In this thesis I have analysed policy discourses and policy practices of the EU towards China in the period of 2005-2009. I have examined to what extent the policy discourses and policy practices were normative in character, and whether there was a consistency between normative commitments and normative practices. Theories on the EU as a normative actor were applied in the analysis.
Two main discourses were identified in the EU throughout the period. The first, the ‘partnership’ discourse, centred on interest-based goals. The latter, ‘norm concerning’ discourse, centred on normative goals. The non-normative ‘partnership’ discourses dominated in the period, with the year 2008 as an exception. In 2008, norm concerns were widely and strongly expressed within the EU.
The analysis of practices showed that when the ‘partnership’ discourses dominated, the policy tools were applied mainly to promote interest-based goals. When the ‘norm concerning’ discourse dominated in 2008, the practice also changed, as the EU in this period increasingly promoted norms, both in dialogues and through public statements and condemnations. Even though the potential for norm promotion was larger in the practice, the EU was still close to being a consistent normative actor.
In 2009 a change was again seen, when the ‘partnership’ discourse increasingly was represented in EU, and the EU primarily focused on seeking economic goals in practice. The economic and financial crisis in Europe was used to legitimise the promotion of a strong economic beneficial partnership with China. In sum, there was a high degree of consistency between the dominating discourse and the main practices. Yet the EU was mainly not a normative actor, foremost seeking interest-based goals.