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(Steele 2008: 152). Thus, counternarratives help to justify foreign policy actions. For instance, the narration of China–US relations (that is the broiling trade war) use images comparable to those in the legitimacy narratives, albeit with a different composition. While these news articles do not necessarily discuss the BRI or Central Asia, it positions China as a responsible leader, and the United States as a threat to the global economy. For instance, unfriendly relations are depicted by an aggressive open hand (representing the United States) and a fist (China) recognizable by their national flags (Weihua, Jing, Huanxin and Zhu 2018). This composition refers to the rock-paper-scissors game, in which the United States seems to have the upper hand. This composition emphasizes the vulnerability of the Chinese Self, as well as the need to secure the subjectivity of the self-identity. But it also shows that the China’s identity is based on moral strength, in comparison to the physical strength of the United States. Another image discussing China–US relations shows opposing fists in boxing gloves (Shijia and Nan 2018). This exhibits an aesthetic struggle between great powers, in which each state negotiates and defends its ontological security in a changing world order. This composition reaffirms the power transformations and struggles in the twenty-first century and China’s attempt to secure equality and a more democratic, multipolar world order. Thus, these counternarratives help to explain how China sees itself in terms of political and economic behaviour. The Establishing and Strengthening of Partnerships Among the Countries Along the Belt and Road Partnerships enhance the connectivity aim by strengthening the interactions of countries along the Belt and Road. The logistical component of the BRI is of great importance (Liu 2016), enhancing the convenience of the one declaration, one inspection, one cargo release model. The imagined partnerships are, primarily, commercially motivated. According to Liu and Dunford, “the BRI incorporates as goals joint efforts, inclusiveness, win-win and even development” (Liu and Dunford 2016: 335). However, the creation of persuasive strategic narratives about partnerships is restrained. The China Dream of an eased-up transcontinental supply chain is not necessarily influential. Especially because the imagining of partnerships cannot be isolated from historical interactions which are coloured by conflict.

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For instance, China–India relations are frequently addressed in the China Daily news articles. The imagining of friendly relations between the two nation-states encounters visual challenges due to the social modality of the image itself. The construction of the images is limited to existing economic, social, and political relations. Flags are often used in China’s communication, attempting to overcome geopolitical (territorial) tensions. For instance, the visit of India’s Prime Minister Modi to China is told through the visual composition of Indian flags in a Chinese urban area (see Yunbi 2018b). More frequently, you would see a composition of Chinese and Indian national flags (see the LinkedIn dissemination of the Xinhua Editorial 2018d, f). The visual communication of geo-economics is then limited due to existing geopolitical tensions. Meanwhile, the establishing and strengthening of partnerships among the countries along the Belt and Road poses both opportunities and challenges. China is cherry-picking from public histories to support their foreign policy strategy. For instance, a China Daily article juxtaposes camels on a background of monetary signs (that is the Renminbi and the Dollar sign) (Ying 2018; see also Ming 2018). The use of camels, a stereotypical image of the early Silk Road, produces an alignment of the past with an imagined future. China’s communication is relatively silent about the history of the Silk Road, using it primarily as a metaphor to explain its foreign activities. The positive emotions given to this dynamic, prosperous, and connected past, serve to explain a new set of foreign policy actions. This positive conceptualization of the Silk Roads is just one interpretation of history, which subsequently produces a vulnerable Chinese self-identity. The ambiguity of the rejuvenated Silk Road narrative allows for multiple interpretations, engagements, and co-optations. The Setup of All-Dimensional, Multitiered, and Composite Connectivity Networks The conceptualization of all-dimensional, multitiered, and composite connectivity networks agrees with the former two objectives, in that it aspires to connectivity and market-oriented partnerships among the countries along the Belt and Road. The commercial composition of this narrative is discussed in the China Daily news articles, through a focus on logistics, economic sectors, and high-developed urban areas. Communication about logistics involves the freight of goods, using trains, roads, and shipping means. For instance, the cargo unloading

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of a freight train in Xi’an, China is depicted (Meiling and Yan 2018). The city of Xi’an was an important place in the ancient Silk Roads. The composition of cargo, a freight train, a Chinese worker, and the imagecaption mentioning Xi’an, aligns China as a global economic power with its (domestic and foreign) policy activities in infrastructure and trade. This traditional narrative of Chinese import and export is complemented with a narrative that emphasizes the Chinese advancements in the science and technology sectors. For instance, China Daily images depict a selfdeveloped unmanned submersible, a floating solar farm, a spectrometer detector, an intelligent mechanical device at a Chinese exhibition, and the placement of solar panels on a house (Xinhua Editorial 2018a, 2018h, 2018k; Phelps 2018; Liqiang 2018). This kaleidoscope of activities tries to position China as a frontrunner in the science and technology. The arrangement of the numerous projects aims to establish the perception of order and a continuity of the Self. Though some of these activities do not carry the BRI label, the dissemination of these images within the same media platform tries to demonstrate their complementary functions in China’s initiative. In the meantime, the futuristic cities bring the Chinese Dream into the now. The selection of China Daily news articles emphasizes the economic developments of the Hainan province in terms of tourism and urban development (Jing 2018). The depiction of the skyscrapers in Sanya, the capital of Hainan, contribute to the aesthetic power of China (Hainan is the most Southern province). These hyperbolic images showcase the rapid successes of the island. Hainan is presented as an example of wealth and prosperity and its development is seemingly accessible to Asian and other international partners who tap into the BRI’s vast opportunities. The depiction of the Suzhou Industrial Park also illustrates the strategic partnership of China and Singapore and tries to contribute to a consistent self-identity of China (Nan 2018). The visual communication of the advanced industries, logistical corridors, and the wealthy cities adds to the imagined connectivity networks. The images attempt to align the strengthening of economic and technological skills, the enhancement of logistical capacities among the countries of the Belt and Road, and the vital (prosperous) hubs. Thus, it positions the state agency of China as the central pillar in a prosperous region. Connectivity networks have a physical underpinning, as well as a figurative quality to explain technical and scientific development, and economic interactions.

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The Aim to Realize Diversified, Independent, Balanced, and Sustainable Development in These Countries The aim to achieve diversified, independent, balanced, and sustainable development in the countries along the Belt and Road requires a delicate balancing between economic and political narratives. Sovereignty and cooperation are two driving forces in the China Daily news articles. Sustainable development is subsequently aligned with improved cultural relations. The composition of the images reinforces the subjectivity of the Chinese Self as a collaborative and responsible leader in the region. The news briefs of the BOAO Forum in 2018, for instance, depict the collaboration with Asian partners in inclusive and cooperative ways. There are three compositions that favour this social identity: first, the setup of the meeting rooms; second, the depiction of the location; and third, the central image of the Chinese President Xi Jinping. First, the images illustrating the events of the BOAO Forum in 2018 emphasize the internal architecture of the meeting rooms. The Asian leaders ensemble in a square style meeting room, sitting side by side, while facing each other (Xinhua Editorial 2018j). The corporate identity of the countries is represented in the corporal bodies of these high officials. The function of the meeting room and the dissemination of these images accentuate the Chinese aim for inclusiveness and political balance. Second, the China Daily uses images of the buildings in Boao, South China, to create a sphere of hospitality and benevolence (Xinhua Editorial 2018g, i). These images position China as a responsible leader because it facilitates space for this invaluable interaction among Asian partners. And third, images of the Chinese President Xi Jinping appear in circa half of the China Daily articles, including the documentation of Xi’s key speech at the BOAO forum (for example, see Baijie 2018; Huanxin 2018). Thus, the President legitimizes the Chinese Dream in front of a powerful red or blue screen. The embodiment of the BRI in the political photography of the President aims to create continuity and order but produces vulnerability as well. Recent constitutional amendments with regards to Presidential term limit allows Xi Jinping to stay indefinitely as leader (Buckley and Bradsher 2018). Xi’s prolonged leadership helps to assure continuity and order in the communication of China’s foreign policy actions. Nevertheless, the long-term strategies of the BRI create a vulnerable Chinese Self if President Xi is the exclusive corporal embodiment of the BRI.

