From a China strategy to no strategy at all: Exploring the diversity of European approaches

Report by European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC) – July 2023. Austria: Between amicable bilateral relations and support for a European China policy, Austrian country chapter by Lucas Erlbacher. 

Chinas Soft Power



Executive summary

In this report, experts from 24 countries take stock of national approaches to China across Europe. Authors focused on the following guiding questions: National China strategies: Where do member states and other European countries stand? Mechanisms: How do European countries coordinate and share information on China? EU tools: Which national instruments exist for implementation? Risk analysis: Which approaches do countries take? Working with China: In which Chinese institutional frameworks do countries participate? Spotlight on Taiwan: What activities exist in this contested space? 


Austria’s current approach towards the PRC seeks to strike a balance between, on the one hand, maintaining amicable bilateral relations with China, all the while not appearing too close to Beijing, and, on the other hand, supporting and relying on a common European approach towards China. This equilibrium rests on several pillars: the absence of domestic debate on China, the PRC's non-confrontational diplomatic approach, the low salience of the China’s economic presence in Austria as well as the ambiguity of the EU’s China strategy. 

About the European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC)

The European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC) is a gathering of China experts from various European research institutes. It is devoted to the policy-oriented study of Chinese foreign policy and relations between China and European countries, as well as China and the EU. The ETNC facilitates regular exchanges among participating researchers with a view to deepening understanding within the European policy and research community and the broader public about how Europe, as a complex set of actors, relates with China and how China's development and evolving global role are likely to impact the future of Europe. The network's discussions and analyses take a decidedly 'bottom–up' approach, accounting for the various aspects of bilateral relations between European countries and China, and the points of convergence and divergence among EU member states, in order to examine EU–China relations in a realistic and comprehensive way. 

The ETNC strives for independent policy research and analysis and, since its inception, is entirely funded by its participating members. The topics considered in ETNC reports are debated and decided upon collectively by its members. The views and analysis provided in each chapter of this report are thus the sole responsibility of the signed author or authors and do not in any way represent the views of all ETNC members, participating institutes, or the institutes with which the authors themselves are affiliated.

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