Trading on values : a critical assessment of the European Union as a ‘normative’ power in its current foreign policy towards China
The notion of the EU as a ‘normative’ power has become a popular way for explaining the EU’s role in foreign policy. At the same time, the EU portrays itself as being a promoter of values in the world and lists the promotion of human rights as one of its top foreign policy objectives. However, in the context of the large scale human rights violations being committed by Chinese authorities in Xinjiang, any significant reaction on behalf of the EU has largely held off. This study provides a critical assessment of the EU as a human rights actor and ‘normative’ power in its current foreign policy towards China. It gives an overview of the ongoing human rights violations in Xinjiang, arguing that they may constitute crimes against humanity. Drawing from critical theory, the gaps between the EU’s internal and external policies as well as rhetoric and action are examined. This research further analyzes the complicity of EU policies and business practices with the human rights violations in Xinjiang. To that effect, the growing involvement of EU member states’ in China’s Belt Road Initiative and Xinjiang’s key role therein is juxtaposed with the EU’s weak efforts to engage with China on human rights. Ultimately, this research highlights the need for the EU to take a strong stance and to uphold the values it has pledged to safeguard and in that respect makes recommendations for immediate EU action.