Can the EU’s soft power counter China’s hard line? Comparison of the twopower’s international response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Research Paper by Laia Comerma Calatayud



EU’s soft power stems from values like democracy, freedom or human rights. COVID has questioned those and fostered China’s hard line.

The COVID-19 pandemic, although global in its nature, has prompted a geopolitical quarrel on its origins and strategies to deal with it. Governments around the world have resorted to authoritarian-like measures that have put into question the intrinsic superiority of democracy and, with it, the main source of EU soft power. In this context, China has risen as a global aid provider, both in terms of health expertise and medical equipment, albeit it has given it the chance to become more assertive in key issues like its reunification with Hong Kong, or the universalisation of AI-enabled surveillance technologies. We analyse how the pandemic has affected the soft power of both the EU and China, which new opportunities it has created and which challenges it poses for their role as global leaders, and the global order in general.


About the author

Laia Comerma is a researcher at the Barcelona Institute of International Studies (IBEI) and a PhD candidate in International Relations at the University Pompeu Fabra. Her research is focused on EU-China cooperation from a structural and sectorial perspective. She holds a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (UPF-UC3M-UAM), a MSc in International Relations (LSE), and a postgraduate degree in international economy and commerce (UB).

#soft power, #hard power, #COVID-19, #Artificial Intelligence, #FDI, #EU foreign policy.