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Western Strategies in East Asia. The Reconfiguration of US, British and French security policies in the Pacific Century

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WESTRAT (Western Strategies in East Asia. The Reconfiguration of US, British and French security policies in the Pacific Century)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2019-08-31

This project delivers the first systematic cross-regional and cross-sectoral analysis and comparison of how Europe’s major powers have sought to respond to the perceived national security challenge posed by the rise of China in world politics.
In particular, it examines the evolution of the foreign and security policies of Europe’s major powers vis-à-vis China, since the end of the Cold War, in two core areas: (1) China’s Assertive Behaviour in the Asia-Pacific: the diplomatic and security cooperation initiatives developed with partners in the Asia-Pacific in response to China’s contestation of regional order. (2) China’s Inroads into Strategic Technologies in Europe: the screening mechanisms to restrict Beijing’s direct investments in strategic technologies and sensitive sectors in Europe (like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, robotics, etc.).
To do so, it relies on a large body of previously undisclosed primary written and oral sources, including: 120 interviews conducted in Brussels, Paris, London and Berlin; declassified archival document; and leaked diplomatic cables.
This project shows how, in the past decade, Europe’s major powers have, although to different degrees, ‘awakened’ to the national security implications of China’s rise. Whereas in the first two decades of the post-Cold War era they largely perceived China as a distant and lucrative market, Beijing’s increasingly assertive behavior in the 2010s, both in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific, has sparked a re-evaluation of how China’s rise impacts their national security interests. In short, the PRC is increasingly perceived not only as an economic opportunity, but also as a national security challenge. Yet, the policies devised by the European Union to confront such challenge are hardly uniform. Because of diverging national interests and asymmetric capabilities, the EU has displayed disjointed, rather than common, foreign and security policies toward China. Europe stands divided in the face of a rising China.
I have collected a broad and unique collection of primary written and oral sources.
For one, I conducted a large range of elite interviews: 120 semi-structured interviews with officials in Berlin, Paris, Brussels and London. These interviews were conducted with civilians and military policymakers with responsibilities for relations with China, the Asia-Pacific, political-military affairs and/or technology transfers in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Finance/Economics, in the interagency coordinating bodies in charge of politico-military affairs, in the national military staffs, in the respective intelligence communities and with advisers in the Office of the British Prime Minister, the French President and the German Chancellor. Some of the high-profile interviewees include: the French President’s advisor on strategic and Asia-Pacific affairs and his diplomatic adviser; the foreign policy advisor of the German chancellor; several chiefs of defense in France, the UK and Germany, among many others.
Second, through archival research I obtained declassified archival documents retrieved in various national archives located in France, Germany and the UK. Specifically, these archives include: the French Centre of Diplomatic Archives in Nantes (CADN); the Political Archive of the German Federal Foreign Office; and the National Archives (TNA) of the United Kingdom.
Third, WESTRAT leverages a large body of diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks/Cablegate (1990-2010). Through the minutes of meetings, these cables bring to light the debates (and the key considerations therein) between the diplomats of three European countries and their American counterparts over their respective foreign and security policies toward China.
Fourth, WESTRAT draws upon a comprehensive examination of executive branch reports, parliamentary reports, national policymakers’ speeches and their statements in front of parliamentary committees and subcommittees with responsibilities for the Asia-Pacific, European Affairs and Investments (British, German and French Parliaments).
Finally, WESTRAT provides new data on the naval deployments in the Asia-Pacific by the capital ships of the three European powers’ navies by combining the available primary and secondary sources.
This dimension of Europe’s foreign and security policy has so far been largely neglected in the International Relations (IR) and Security Studies literature. A voluminous body of scholarship has investigated when and how the US rebalanced its security policy toward the Asia-Pacific as well as the reordering of Washington’s alliances and security partnerships in the region to confront the PRC. The response by Asia-Pacific countries to China’s expanding regional clout and ambitions, and their alignment behaviour, have similarly been the subject of a burgeoning literature. By contrast, the question of how Europe’s major powers have sought to confront the security implications of China’s rise—both in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific—remains largely under-explored in the International Relations (IR) literature.
Overall, the existing scholarship on EU-China relations tends to be piecemeal and fragmentary and to lack robust empirics. Crucially, no study has yet undertaken a cross-regional comparison of how Europe’s major powers have responded to the security challenges posed by China’s re-emergence in world politics—looking at both Europe and the Asia-Pacific.
In light of the shortcomings of the existing literature, the intellectual contribution of this project is twofold.
First, by investigating a strategically crucial yet neglected dimension of the foreign and security policy of Europe’s major powers, this project fills an important gap in the scholarly literature on both European and Asia-Pacific security dynamics. To do so, it relies on a large body of previously undisclosed primary written and oral sources, including elite interviews, declassified archival documents, leaked diplomatic cables, new data on European naval deployments and a wide-ranging overview of parliamentary hearings, testimonies, public speeches and government reports. Based on wide-ranging primary sources, this book delivers the first systematic cross-national and cross-sectoral empirical analysis and comparison of how the major European powers have responded to the perceived national security challenge posed by the rise of China in world politics.
Second, given the absence of a common European strategy toward the PRC, this project also aims to enrich the policy debates on how to bolster cooperation between the EU, its member states, and the US (and transatlantic relations more generally) in developing a common strategy towards China. Arguably, how the US and Europe wrestle with the re-emergence of China in world politics will be a, if not the, defining issue for transatlantic relations in the years to come. Against the background of the intensifying US-China competition, of growing doubts over the robustness of US commitments to Europe and, more broadly, of the shifting centre of strategic gravity of world politics from the Euro-Atlantic to the Asia-Pacific, the findings of this project can thus contribute to fostering a debate among policymakers, academics and the larger public in Europe—and on the two sides of the Atlantic—on the security ramifications of China’s rise for transatlantic relations and on how to forge a common policy response.