The European Union is at a critical juncture: besieged by Brexit, a poorly managed refugee crisis, the looming threat of Islamist terrorism, and the stagnation of living standards for European low and middle income classes. This last point is closely related with how useful the EU is in the eyes of its population for navigating an increasingly globalised world where the emerging countries, particularly China, play a bigger role in the international economy and global affairs.
China is a key economic partner for the European Union (EU). As EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, has explained, the EU’s commercial relationship with China has brought sizeable benefits for Europe, including over 3 million jobs that depend on sales to China, and increases in the competitive advantage of European companies with providers based in China (Malmström, 2016a: 1). China has communicated to the European Commission its desire to deepen this relationship through a free trade agreement (FTA), which would prevent protectionist movements in Europe and secure access to the common market.