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China’s aim to realize sustainable development is challenging due to the complex cultural landscape in China’s provinces and Eurasia as a whole. Large-scale infrastructure projects often affect distant and isolated communities as they are far away from the central governing bodies in Beijing. Professor Ye Zicheng emphasizes the potential of China’s traditional culture and acknowledges the role of the BRI in advancing its sense of Self (Yiwu and Zicheng 2018). However, the commercial, capitalist face of the infrastructural development projects challenges the conceptualization of diverse cultural interests within the China provinces as well as within the complex cultural landscape of Central Asia. Sustainable development is framed in the “Vision and Actions Plan” as an objective. However, development is existentially a process of becoming (Adler 2012). China faces the risk that its sense of Self, as part of a narrative about sustainable development, is misinterpreted. A disjuncture in this narrative reception, both in the domestic and (peripherical) neighbouring context, may result in a vulnerable and insecure social identity.

Discussion China’s political communication about the BRI is used to influence domestic and international audiences. The images in the China Daily news articles attempt to legitimize infrastructural development policies and claim therefore a coherent sense of the Self. According to Steele, “[h]istory exists, memory organizes history, and narrative expresses that organization to ourselves and others” (Steele 2008: 19). Let us focus on key findings from the visual analysis. The discussion section debates three related arguments: first, the “cosmetic image” of ontological security pursuits makes the self-identity of China vulnerable. The images of the BRI attempt to address this ambiguity by aligning infrastructural development policies with the selfidentity of China. In other words, infrastructure makes sense because China makes sense. Second, foreign policy actions in infrastructure aim to create a desirable regional order for the reason that the self-concept is organized by this structure. A (visual) secure self-identity helps therefore to secure regional geopolitics. And third, China tries to create a regional “utopia” using well-formed strategic narratives that give meaning to the Self and to infrastructural development policies. The use of “utopia” in this chapter suggests the perpetual vulnerability to accomplish coherency and predictability within the self-concept.

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The Cosmetic Image of the BRI Strategic narratives are shaped by political elites. These elites are the storytellers of new geopolitical realities, if and when the narratives are persuasive, and the behaviour of domestic and international actors is influenced by it subsequently. The BRI builds on a legacy of storytellers which have introduced and or established narratives and theories which conceptualize events in Central Asia. The Silk Road (coined by Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877), the Great Game (Kipling 1901) and the Heartland Theory (Mackinder 1904) are narratives which explained political and economic realities in Central Asia, among other areas. These narratives are revamped and reused in contemporary geopolitics. The “New Silk Road”, the “New Great Game”, and the ongoing applicability of the Heartland Theory by Mackinder (see for example the work of Brzezinski 1997) capture the attention of academics to explain contemporary events in the region. The re-use of these terms hides the many differences among the countries along the Belt and Road in economic, geopolitical, and historical terms, as explained in great depth by Matthew Edwards (2003). Current affairs involve different actors (that is the role of China and non-state actors), changed aims, and expanded geographies. The only similarities, in the case of the Great Game and the New Great Game, are “in the romantic, exotic, obscure and remote perspective given by some commentators” (Edwards 2003: 90). The political use of these concepts is then easily understood as manipulative. However, they also feed into a shared, cultural memory. This is the case of China, who uses visual communication (that is visual strategic narratives) to create a cosmetic image of the BRI, by reusing and revamping the Silk Road narrative. The “charm offensive” (Yu 2017: 353) supporting the BRI draws on events of the past, the present and the future to create a coherent logic and rational for China’s foreign policy actions. The following fragment, taken from a Chinese press conference about the BRI, aligns narratives of the ancient Silk Road with globalization narratives, and contrast them from the Marshall Plan (US Initiative): “China’s Belt and Road initiatives are both much older and much younger than the Marshall Plan. Comparing one to the other is like comparing apples to oranges,” (Chinese Foreign Minister) Wang said. The initiatives are older because they embody the spirit of the ancient Silk Road, which had a history of more than 2,000 years.

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The Silk Road was used by people of many countries for friendly exchange and commerce, and the country must renew the spirit and bring it up to date, according to the foreign minister. The initiatives are younger because they are born in the age of globalization, he said.

The strategic narratives supporting the BRI draw on the ambiguous terminology of a “spirit” to explain good intentions and prosperity. It attempts to embed the rise of China in the last three decades in more stable and predictable terms, while referring to a history of 2000 years ago. The depiction of camels and deserts, as well as skyscrapers, science, and technology, reinforces the Chinese aim to revive social and economic relationships, and links prosperity to this process. This idea of a natural progression of historical events is artificial. Following a postmodern approach, “[r]eality is constituted by dis continuity – it is humans who create continuity (or order) for purposes of control and discipline” (Steele 2008: 31). China’s emphasis of a Silk Road spirit attempts to create a sense of continuity and provides “political justification for what is essentially a capitalistic endeavour” (Summers 2016: 1637). The images of BRI function then as a cosmetic image to achieve a coherent sense of the Self, operationalized in their foreign policy actions. The images of the BRI have multiple functions; their aim is to create order in events, while addressing both time and space (Somers 1994). This interpretation corresponds with the argument that “although the ‘belt and road initiative’ is presented as a new policy, it reflects the elevation of existing policy goals and practices to the national level as much as substantially new policy content” (Summers 2016: 1629). Yu emphasizes the continuity in China’s foreign policy practices but explains Xi Jinping’s elevation of the policies because of the “need to show innovation in foreign policy by announcing new policies that will distinguish their leadership strategy” (Yu 2017: 356). This fits with Steele’s explanation of aesthetic power as a “show of force” (2010: 27). Thus, the images of the BRI attempt to create order and continuity in domestic policies and foreign policy actions. In addition to visual images of time, the use of space in the Belt and Road images is both tangible and intangible. The BRI can be understood “as an organizational notion that employs the cultural meaning of Silk Road to lay cultural foundations for international cooperation and create a global platform for further globalizing China” (Liu and Dunford

