Regional governments across the world actively participate in international relations. They open trade and cultural missions abroad, join international networks of cooperation, and sign treaties and agreements with their partners from other countries. Relationships at regional and local levels have moderated rising tensions between states that might otherwise paralyse global governance. Fast growing networks of sub-state contacts in Sino-European affairs create new opportunities for the European Union (EU) to advance European interests, norms and values. Unfortunately, acknowledgement, by Brussels, of such potential political instruments is limited.
The main goal of this article is to show how the EU could benefit from growing substate connections with China. This article begins with an explanation, based upon a survey conducted among regional authorities from the five EU Member States, of the phenomenon of fast-growing cooperation on the sub-state level between Europe and China (Germany, France, Italy, Poland, and Spain). Next, this study identifies, through interviews with the European External Action service (EEAS), the European Commission (EC) officials and the regional authorities, EU activities that promote collaborations on ‘the third level’ of its relations with China. The research concludes with suggestions of possible ways Europe could benefit from further development of sub-state contacts with China.European Foreign Affairs Review