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Economic and trade relations between China and western Europe

Relations between economic and trade partners aren't always easy to analyse, especially during a period of time such as the Cold War. An EU-funded project investigated the connection between China and western European countries, which were part of two different blocs during the Cold War period.
Economic and trade relations between China and western Europe
The CHINFISI (China's economic relations with western Europe during Cold War (1952-66)) project explored the People's Republic of China's (PRC) economic and trade relations with European non-Communist countries during the period 1952-1966. The work was based on a project partner's previous study on the socialisation of the economy in China during the 1950s and a current project on economic relations with Italy during the 1950s and 1960s.

The main aim comprised two different aspects. First, it assessed the role of Mao's China, testing a widely acknowledged position that China was secluded from the Free World and was outright hostile to any interaction with capitalism. Second, it studied western European countries' attitudes towards China, during a time when tight alliances with the United States were obstructing the actions of their governments.

This study is important from an international history perspective to determine the start and relevance of economic relations between the two parties, but also their interaction with politics. It set out to answer many related questions on the topic. It explored China’s position towards capitalism during the Cold War or who among Western Europe or the USA was first to establish relations with China.

The literature review highlighted academic scholarship's recognition that an economic and technological study is relevant in understanding the Cold War. Although, this has not yet received the full amount of attention in the existing literature, some preliminary results from the study have shown that western Europe played a crucial role in China’s development.

Historical analysis focused on politicians and their relation with governmental leaders. Examining the role of non-state actors gives new insight into the influence that trade across blocs exerted on post-WWII European development, politically and economically.

CHINFISI carried out a micro-level analysis on economic practices. This relied on business correspondence, intelligence reports and memories related to Britain, France, Germany, Hong Kong and Italy's economic relations with communist China. The country's foreign trade under Mao, both at domestic and international level, was investigated through a study of numerous documents from the Chinese archives.

Research was combined with a series of dissemination practices and networking, giving the possibility for comparison and discussion, involving a number of non-academic contacts. A large part of the material was collected thanks to directly involved economic actors, likely to influence the attitude of western European companies interested in China.

Related information


Trade relations, China, western Europe, Cold War, CHINFISI, economic relations
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