As a single trading block, the EU is by some way China's largest trading partner. Every year, more Chinese diplomats are posted to Brussels to study EU regulations (there are said to be four Chinese officials whose sole task is to monitor the European Parliament).
But China knows perfectly well that the EU functions only rarely as a single block. It has learnt from experience how easy it is to divide the Europeans on tough political questions such as their arms embargo on China. Moreover, EU citizens cannot even agree on whether China is an economic threat or an opportunity. Some countries, such as Germany and Sweden, make lots of money selling machine tools and other capital goods to China. In southern Europe, businessmen complain vociferously that their traditional exports such as shoes and textiles are being killed by China. In eastern Europe, businesses built on (relatively) cheap labour fear China mightily.
The China trade syndrome - Charlemagne
6 October 2007