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2016: 336). Connectivity is consequently not only a physical, economic, or strategic pursuit, it is positioning (connecting) China’s foreign policy actions as part of a natural, historical development. This accentuates the tension arising from the “representations of OBOR as fixed lines and the broader metaphorical notion invoked by key proponents in China” (Sidaway and Yuan Woon 2017: 593). The “Silk Road spirit” reinforces the metaphorical function of the BRI. Sidaway and Yuan Woon observe China’s “relative silence on the longer history of the term Silk Road” (2017: 599), which impacts the strategic narratives of the BRI. The past is actively ambiguous, improving the plausibility of present and future narrations. While the spirit metaphor is used as a soft power strategy, its intended cultural meaning (Liu and Dunford 2016) might backfire. Despite the reflexive agency of China attempting to create a coherent self-identity, the social and compositional modalities of the circulated images “is but one of many competing alternatives woven from a vast array of possible characterizations, plot lines, and themes” (Barry and Elmes 1997: 433). Therefore, the strategic narratives supporting China’s outgoing policies are not the only outcome thinkable. The infrastructural development narratives underpinning the BRI have already encountered strong criticisms. In particular, the lending arrangements have left many of the Central Asian countries in great debt (Oxford Analytica 2018). The EU has raised concerns about trade and issues of transparency, sustainability and tendering processes, and Indian leaders are talking of Chinese colonial practices (Phillips 2017). China aspires balanced and sustainable development, but prevailing issues will challenge this pursuit. Liu and Dunford indicate how Eurasia is shaped by the “complex intercountry relations and tensions, national political instability, cross-border crime, cross-border nationalisms, separatism, ethic, religious and sectarian conflicts, religious extremism, poverty and under development” (2016: 329). China needs to carefully narrate its actions amidst this thread of events. Narratives help to conceptualize and explain foreign policy actions in a geopolitical context. This supports the processes in which people come to understand change, because narratives as a method of understanding are “international, transhistorical, [and] transcultural” (Barthes [1966] 1975: 237). While the geopolitical intentions of China with regards its neighbourhood are challenging to isolate, there will be “geopolitical implications as a result of China’s ongoing rise and its growing economic influence across the rest of the world” (Summers 2016: 1629). The BRI

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encompasses many different policies and activities. The new label should be seen within a context of continued policy practices, including the “Going West” and “Going Out” strategies (Summers 2016; Yeh and Wharton 2016). Explaining China’s strategies towards its sub-national regions, Summers argues that “the ideas and practices of linking up China’s western border provinces with neighbouring economies has been an idea at the provincial level since the 1980s, even though the early focus of reform and opening up was on the coastal regions” (Summers 2016: 1633). China’s focus on infrastructural development is likewise existing since the mid-1990s (Yeh and Wharton 2016). However, the “extension, consolidation and political elevation of pre-existing policy ideas and practice at the sub-national level in China” (Summers 2016: 1634) helps to consolidate and distinguish the leadership of Xi Jinping. Thus, the cosmetic image of foreign policy actions in infrastructure aim to secure the Chinese self-identity. Infrastructure, China’s Identity, and Regional Order-Making The development of economic corridors of the BRI, encompassing a host of neighbouring countries, is not only concerned with physical infrastructure, but also with “facilitating the interchange of people, capital and goods” of which the Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli in 2014 mentioned that “policy coordination was key to its success and that transportation, communication and energy were vital enablers” (International Institute for Strategic Studies 2015, iv). Different mechanisms have been developed to fund this Initiative, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund. In building connectivity across the region, geography is seen as “being broad and flexible, to encompass a wide range of the developments of infrastructure and socioeconomic connectivity between China and its neighbours” (Summers 2016: 1631). The imagining of the economic corridors has a compositional and a social modality because it emphasizes the increased logistical collaborations and economic interactions between different actors. The images of the state leaders, the technological advancements, and graphic designs aim to support the Chinese vision of distributed power, inclusion, and connectivity. China benefits from coherent and strong messages supporting their economic and public diplomacy activities in countries along the Belt and Road (Gorbunova and Komarov 2017). As Yu puts, “[t]o avoid perceptions of unilateralism on the part of the other member countries, China

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must allow the other players full participation and a sense of ownership of the OBOR initiatives” (Yu 2017: 368). Therefore, positive perception of foreign policy actions in infrastructure helps to create a desirable regional order for the reason that the self-concept is organized by this structure. Infrastructural projects have aesthetic power. China’s celebration of infrastructure “leads to a noticeable tendency to build large conspicuous projects that can serve as visual reminders of generosity, power, and achievement” (Yeh and Wharton 2016: 297). Nevertheless, narratives supporting the construction of power grids, ports, and rail networks in Asia are contested early on, as “critics view OBOR as a nebulous one-sizefits-all slogan primarily driven by Chinese mercantilism, allowing China to exploit new markets and offload excess output from its state-owned enterprises (SEOs) during a period of slowing economic growth” (International Institute for Strategic Studies 2015, v). Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attempts to tackle this interpretation, in which he explained the initiative as a “product of inclusive cooperation, not a tool of geopolitics, and must not be viewed with the outdated cold war mentality” (Xinhua Editorial 2015). China’s foreign policy actions in the area of infrastructural development continue to be exposed to criticisms. Especially in light of the many actors and integration frameworks in the region, “Eurasia has become a kind of laboratory for testing different models of integration” (Gorbunova and Komarov 2017: 244). The meaning of China’s foreign policy actions is restrained by competing narratives on infrastructure forged by individual states and integration frameworks in the region. Taken into consideration this competition, China tries to avoid a zero-sum game perception among the countries along the Belt and Road. The images claim win-win outcomes in political and economic terms. Whether this conceptualization and implementation of friendly “periphery diplomacy” (Swaine 2014) is successful is debatable, especially because the “Central Asian countries understand the risks of a rapprochement with China” (Gorbunova and Komarov 2017: 239). Furthermore, China needs to address her failure to “cultivate the necessary strategic and political trust among these respective partiers over the new Silk Road strategy” (Yu 2017: 363). Recognition of China within a Eurasian context is based on a shared understanding of identity and power distribution, and these narrative aspects are continuously in motion. The friendly relations between China and Russia will face future challenges, especially due to the “growing power disparity between the two states” (Wilson 2016:

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114). The aspiration for aesthetic power is used to align the coherent self-identity with a connected and peaceful region. The emphasis on inclusion in the political processes contributes to the ontological security of China. It contrasts inclusion from exclusion, where practice “is not just a value-free description of different entities […] the included is seen in a positive light: the internal structure offers order, stability, safety, security” (Müller 2002: 383). Despite this intention, “creating a narrative of inclusive change is difficult” (Miskimmon and O’Loughlin 2017: 301). In the creation of a self-made political actor, it confirms that “viewing the self as a narrative or story, rather than as a substance, brings to light the temporal and developmental dimension of human existence” (Polkinghorne 1991: 135). The China Daily images actively address this vulnerability on a daily basis. The level of reflection is debatable in the Chinese context due to the state’s constrained media practices. In terms of self-interrogative reflexivity, Steele emphasizes that “if global and domestic news media outlets eschew an independent mission to find/gather facts, and instead present only those facts which reinforce a particular foreign policy action, state societies may never be forced to ‘debate or contest’ policies since certain situations may not be interpreted as a threat to self-identity” (Steele 2008: 155). The media images in the China Daily are selfreinforcing and present little scrutiny towards the Chinese administration. A discussion on the media environment in Eurasia in a post-Cold War era is significantly complex and for practical considerations not included in this chapter. However, the revolution in communication and information technologies in the twenty-first century allows for a complex pattern of image formation and circulation. The aesthetic power of the China Daily images might be challenged in the presence of alternative visual interpretations of China’s foreign policy actions. As Steele puts it, “state agents cannot as easily ‘talk their way out’ of a particular identity disconnect if they are required to tackle a visual presentation of ‘the state’ because it would require them to ask their citizens to ignore their ‘lying eyes’” (Steele 2008: 159). This potential visual struggle would then undermine a secure sense of the Chinese Self, and therefore a secured regional geopolitical environment. Whether this is the case in Russia and the Central Asian societies needs to be evaluated in future research agendas.

