7 September 2020

ThinkChina Analysis: Danish–Chinese Relations: 'Business as Usual’ or Strategic Disruption? Part II (of II)

This analysis is part one of a two-part ThinkChina Analysis, by Andreas Bøje Forsby from NIAS, which takes a closer look at Danish-Chinese relations.

1) Part I focuses on their historical relations as well as their joint development of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership 2) Part II explores two key drivers that may undermine the partnership; the re-politicization of political differences and the strategic effects of the US-China great power rivalry.

Picture credit: Ice Ice Baby by Nicholas Erwin under the CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license, and edited by ThinkChina.

For many years, Danish-Chinese relations were generally progressing smoothly, growing deeper and more diversified across a wide range of areas in line with the underlying objectives of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement from 2008. In the meantime, China rose to become Denmark’s second-largest non-European trade partner, while bilateral cooperation were extended to cover areas like research, education, renewable energy, judicial affairs, tourism as well as a wide range of trade - promoting initiatives.

Recently, however, Denmark’s relationship with Beijing has become problematized on several accounts, calling the overall stability of bilateral relations into question. The main drivers of this new development trend are the burgeoning US-China great power rivalry (i.e. its spill-over effects) and the re-politicization of fundamental political differences amid growing Chinese assertiveness in Denmark and elsewhere. Danish-Chinese relations thus seem to be entering a new era where it will become increasingly difficult to pursue a ‘business-as-usual’ approach.

Key takeaways:
  • In the decade following the 2008 agreement about the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Denmark and China, bilateral relations deepened significantly and also became far more diversified across a wide range of areas of cooperation.
  • Recently, however, the partnership has faced mounting pressure as two key development trends have jointly disrupted not only the further development of bilateral ties, but also the basic stability of the relationship.
  • The first disruptive development trend stems from security-related spill-over effects of the burgeoning US-China great power rivalry, causing the Danish government to increasingly side with Washington against the interests of Beijing.
  • The second disruptive development trend is a re-politicization of Danish-Chinese relations in the face of China's growing international assertiveness and domestic repression under Xi Jinping.


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The analysis has been previously published in Danish Foreign Policy Review 2020.