Eurocentric Endeavour or Empty Rhetoric? Analysing EU Promotion of Human Rights in China Through a Normative Power Perspective: 1989-2009

  • Wenwen Shen

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The EU’s approach towards China on human rights has often been criticised for its conflicting interests, and coordination problems between EU institutions and national member states. However, simply renouncing its efforts in the name of realism or neo-liberalism does not fully explain the EU’s commitment to principles of international law, nor does it provide us with understanding as to why its policy has proven so weak and what ‘ought’ to be done.This thesis proposes a normative power approach to the study of EU human rights policy towards China between 1989 and 2009. Central to it is the assumption that the EU has been and should be a normative power towards China in the field of human rights. To verify this assumption, I adopt a tri-partite analytical framework drawn from existing ‘Normative Power Europe’ (NPE) literature in order to make sense of the EU’s adherence to human rights norms and its linkage with its external identity, illustrate how norms are diffused through a discursive form of power, and how impact should be evaluated normatively in the case of China.In so doing, I seek to achieve two central objectives: 1) to add to the empirical richness of NPE literature by analysing the Chinese case; 2) to apply a normative power perspective to the human rights dimension of EU-China relations. To address the first goal, I apply the NPE approach to two selected cases – the death penalty and the Tibet question, which are both high on the EU’s human rights agenda and yet are predicted to produce contrasting results. The second aim is met by operationalising the notion of NPE and developing its analytical and empirical relevance. To that end, I intend to make a contribution to the literature by presenting primary findings in the case-studies and a conceptual refinement of NPE as applied to the Chinese case.
Date of Award25 Mar 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorDavid Galbreath (Supervisor) & Lisbeth Aggestam (Supervisor)

Cite this