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A Regional Utopia China aims to create in the visual communication of the BRI a utopian order in which the country reclaims its historical global position (Yu 2017: 358). Thomas More imagined in the original conceptualization of Utopia a stable society where the citizens “followed a pattern of life that’s enabled them to lay foundations for society in a way that’s not only thoroughly successful but (so far as a human can foretell) set to endure for ever” (More 2017 [1516]: 130). This pattern, in the form of domestic policies and “[r]outinized foreign policy actions” (Steele 2008: 3) helps to secure a consistent idea of the Self. The meaning of infrastructural development in a regional context is to contribute to this stable subjectivity. Alexander Wendt explains that the corporate identity has various interests, including “ontological security or predictability in relationships to the world, which creates a desire for stable social identities” (Wendt 1994: 385). The communication of Chinese foreign policy actions is to support the predictability of the Self. China has undergone a major shift in its foreign policy in the last few decades. While this movement poses opportunities, it also challenges their identity construction. China seeks therefore predictable foreign policy routines to create a sense of continuity and order. The Chinese utopia of friendly relations, infrastructure masterpieces, and celebrated economic partnerships attempts to communicate a predictable and secure Chinese Self. The imagining of a regional utopia faces ontological insecurity when the narratives are no longer suitable to explain China’s foreign policy actions. The concept of the Chinese Self would be harmed when the economic and social narratives supporting the BRI are perceived as a narrative of geopolitical interfering. However, geopolitics and geoeconomics are “two sides of the same coin, the political dimension of geoeconomics being strongly intertwined with the competitive economic dimension of geopolitics” (Yu 2017: 354). Ontological security is pursued by different means, and political communication is one of the mediums to give form to this subjectivity. The images in the China Daily articles on the BRI aim to develop a regional utopia that is shaped by stability, friendly relations, economic prosperity, and technological development. According to Steele, “[w]ithout narrative, without a state agent collecting the history of a nation-state into a story that informs current actions, the Self of a state does not exist” (Steele 2008: 20). However, the social modality of the images cannot isolate the meaning of the economic,

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social, and political relations and practices. Thus, the “utopia” of the BRI will be continuously exposed to alternative interpretations. The images of the BRI imagine a utopia based on economic partnerships, equality, and friendship. In Gregory Claeys’ discussion about the concept of utopia, he assesses More’s Utopia as an exploration of “how a society based on friendship might operate” (Claeys 2011: 69). Wellcomposed visual images can add to a country’s ontological security, but their meaning is not necessarily secure. Steele refers to the concept of “heterotopia” by Foucault (2010: 34–35) and explains that this is “not a ‘utopia’ but a real space where the Self of power is experienced, refracted, and ultimately reinforced” (Steele 2010: 35). The images accompanying the China Daily news articles engage with this triple function, in which they create a sense of the Self, question its logic, and then seek to restore the narrative. Take for instance the aggressive composition of a fist (China) and an open hand (US) in which the United States seems to have the upper hand (Weihua et al. 2018). This image attempts to depict the struggle for power and influence in a fading US-centric world system. While the upper hand seems to be winning, it is the determination of the fist, representing the “rise of the rest”, that is gradually increasing in power. Yet presenting the Self as fist may carry other connotations to other audiences in the region, in particular Japan and India. The triple function is therefore a risk and adds to the perpetual vulnerability of China’s identity. The continuous construction and reconstruction of an imagined order engages therefore with the intrinsic ambiguity of the Self by questioning its actions and then embedding this with meaning. When successful, it helps to secure the self-identity of China, and consequently the securing of regional geopolitics.

Conclusion This study set out to describe why and how images about foreign policy actions in infrastructural development assist in securing regional geopolitics, by evaluating China’s visual communication about the BRI. The investigation of these images showed a combination of narratives, that claimed to communicate a coherent and consistent Chinese self-identity, and subsequently a secured regional geopolitical environment. The promotion of connectivity was explained using mission narratives, narratives of legitimacy, and counternarratives. A study of the images supporting the establishing and strengthening of partnerships among the

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countries along the Belt and Road emphasized the limitations in the composition due to the social modality. The imagining of all-dimensional, multitiered, and composite connectivity networks aligned images of the advanced industries, logistical corridors, and the economic hubs. And, the realization of diversified, independent, balanced, and sustainable development in these countries delicately positioned China as a benevolent actor that is advocating for a prosperous and sustainable region. Furthermore, the embodiment of the Belt and Road in the presidency of Xi Jinping emphasized the agency of a state leader to operationalize and legitimize a state’s sense of Self. China’s advances into Central Asia, and Eurasia more broadly, are camouflaged behind a smokescreen of carefully depicted images of economic and social partnerships. The results of this study suggest that images convey strategic narratives, and that these narratives are formed to achieve ontological security. Geopolitics is played out through the visual communication of objects—here, infrastructure—to construct a consistent self-concept. The depictions of logistics, technologies, and economic hubs have aesthetic power, and masks therefore the vulnerability of the social identity of China. But despite this careful self-identity construction, China’s ontological security is constantly in motion and in need of supporting and persuasive visual communication. Since the study was limited to visuals in one area of circulation, there is ample scope for future research. Considerably more work needs to be done to determine how “offline” visuals make sense of China’s infrastructural development pursuits. In particular, analysis of the use of banners and other visual marketing accompanying the BRI projects could enhance the multidimensional study of visual strategic narratives. Another line of enquiry for this work is to analyse the perception of infrastructural development narratives in countries along the Belt and Road, in particular Central Asia. Fieldwork, in the form of in-depth interviews would demonstrate how the political elites in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kirgizstan, and Tajikistan use, view and engage with the visual dimension of the infrastructural development narratives of the BRI to suit their own ontological security needs.

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CHAPTER 10

Conclusion Alister Miskimmon, Ben O’Loughlin, and Jinghan Zeng

This edited collection has showcased how Chinese and European scholars interpret the narrativisation of the BRI and EU–China relations. We suggest that the EU and China should work together to find a common strategic narrative, despite the challenges this entails—challenges which have become more profound with the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020. The rationale for this call is not only to provide greater substance and predictability to the bilateral partnership—but also, to clarify the EU’s

A. Miskimmon (B) School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK e-mail: [email protected] B. O’Loughlin Department of Politics and IR, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK e-mail: [email protected] J. Zeng Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK © The Author(s) 2021 A. Miskimmon et al. (eds.), One Belt, One Road, One Story?, Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53153-9_10

