Some clouds in the relationship are acknowledged – Europe’s increased "assertiveness" which would be the cause of its March 2019 depiction of China as a "systemic rival"; China should work more with third parties (and especially Germany) in CEE countries to lessen reluctance from the EU; the investment screening process is unclear and creates new uncertainties and compliance costs. Interestingly, the three themes – criticism of "assertiveness", need to work with third parties, and request for clarity of rules and a negative list – are an exact mirror image of what is constantly requested from China by Europe! Strictly no value issues appear in our selected sources– whether it be human rights, divergences over international law (for example over the South China Sea), or the competition between democratic and socialist governance models captured by the notion of "systemic rivals", which is also present in many Chinese policy documents.
Do Chinese experts on the EU see only what they want to see? There may be another underlying explanation for some of this optimism. For another opinion that recurs is one of European weakness. CEE countries are classified as developing or emerging economies. Trends that are critical of China are ascribed to US pressure, particularly successful in Poland. Binding EU decisions on investment would require a treaty change. This is an honest Chinese analyst’s mistake since the Lisbon Treaty gave the EU exclusive competence on investment: but it is true that member states are far from politically accepting this. Ironically, China trusts the rule of law in the EU to limit some of the more negative policies towards market play: the European Court of Justice can prevent the EU or member states basing decisions on an abusive view of public order and security (and indeed, we know there have been hints of Chinese companies going to the ECJ on this basis).