Konstantinos Tsimonis: Securitizing Chinese economic presence in Europe


16. 10. 2019 10:00


Trainee centre 3.40, Vodární 6, Olomouc


This paper unpacks the discursive construction of a European ‘China Threat’ narrative by European think tanks. We theorize think tanks as crucial actors in the securitizing process, especially at the initial stages where ideas and reference frames are formed. Despite having no decision-making authority, think tanks participate as securitizing actors in the process of idea formation and bidding, articulating a securitized frame of reference for policy makers. In the case of EU-China relations, we observe a congruence emerging between think tanks and policy makers that engage in a non-linear construction of a ‘China Threat’ policy frame. In this article, we review key think tanks reports that are circulated through official EU policy channels and deconstruct the assumptions behind the ‘China Threat’ discourse. We first argue that, analytically, their securitizing attempt is characterized by a distorted representation of Chinese economic activities abroad, including those that fall under the Belt and Road Initiative. Second, politically, this narrative produces a distorted notion of European politics where pluralism is weakness and disagreement dissent, promoting a view of the EU where ‘responsible’ core countries must contain the periphery’s ‘opportunism’. Third, we contend that despite defending ‘Europeanness’ as the epitome of human rights and democracy, the securitization of Chinese FDI rests on othering practices that risk undermining those very ideals. By identifying the problematic undertones of this securitizing effort, we call for a fact-based and pluralistic debate on the challenges of Chinese FDI for European economies and societies. 


Dr Konstantinos Tsimonis is a Lecturer in Chinese Society at the Lau China Institute, King’s College London. He completed his PhD at SOAS where he also taught courses on Chinese, East Asian and comparative politics. His primary area of research is the transformation and (partial) adaptation of Chinese political institutions since the 1980s, concentrating on China’s mass organisations and anticorruption apparatus. He is currently working on a joint research project on the impact of Chinese FDI on industrial relations and environmental standards in the Balkans. Konstantinos has also collaborated with civil society organisations, media and the private sector on various consultancy