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emerging role as a global foreign policy actor. There also remains considerable lack of clarity not only on the BRI policy narrative in China, but also its wider identity and system narrative as it becomes increasingly prominent in world affairs. Europe represents an important partner for China. Within the context of the current deterioration in US–China relations, Europe is increasingly important as part of a strategic triad with the US and China. For Europe, the rise of China is an increasingly apparent reality which needs to be accommodated—although it is now framed by the EU as a systemic rival and the violent response to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019 have further complicated the EU’s willingness to forge stronger relations. It is a difficult situation as EU–China relations are also influenced by third parties—states in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the most importantly, the US. The escalating US–China trade war and the rapid development of the BRI will no doubt shape the future development of the EU–China relations. The relevant narratives are likely to evolve into a new stage driven by the shifting trilateral relations. EU–China relations have come under pressure from the US, making the diplomacy of managing EU–China and EU–US increasingly challenging. We have sought to highlight in the contributions to this volume the challenge of forging consistent identity, policy and system narratives in the EU and China that can provide a firm basis for the EU and China’s future relations. The escalating US–China trade war in particular has pointed to two counter-narratives about China’s rise for the EU: a narrative of economic opportunity for both the EU and China, versus a narrative of an emerging security threat posed by China’s increasingly expansive power projection. On the one hand, particularly to many in the US, the rise of China represents a challenge to the liberal international order and the dominant status of the US as a leader of the West. In this regard, there is a clear incentive for the EU to work along with the US to contain China’s rise on the basis of accommodating China within the current international order. On the other hand, Chinese rhetoric points to a win-win future for EU–China relations in which China provides an attractive alternative that Europe can benefit from. This coincides with a period when the Trump presidency has withdrawn from the USA’s post-World War Two role as upholder of a liberal world order. In other words, China has the potential to represent a powerful partner for the EU as a challenge to the centrality of transatlantic relations. Needless to say, these competing policy narratives will no doubt spark considerable debate, and their reception is likely to shape the future of EU

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foreign policy towards China and the US. Will the EU follow the current US approach to contain and confront China? Or will the EU retain its independent foreign policy stance? The strategic narrative approach can shed light on answering these questions by studying the competing narratives and how they are received, interpreted and responded to. Future research should look into the receptions of these narratives in Europe and in China. The reception of China’s emerging identity, policy and system narratives in Europe will no doubt define what policy responses the EU takes in response to either a more contested or cooperative tenor of bilateral relations. This narrative competition goes beyond the story of China per se. It is a competition across all three types of narrative that this book categorises. The first type is identity narratives. Does China consider itself as a beneficiary or a victim of the current liberal international order? How does China perceive other countries regarding allies and enemy, for example? Similarly, in relation to the US, will the US continue to identify itself as the dominant power? What is the future role of China in US strategic narratives: “strategic competitor”, “friend” or “major enemy”? When it comes to EU–China relations, what is the expected role of the EU in the respective identity narratives of the US and China? What kind of role does the EU want to play in the era of US–China competition? The answer to each of these questions requires a narrative response. The second type of narratives we highlighted are policy narratives, which are likely to shape the basis of public debate on EU and Chinese foreign policy. What policy narratives will China and the US put forward to advance their own interests? What is the role of the EU in this agenda? A present example is the policy towards China’s technology company Huawei. The American narrative about Huawei links it with national security threats and Chinese espionage activities. It suggests a high level of risk that the EU cannot simply ignore. Yet, Europe continues to view Huawei as an important technology company, with clear but manageable risks that the EU has to work with to build the future European 5G mobile network. This is just one very specific example of policy narrative divergence which can increasingly complicate the EU, China, US triad. With increasing US-China tensions, there has been a growing number of narratives framing Chinese tech companies such as Tiktok as national security threats to Western countries, especially the US. The BRI narrative is also particularly relevant here. On the one hand, many international analysts frame the BRI as a considered and consistent

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grand strategy by Beijing to build a Sino-centric world order. This narrative is frequently linked with various conspiracy theories, such as the debt trap that China uses to undermine sovereignty states. In this regard, the narrative suggests that it is better to resist the BRI. On the other hand, official Chinese narrative projection has framed the BRI as an open global initiative that is inclusive and contributes to the greater good of international society. Here the argument is stressed that the BRI is a global public good that China provides to the world. In short, it is a win-win narrative. In reality, it is neither a well-designed grand strategy of Beijing (Jones and Zeng 2019) nor a purely positive global public good—or at least not yet. The reality lies somewhere in between and the actual impact of the BRI will take years, if not decades, to become manifest. Nonetheless, regardless of what the BRI is about, what matters are the narratives— how it is told, projected and received. It is the perceptions of the BRI that will shape the relevant policy. Future studies should closely observe the evolving narratives of the BRI and how it is perceived in the EU. Notably, the reception of China’s narratives in the EU is not a single story. The domestic division within the EU member states means that it cannot be. Li Zhang’s chapter has shown how the media of the “Big Four of Europe” point to different directions and narratives of BRI. This is demonstrated by the fact that Italy and some Eastern European states chosen to endorse the BRI, while others are critical of this endorsement. It suggests a variety of receptions of BRI narratives within the EU. This is an area that future studies should address and try to understand. As this book asks at the beginning, will some EU members gain more than others? If so, who are the winners? The last type of narrative analysed in this book is system narrative. How does China perceive and narrate the global international order? What kind of global international order does China want? Can the US and China find a common narrative of the international system—and if so, what is the role of EU in this narrative? If not, how should the EU respond to the diverging US and China narratives of the international system? All in all, the narratives of a new Silk Road are dialogic communication instead of a one-way street. It is not only about what China wants through the BRI but how the states, companies and populations receiving these systems respond to China’s BRI. In this regard, effective communications are crucial to the future development of the BRI. Strategic narratives are a key factor deciding the success of the BRI and wider EU–China relations because they allow for management of these

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sometimes-difficult international relations. Attention to strategic narrative allows policymakers to articulate their own intentions and interpret the intentions of others in a way that helps identify areas of potential cooperation. It also allows identification of points of disagreement, making this easier to understand and deal with. Narrative analysis can point to the time horizons and potential outcomes through which each party understands a situation. We hope this volume has gone some way to illuminating these competing expectations and aspirations. We also hope the reader takes away the importance of recognising that relations between states in international relations do not take place in a blank void, but rather in spaces of encounter. The chapters in this volume have explored how Chinese narratives are presented in European news media—and how European narratives about China are reported too. Contributors paid attention to geographical spaces in Europe, to third party spaces in Africa, and to policy forums in which businesses, NGOs and other stakeholders compete to reframe issues and contribute to strategic narrative formation. A clear narrative opens space to deal with complexity in international affairs, and is a way to signal a direction of travel for your country and for allies. That direction of travel must be put into action, and the new Silk Roads present as clear a case as action as we could hope to see. We have presented the full multidimensional complexity of EU–China relations in the recent past and in the present. The priority now is to trace how the strategic narratives of the EU and China allow these two key players in international relations to manage the next decade together and beyond. The completion of this volume coincided with a major shock to the international system in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic. Writing in the London Review of Books, Adam Tooze suggests that the pandemic will only exacerbate challenges to forge better relations between the EU, China and the US. Tooze contends, We will somehow have to patch together China’s one-party authoritarianism, Europe’s national welfarism and whatever it is the United States will be in the wake of this disaster. (Tooze 2020)

Dealing with the fallout of Covid-19 will undoubtedly be the focus of Brussels, Washington and Beijing for years to come. Narrative alignment in the response to the pandemic will be vital to shape the global response to its effects. For the EU, which according to Cottey (2020) continues to

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struggle to define a clear strategy, this will be challenging. Cottey suggests that, …the EU lacks an agreed assessment of its external environment, struggles to prioritize competing foreign policy objectives, avoids difficult foreign policy choices, and often lacks the ways and means necessary to achieve its goals, yet is reluctant to modify its objectives. (Cottey 2020: 276)

