First edition of the Europe-China Table organised

Clingendael Institute hosted the first Europe-China Table in ReConnect China on April 18, 2023

In this roundtable, policymakers and researchers discussed how Europe should respond to China’s international narrative strategy. The ReConnect China project is aimed at upgrading independent knowledge on contemporary China in Europe and on strengthening connections between researchers and policymakers and other societal sectors. The discussion was held under the Chatham House Rule. To open the floor, Ties Dams, Research Fellow at Clingendael Institute, provided a discussion note as input for the Table. It can be found here: Discussion Note – Answering China’s Narrative Challenge – ReConnect.


  Europe-China Table: Answering China’s Narrative Challenge to Europe

Closed online roundtable

11:00-11:05   Introduction

Moderator: Dr. Ingrid d’Hooghe, Coordinator Clingendael China Centre, Clingendael – the

Netherlands Institute of International Relations

11:05-11:20   Presentation Discussion Note

Ties Dams, Research Fellow, Clingendael – the Netherlands Institute of International


11:20-11:35   Reaction Discussants

Karin Mössenlechner, Director Asia and Oceania, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the


Dr. Chiyuki Aoi, Professor of International Security, University of Tokyo

11:35-12:30   Roundtable Discussion

Moderator: Dr. Ingrid d’Hooghe, Coordinator Clingendael China Centre, Clingendael – the

Netherlands Institute of International Relations



The discussion evolved around three themes: the content, strengths and weaknesses of China’s narrative strategy, the European response, and ways forward regarding developing a European narrative. Participants noted that China has geared up its efforts to develop and disseminate Chinese narratives around the globe. In doing so China spends many resources, takes a systematic approach, and involves the whole of society. A weak spot that was mentioned, concerns the observation that China’s narratives are highly referential to Western ideas and notions. The question was raised whether the success of China’s narrative primarily stems from the attractiveness of the model that it proposes, or from its anti-Western rhetoric. Various participants pointed out that we may overestimate the success of China’s approach and that we need more empirical research on how people in different countries around the globe perceive and respond to Chinese narratives to get a better understanding of their effectiveness.

When debating Europe’s response many participants agreed that Europe has not yet been able to develop and disseminate a comprehensive and consistent narrative through persuasive storytelling, but that it urgently needs to do this. They mentioned various weaknesses in Europe’s approach such as lack of resources dedicated to this effort, lack of unity within the European institutions, and the fact that Europe does not use its aspirational values as a basis for its narrative. Others pointed out that Europe should and could be confident as it is a key contributor to peace and security, and international order and sustainable development.

Much time was devoted to discussing how Europe should move forward to effectively tell its own story to the world. It was repeated several times that Europe should be more confident about its own strengths and values, yet also humbler in the way it approaches other countries. Various speakers emphasized the importance of engaging with audiences around the world based on different country’s needs. Many agreed that Europe should have a better idea of what kind of view it wishes to present to the world. It was also argued that Europe should be less concerned about China’s narrative strategy as it remains to be seen to what extent it can be of value to third countries and the international community. Finally, it was concluded that changes to the European narrative strategy would come about through small steps rather than through large initiatives. In that sense, the Round Table on ‘Answering China’s Narrative Challenge to Europe’ can be seen as a good start.