Podcast: The EU’s Human Rights Dialogue With China

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Episode Guests
  • Elizabeth C. Economy
    Senior Fellow for China Studies

Show Notes

For almost three decades, the world has alternately encouraged and pressured China to reform its human rights practices. As part of this effort, the European Union has had an ongoing formal human rights dialogue with China since 1995. How successful has it been? This week’s Asia Unbound podcast features Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach, associate director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin and visiting professor at the School of Public Policy at the Central European University in Budapest, discussing her new book, The EU’s Human Rights Dialogue with China: Quiet Diplomacy and its Limits. Dr. Kinzelbach has few illusions about the effect the dialogue has had on Chinese human rights behavior. She points to a lack of continuity among the chairs of the dialogue, China’s growing economic clout, and an unwillingness to use coercive measures as some of the reasons underlying the EU’s limited impact. Moreover, China has begun to explore new means of exerting pressure on human rights activists, reaching beyond the country’s borders to arrest people and placing their family members under significant pressure. Still, through EU cooperation with the United States, there have been successes in individual cases. Looking ahead, Kinzelbach argues that there may be greater opportunities to pressure China as the country’s economy slows—for example pushing Beijing to ratify the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. Success, however, hinges on a unified position among the EU member states as well as a strong chair committed to using both dialogue and conditionality, a combination Kinzelbach’s book suggests has been in short supply.

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