Yet again, only a few years after the global financial crisis of 2008, the EU is faced with an external shock which in only a brief period has shaken the economies of the EU. The fallout of the pandemic will test the commitment of the EU member states to collectively respond to a major crisis. Cottey’s criticism of the EU’s failure to grasp strategy may continue to apply to the EU as its struggles with the internal ramifications of the Covid-19. The significant disruption to trade caused by the pandemic and the necessity to recover from the crisis may provide the basis to develop a new strategic narrative to shape EU–China relations. Failure to renew this strategic narrative will hinder the efficacy of any response to the Covid-19 crisis, and possibly lead to increasing divergence on a range of issues. Rudd (2015b) argues that, strategic drift is a key threat to future relations between China and its major partners. In the midst of this latest shock to the international system, continued efforts to forge a shared strategic narrative between the EU and China will provide the underlying organisational principle for continued cooperation in an evolving international order. International affairs will remain challenging for even the most skilled of diplomats. We show how both actors are practically responding to these tensions in EU-China relations, even with the difficulties they have in terms of their own emerging identities and navigate debates about their role and status in international order. Key to the relationship will be how they try to make the international system work despite China holding to a more sovereign-state led narrative, yet civilisational and special, across all the issues the chapters in this book deal with. Cooperation without full agreement is something narrative makes possible.

References Cottey, A. (2020). Astrategic Europe. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 58, 276–291. https://doi-org.queens.ezp1.qub.ac.uk/10.1111/jcms.12902.

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Jones, L., & Zeng, J. (2019). Understanding China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”: Beyond “Grand Strategy” to a State Transformation Analysis. Third World Quarterly, 40(8), 1415–1439. https://doi.org/10.1080/01436597. 2018.1559046. Rudd, K. (2015a). How Ancient Chinese Thought Applies Today. New Perspectives Quarterly, 32(2), 8–23. Rudd, K. (2015b). U.S.-China 21: The Future of U.S.-China Relations Under Xi Jinping. NYC: Asia Society. Available at: https://asiasociety.org/policy-ins titute/us-china-21-future-us-china-relations-under-xi-jinping. Tooze, A. (2020). Shockwave. London Review of Books, 42(8). Available at: https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n08/adam-tooze/shockwave. Accessed on 9 April 2020.

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Index

A Acharya, Amitav, 23 Addams, Helen, 173 Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Seaport Cooperation, 48 Afghanistan, 31, 202 Africa, 2, 13, 14, 59, 73, 77, 124, 127, 128, 151, 153, 167–172, 175, 177–180, 182–187, 189–191, 197, 202, 230, 233 African Union (AU), 171 Alden, Chris, 168, 172 Allen, David, 51 Allison, Graham, 4 Alternative für Deutschland (AFD), 84 Anthony, Ross, 171, 172 Asia, 54, 58, 73, 80, 95, 96, 118, 119, 124, 127, 128, 130–132, 151, 153, 197, 217, 230 Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), 6, 36, 68, 73, 82, 88,

100, 118, 120, 128, 129, 153, 202, 216 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), 36, 59 Austria, 84, 153 B Bachmann, Veit, 170, 173 Barceviˇcius, Egidijus, 170 Barchak, Leonard, 173 Beeson, Mark, 98 Beijing Consensus, 168 Beijing Olympics, 80, 141, 148 Belgium, 144, 148 Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), 1–3, 5–7, 11–14, 20, 24, 27, 28, 32, 34–37, 46, 47, 49, 52, 68–78, 81, 82, 84–88, 95–102, 104, 105, 107–110, 115, 116, 118–132, 139, 146, 147, 151–156, 158, 195, 197, 198, 200, 202–208, 210–216, 219–221, 229–232

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Miskimmon et al. (eds.), One Belt, One Road, One Story?, Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53153-9

275

276

INDEX

Bertelsmann Foundation, 4 Besharati, Neissan, 172 Biscop, Sven, 34–36 Black, David, 171, 172 BOAO Forum, 211 Bond, James, 200 Börzel, Tanya, 35 Bradley, Alison, 172 Brautigam, Deborah, 168 Brazil, 23, 171 Breslin, Shaun, 3, 32, 33 Brexit, 6, 19–21, 27, 46, 81, 83, 120, 128, 132, 141, 147 BRICS, 22, 129, 180 Brown, Steven, 174, 177 Brown, William, 169 Bruner, Jerome, 198 Brussels, 28, 38, 46, 71, 78, 80, 83, 85, 87, 119, 158, 233 Bu, Shaohua, 56 C Cameron, David, 125, 128, 147 Cassis, Ignazio, 115 Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs), 46, 48–50, 56, 57, 75, 154, 158 Chaban, Natalia, 19, 70, 78, 80, 88 Chang, Daphne, 19, 46, 79, 80 Chen, Roy, 46 Chen, Zhimin, 37, 56, 77, 98 Cheru, Fantu, 168 China Daily, 13, 205–207, 209–212, 218–220 China-EU relations, 11, 46, 47, 56, 78, 140, 145, 148, 155, 157 China-EU sub-regional cooperation, 46, 47, 50 China Investment Corporation (CIC), 149, 156 China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), 49

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 57, 97, 98, 144, 145 Chinese perspective, 2, 55, 57, 59, 62 Chingwete, Anyway, 170 Civilization, 35, 57, 80, 84, 117, 124, 129, 143, 144, 202 Civilizational state, 143 Civil society, 172, 179 Climate change, 4, 5, 20, 31, 52, 72, 86, 155 Clinton, Hillary Rodham, 202 CNN effect, 117 Collective actions, 46 Collective identity, 53 Communist Party of China (CPC), 58, 60, 67, 68, 82, 85–87, 142, 144, 151, 156 Community of common destiny, 10, 47, 60–62 Core interests, 50 Covid-19 pandemic, 5, 229, 233 Crookes, Paul Irwin, 7, 31, 37 Cui, Hongjian, 56, 57 Culture, 57, 62, 70, 83, 86, 143, 144, 157, 168, 202, 212 Currency, 58, 79, 80, 145, 148 Czech Republic, 33, 99 D Daily Telegraph, 207 Dalai Lama, 80, 147 Democracy, 23, 24, 28, 31, 51, 72, 83, 84, 132, 142, 171, 179, 184, 188 Deng, Xiaoping, 84, 117, 144 Denmark, 153 Der Spiegel , 120, 131, 132 Developing Countries, 28, 47, 58, 143, 156, 168, 179, 188 Developmental pragmatism, 171 Ding, Chun, 58 Ding, Yifan, 150

INDEX

Diplomacy, 4, 7, 28, 74–76, 78, 87, 117, 125, 147, 151, 152, 217, 230 Discourse, 8, 30, 61, 122, 155, 168, 169, 198 Djibuti, 73

E The Economist , 20, 61, 73, 76, 82, 84, 120, 121, 123, 125–128, 130 Egypt, 73, 76 Emerging donors, 168 Energy, 5, 36, 49, 52, 54, 77, 97, 128, 196, 197, 199, 200, 216 Enlargement (of the European Union), 140, 158 Equal consultation, 59 EU-Africa relationship, 183, 187 Eurasia, 47, 68, 69, 72, 73, 76, 78, 80, 81, 84, 87, 88, 116, 125, 152, 204, 212, 215, 217, 218, 221 Eurocepticism, 55 European Commission, 24, 25, 35, 37, 52, 54, 85, 148, 152, 155 European Council, 25, 36, 51 European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), 2, 52, 76, 81 European Economic Community, 156 European External Action Service (EEAS), 27, 51, 57, 77 European integration, 10, 21, 56–58, 79, 87, 140, 144–147, 151, 159 European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), 35, 76 European Sovereign Debt Crisis, 12, 139, 141, 144 Eurozone, 20, 145, 149, 151, 157 Eurozone crisis, 6, 19, 21, 27, 46, 55, 57, 76, 80, 84, 85 Exceptionalism, 142, 168

