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Special feature: The Modernisation of the People's Liberation Army and its Repercussions

The European Union and the Modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army Navy

The Limits of Europe’s Strategic Irrelevance
Mathieu Duchâtel and Alexandre Sheldon-Duplaix
p. 31-41


This article argues that the European Union has more interests in the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) modernisation and maritime security issues in East Asia than has traditionally been recognised. The PRC’s naval modernisation intersects with the EU’s foreign and security policy interests in five main areas: the international Law of the Sea; the risks for Europe of being dragged into an Asian maritime conflict and the safety of European trade with Asian partners; Europe’s competitiveness in international markets for naval military systems; the potential for maritime security cooperation against non-traditional threats; and finally, the arms embargo issue and the question of naval technology transfers to China. Through an assessment of the current PLAN modernisation – and Europe’s significant contribution to this effort – the article argues that European policy towards China doesn’t adequately address these five policy areas.

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Electronic reference

Mathieu Duchâtel and Alexandre Sheldon-Duplaix, « The European Union and the Modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army Navy », China Perspectives [Online], 2012/4 | 2011, Online since 30 December 2014, connection on 28 April 2017. URL :

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About the authors

Mathieu Duchâtel

Senior Researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, and SIPRI’s head China representative. He is also Associate Researcher at Asia Centre, Paris.

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Alexandre Sheldon-Duplaix

Researcher and Lecturer at the French Defense Historical Service and Defense College since 1999. He has previously worked as an analyst at the French Ministry of Defense. This paper draws on an Asia Centre ( research project conducted by the two authors on the strategic implications for Europe of China’s naval modernisation.

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