The significance of perceptions and cultural engagement in the evolution of a European commercial and soft power diplomacy with the emerging Asian giants

Vergeron, Karine Lisbonne-de (2017) The significance of perceptions and cultural engagement in the evolution of a European commercial and soft power diplomacy with the emerging Asian giants. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


The focus of my submission is on external perceptions of Europe from the perspectives of the two new great powers in Asia: China and India. It spans over nine years of research. When the work started in 2006, the EU was in deep crisis just a year after the uncertainty that was unleashed by the rejection in France and the Netherlands of the then Constitutional Treaty.
The Union's goals were questioned and the process of integration stalled. Given this apparent impasse, and the failure of debates within the EU to offer a way forward, it seemed worth investigating whether research into the perception from non-Europeans, specifically significant outsiders of Europe (namely China and India), could offer a new insight into the debate about Europe’s future. This fundamental question later unfolded in various ways, especially in the wake of the financial crisis, which revealed underlying economic weaknesses and inadequate mechanisms of coordination within the European Single Market and specifically in the Eurozone. It was further underlined by the continuing shift of economic power globally, which gave a renewed relevance to understanding how China and India saw the EU and. more generally, the world, relative to their own expectations, as mutual interdependence between the East and the West continued to grow.
My work was also informed by on-going and new academic debates about the idea of the EU as a ‘special’ global actor in world affairs with a focus on the visions, values and principles of Europe’s place in international relations (see Section 5). They were complemented by the view that as globalisation proceeds and mutates, the way in which different cultures view each other, both change and become of increasing importance to their interaction. Comprehending how 'others’ view the complex combination of. above all. national and international politics, economy and culture, which is today’s EU (the first such entity of its kind in modern political history) is indeed also a means to assess its actual, and even more its potential influence and place in world affairs. This obviously has a range of further implications for the nature and the scale of Europe's possible bilateral relationships with China and India and. therefore, also on its commercial and soft power policies (see Section 5 for a definition of the concept) towards both countries as well as towards Asia more widely.
A considerable number of studies on Europe’s relation with China and India have, of course, also been undertaken in recent years (see Section 5). They have, however, overwhelmingly consisted of European (and other) views of the emerging Asian giants. Very little comparative work has been done on Chinese and/or Indian views of the rest of the world, and. specifically, of their evolution over time and relevance for Europe itself (see Section 5). When the first two publications of 2006 and 2007 were released, no systematic study had been made of how China and India perceive the EU and the idea of Europe more generally.

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