277

F Financial crisis, 49, 59, 68, 97, 102, 110, 146, 157 Finland, 49, 57, 153 Fioramonti, Lorenzo, 170–172 Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), 32, 97, 124 Foreign policy, 7, 10, 13, 20, 21, 23, 27, 33, 45, 46, 50, 51, 55, 56, 58, 60, 61, 83, 86, 99, 118, 121, 129–132, 151, 171, 172, 191, 195–197, 199–205, 207–209, 211–220, 230, 231 Formation, 7, 9–11, 29, 54, 58, 61, 69, 71, 140, 168, 189, 198, 200, 202, 204, 218, 233 Framing, 8, 47, 54, 57, 61, 200 France, 12, 33, 53, 78, 79, 108, 116, 120, 132, 148, 152–154

G G2, 3, 37 G20, 52, 149, 150 Gabriel, Sigmar, 54, 68, 151, 158 Gaspers, Jan, 54 Georgia, 76 Germany, 2, 4, 12, 32, 33, 53, 69, 79, 84, 105, 108, 116, 120, 126, 132, 148, 152, 153 Global financial crisis (GFC) of 2008, 51, 148, 234 Global North, 172, 188 Global order, 38, 61, 69, 83, 84, 87, 129, 130, 190 Global South, 23, 171 Global Strategy (of the EU), 36, 51 Godement, Francois, 52, 53, 76 Goffman, Erving, 46 Góralczyk, Bogdan, 100 Grand strategy, 10, 37, 232

278

INDEX

Great power, 3, 5, 9, 32–34, 67, 72, 76, 84, 88, 107, 108, 117, 118, 129, 158, 208 Greece, 49, 73, 76, 77, 145, 148, 149, 151 The Guardian, 68, 76, 120, 123, 125, 128 Gull, Olivia, 171 Gwadar, Port of, 73 H Hansen, Lene, 46 Hanusch, Marek, 170 Harman, Sophie, 169 Harmony, 72, 84, 206 He, Jianxiong, 150 Hellström, Jerker, 50 Holland, Martin, 70, 78, 80, 88 Hong Kong, 7, 230 Hornsby, David, 171, 172 Houtari, Mikko, 55 Howorth, Jolyon, 23, 34 Hua, Chunying, 151 Huang, Ping, 57 Huawei, 4, 126, 231 Hu, Jintao, 3, 80, 144, 145, 149 Human rights, 23, 24, 35, 51, 72, 80, 83, 86, 155, 171, 177, 179, 181–184, 186–188, 190, 191 Hungary, 33, 48, 49, 83, 84, 96, 97, 99, 101, 106, 110, 148 Hyperpuissance, 81 I Identity, 6, 10–12, 20, 27, 32–34, 37, 38, 47, 60, 61, 121, 122, 127, 129, 130, 132, 139, 140, 158, 171, 172, 175, 198–200, 208, 211, 212, 217–221, 230, 231 Identity narrative, 9, 13, 27, 29, 70, 122, 131, 196, 200, 203, 231

Illiberal democracy, 110 India, 33, 72–74, 77, 82, 130, 153, 196, 201, 207, 209, 220 Indonesia, 96, 118 Industrial Capacity Cooperation, 48, 49 Infrastructure projects, 47, 96, 104, 124, 196, 200, 205, 212 Institute of Security & Development Policy (ISDP), 50 Intellectual property rights, 31, 51 Interdependence, 6, 20, 23, 34, 37, 74, 82, 141, 148 International cooperation, 47, 121, 189, 214 International Criminal Court (ICC), 172, 182, 188 International Monetary Fund (IMF), 6, 20, 100, 101, 129, 149, 150 International organization, 167, 178, 185 International politics, 8, 21, 29, 46, 116, 117, 201 Iran, 23, 31, 171 Iraq, 79, 84, 140 Issue narrative, 38, 71, 77, 122, 131, 175 Italy, 5, 148, 151, 153, 232 J Japan, 33, 74, 130, 220 Jedlowski, Alessandro, 168 Juncker, Jean Claude, 54 K Kagan, Robert, 78, 82, 83 Katainen, Jyrki, 54 Kazakhstan, 75, 118, 197, 221 Keuleers, Floor, 12, 167, 170, 197 Kiamba, Anita, 170 Kimunguyi, Patrick, 170

INDEX

King, Kenneth, 168, 173 Kipling, Rudyard, 196, 213 Kirgizstan, 221 Kissinger, Henry, 72 Kosovo, 76 Kotsopoulos, John, 171, 172 Krupka, Erin, 46 L Landsberg, Chris, 172 Large, Daniel, 168 Legitimacy, 24, 70, 82–85, 99, 100, 117, 142, 198, 206–208, 220 Lekorwe, Mogopodi, 170 Le Monde, 120, 123, 128–130 Libya, 20, 76, 172 Li, Fujian, 98, 142, 143 Li, Keqiang, 48, 57, 59, 119, 121, 148, 151, 158 LinkedIn, 205, 209 Liu, Chunrong, 10, 11, 57, 60, 143, 207 Lou, Jiwei, 149 Luce, Edward, 1, 73 M Macaes, Bruno, 158 Macedonia, 49, 96 Mackinder, Halford, 72, 213 Macron, Emmanuel, 68, 81, 115, 116, 133 Madrid-Morales, Dani, 191 Manners, Ian, 22, 23, 51, 129 Mao, Zedong, 158 Marshall Plan, 104, 118, 123, 126, 213 Masters, Lesley, 171 May, Theresa, 115, 116, 125 Mearsheimer, John, 33 Media, 7, 12, 23, 29, 73, 118, 121–132, 141, 143, 154, 155,

279

157, 158, 168, 191, 207, 210, 232 news media, 104, 116, 117, 120, 126, 127, 142, 147, 218, 233 social media, 205 Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS), 84 Merkel, Angela, 126, 150 Middelaar, Luuk, 56 Migration, 36, 49, 77 Ministry of Commerce, China, 74, 119, 156 Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), China, 49, 74, 119, 141, 150–152, 154 Miskimmon, Alister, 1, 6, 8, 10, 19, 21, 22, 29, 30, 46, 61, 69–72, 116, 121, 129, 132, 168, 175, 196, 201–203, 205, 218 Modi, Narendra, 209 Mogherini, Federica, 35, 51 Mohan, Garima, 53, 78 Moldova, 76 Murray, Philomena, 22 Mutual benefit, 59–61, 86, 118, 119, 129, 168, 183, 206 N Narrator, 11, 96, 100, 105–110, 156 New Zealand, 153 Nordic Council of Ministers, 49, 50 Nordic regions, 49, 50 Normative Power Europe, 23 Normative resonance, 61, 62 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), 2, 108, 203 Nowotny, Helga, 24 Nye, Joseph, 72, 117 O Obama, Barak, 33, 80

