2018 Volume 2018 Issue 38 Pages 198-218
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1975, the EU and China have been deepening and expanding their relationship by building a wide range of institutional framework between them. This article analyses how those two powers have been developing their relationship from a viewpoint of institutionalisation of EU-China relations, particularly in the following 3 dimensions: ⑴ their legal foundations （e.g. treaties, agreements or joint declarations）, ⑵ building multi-level （from leaders to officials） and multi-sectoral （from political and economic to cultural） dialogues and ⑶ relationship defined as “comprehensive strategic partnership.”
First, about legal basis for EU-China relations, they initially started economic and commercial relationship by signing trade agreements （in 1978 and updated in 1985）, and then gradually expanded their practical cooperation for more technical issues by concluding agreements of science and technology （in 1998）, maritime transportation （in 2002）, and customs cooperation （in 2004）, etc. They are now negotiating for an investment agreement by which they would seek for further development of economic and commercial ties such as a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement （DCFTA） in the future.
Second, about bilateral dialogue framework, since the EU and China created the Joint Committee in 1979 as the first regular dialogue about economic and commercial issues at the level of officials, they developed the dialogue framework by launching ministerial dialogues of diplomatic and commercial affairs in 1984 and also establishing sectoral dialogues of technical issues in the 1990s. Now they have institutionalised the dialogue framework called “3 pillars” architecture in which there are 3 high-level dialogues （political, economic and cultural） at the commissioners level, under the annual summit meeting by the leaders, and about 50 sectoral dialogues under those pillars.
Third, about EU-China partnership, since they defined their relationship as “comprehensive partnership” in 1998 and upgraded it in 2003, they regard each other as a “comprehensive strategic partner” with which they can offer a wide range of cooperation for important issues not only in the bilateral level （such as trade and human rights） but also in the regional （e.g. immigrants and counter-piracy operations） and global levels （such as non-proliferation and environment） in the multi-polar world.