During the last quarter of the 21st century, the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the European Community/European Union (EC/EU) have been similar and different, compatible and incompatible players at the same time. Both remain “unfinished” international actors, China because of a lack of functioning state institutions, and the EU because its component members survived as nation states. And whereas the partial opening-up of the vast Chinese market under Deng Xiaoping very much corresponded to structural changes in Western Europe and two European recessions, their respective approaches to world order issues were mutually contradictory in fundamental respects. On the European side, stable democracies had subscribed, as a matter of principle, to the liberal paradigm of non-violent conflict solution and to the universal applicability of human rights. At the same time, the PRC had judged it necessary to strengthen its sovereignty in the interest of a national agenda that bordered on the nationalistic and irredentist, thus keeping its option open, as a matter of principle, to resolve conflicts through force. During the 1980s, Sino-American irritations followed by the gradual demise of the Soviet bloc slowly invalidated the basic strategic framework for EU-China relations. Subsequent attempts at building a new framework have thus far remained unconvincing.