280

INDEX

Obi, Cyril, 168 Okuru, Mina, 170 Olivier, Gerrit, 170 O’Loughlin, Ben, 1, 6, 8, 10, 19, 23, 29, 46, 61, 70, 72, 116, 121, 129, 196, 201–203, 205, 218 Ontological security, 13, 196, 198– 201, 203, 205, 207, 208, 212, 218–221 Order, 1–3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 13, 14, 20, 22, 23, 27–29, 32, 35, 37, 45, 55, 70, 82, 83, 98–101, 103–105, 108, 110, 119, 121, 122, 126–128, 130–132, 147, 148, 154, 155, 179, 180, 182, 184, 186, 189, 196, 199–204, 208, 210–212, 214, 217–220, 230, 232, 234

P Park, Yoon, 170 Pax Sinica, 123 Peace, 51, 52, 56–58, 77, 78, 80, 87, 119, 124, 144, 157, 199 Peaceful coexistence, 62, 206 Pence, Mike, 3, 4 Philippines, The, 35, 74 Piraeus, port of, 49, 73, 95 Plessis, Anton, 172 Poland, 33, 48, 83, 84, 97, 106 Poletti, Arlo, 170 Policy agenda, 27, 45 Policy-makers, 33, 46, 70, 126 Portugal, 49, 154, 158 Power transition, 24, 199, 203 Proops, John, 173 Public attitudes, 171 Public diplomacy, 27, 104, 131, 150, 169, 173, 216 Public narratives, 171, 190 Public opinion, 34, 141, 170, 190

R Ramo, Joshua, 168 RAND, 2 Refugee crisis of 2015, 141, 142 Regional cooperation, 48–51, 57, 58, 60 Regional development schemes, 10, 47 Regling, Klaus, 149 Richard, Alice, 52 Risse-Kappen, Thomas, 173 Röschenthaler, Ute, 168 Roselle, Laura, 6, 8, 9, 29, 46, 61, 69–72, 116, 121, 129, 171, 190, 196, 201–203, 205 Rudd, Kevin, 6, 21, 22, 27, 86, 234 Rule of Law, 31, 35, 51, 82–84 Russia, 23, 33, 55, 107, 108, 130, 151, 153, 195–197, 200, 207, 217, 218

S Sørensen, Camilla, 99 Samson, Romaric, 170 Sarkozy, Nicolas, 149 Sautman, Barry, 170 Schmolck, Peter, 177 Schoeman, Maxi, 172 Security, 4, 11, 23, 28, 31, 36, 49, 52, 54, 70, 71, 73, 74, 76–79, 88, 102, 108, 128, 197–199, 201, 218, 230, 231 Serbia, 48, 49, 96, 108 Sharp power, 71, 84 Shen, Simon, 170 Siemens, 69 Silk Road, 6, 7, 20, 36, 76, 88, 104, 118, 119, 122, 123, 125, 126, 140, 152, 153, 155, 197, 202, 209, 210, 213–215, 217, 232, 233

INDEX

Silk Road Economic Belt, 75, 76, 104, 118, 119, 124, 140, 152, 153, 197 Simurina, Jurica, 57, 99 Slovakia, 33 Smith, Michael, 51 Snow, David, 46 Social contract, 49 Soft power, 33, 117, 131, 215 Solidarity, 10, 47, 51, 53, 55, 61, 179 South Africa, 12, 167, 169, 171–173, 175, 176, 191 South China Sea, 23, 31, 35, 99, 105, 130, 153, 159 South Korea, 74, 76 Sovereignty, 24, 35, 72, 168, 177, 179, 184, 187, 189, 206, 211, 232 Sovereignty debt crisis, 48, 148 Spain, 49, 148, 151, 153, 154 Stanzel, Angela, 48 State-owned companies, 100, 108 Steele, Brent, 196, 199, 200, 202, 204, 205, 207, 208, 212, 214, 218–220 Stein, Arthur, 55 Stenner, Paul, 173–177 Strategic dialogues, 46 Strategic framing, 47, 58 Strategic narrative, 6–13, 19–22, 27–30, 37, 38, 46, 47, 60, 61, 69–73, 76–78, 81, 87, 88, 116, 121, 139, 159, 167, 168, 171, 175, 190, 196, 198, 201–203, 205, 206, 208, 212–215, 221, 229, 231–234 Strauss, Julia, 170, 190 Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), 120, 126 Suez Canal, 49, 73 Sustainable development, 50–52, 206, 211, 212, 215, 221 Sweden, 153

281

Syria, 20, 31, 76 System narrative, 9, 27, 122, 131, 154, 230–232

T Tajikistan, 221 Taylor, Ian, 168, 170 Tella, Oluwaseun, 170 Tembe, Paul, 171 Thailand, 96 Tibet, 84, 105, 141, 148 Trade, 2, 6, 20, 26, 31, 33, 46–48, 51, 52, 59, 61, 62, 77, 80, 81, 83, 87, 98, 102–104, 106, 119, 122, 124–126, 132, 141, 148, 155, 168, 187, 197, 208, 210, 215, 230, 234 Transnistria, 76 Trump, Donald, 2, 3, 5, 33, 128, 147, 155 Trust, 4, 32, 59, 72, 86, 119, 124, 155, 217 Turcsanyi, Richard, 57 Turkey, 23, 80, 107

U Ukraine, 6, 20, 31, 55, 76, 80, 107 United Kingdom (UK), 1, 4, 12, 32, 33, 68, 116, 120, 125, 128, 132, 147, 148, 153, 154, 157, 207 United Nations (UN), 2, 107, 172 United States (US), 3–6, 14, 20, 21, 27, 31, 33, 68, 71, 72, 74, 76, 78–80, 82, 87, 98, 102, 104, 105, 108, 118, 122, 123, 126–133, 140, 141, 145, 147, 150, 151, 153–155, 157–159, 170, 205, 208, 220, 230–233 Uzbekistan, 197, 221

282

INDEX

V Van Rompuy, Herman, 145 Vasselier, Abigael, 53, 76 Visegrad 4, 33

W Wang, Weiguang, 144 Wang, Yi, 59, 213, 217 Wang, Yiwei, 143 Wasserman, Herman, 191, 202 Watts, Simon, 173–177 Wekesa, Bob, 191 Welfare, 11, 50, 61, 69, 72, 86, 140–142, 150 Wen, Jiabao, 145, 146, 148, 150, 151 Westhuizen, Janis, 171 The White House, 49, 73 Womack, Brantly, 60 World trade, 47 World Trade Organisation (WTO), 47, 52, 69, 80, 149 World War II (WWII), 12, 118, 139 Wright, Thomas, 2 Wu, Wendy, 54 Wu, Yu-shan, 172

X Xiaochuan, Zhou, 149, 157 Xi, Jinping, 2, 3, 10, 12, 20, 32, 36, 46, 47, 49, 56–58, 60, 61, 67, 74, 75, 80, 81, 84, 95, 115–118, 123–129, 131, 144, 146, 151, 152, 156, 157, 197, 211, 214, 216, 221 Xing, Qu, 133, 141 Y Yang, Jiechi, 143 Yan, Hairong, 170 Yan, Xuetong, 76, 84 Yao, Ling, 57 Ying, Fu, 150, 209 Z Zabala, Aiora, 177 Zeneli, Valbona, 48 Zeng, Jinghan, 1–3, 32, 33, 68, 74–76, 232 Zhang, Yesui, 152 Zhao, Boying, 58 Zhongnanhai, 87 Zhong, Shan, 57 Zhu, Guangyao, 149, 208