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The diffusion of norms in security-related fields: views from China, India and the EU

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This article aims to show that the European Union has normative power. Normative power is understood here as the capacity to promote norms by diffusion, based on persuasion, communication and interaction at large. The EU aims to influence the international order and to promote effective multilateralism. However, the further away from Europe the EU operates, the less it is able to use its traditional means of conditionality or its neighbourhood policy tools. Instead, the EU has to rely on diffusion mechanisms. This holds particularly true in the policy field of security where the EU has only limited capabilities for force projections and—given the specific nature of the defence market—only a limited role for the incentive of ‘market access’ and hence conditionality. Drawing on research on norm diffusion and taking into account the filter factors such as history, exposure and political systems that are at play in diffusion processes as well as the particular mechanisms at work, the European Union and its Member States seem to possess some normative power when meeting specific and growing demands for templates, know-how, procedures and processes to address today’s security challenges and operating on a global level with the new global stakeholders such as China and India.

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  1. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formulated the US pivot to Asia in more details in an OpEd for Foreign Policy in November 2011, stating that key areas are ‘strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers, including with China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights’ (Clinton 2011).

  2. In her confirmation hearing, the incoming High Representative Mogherini emphasised that ‘the EU has to make us relevant to Asia’ (Gardner 2014),

  3. The European Union supports EU Study Centres in India by the India-EU Study Centres Programme ( accessed on 05 August 2014), for a selection of EU Study Centres in China see (accessed on 05 August 2014).

  4. In the literature focusing on the EU as an international actor, the works of Sjosted, Hill, Jupille and Caporaso have been devoted to outlining and to defining such ‘actorness’ (Sjöstedt 1977; Hill 1993; Jupille and Caporaso 1998). According to Hill, for instance, the ‘actorness’ of the EU touches upon the distinctiveness of the EU from other political entities, the autonomy it enjoys in making its own laws and possessing a variety of actor capabilities. This leads to ‘presence’—the impact the EU has on the global system (Hill 1993). Smith (2002) discusses the EU as a distinctive actor in International Relations, evaluating the success and failures of EU foreign policy and its distinct political identity of ‘Europe’ from the United States

  5. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), with several incidents of alleged human rights abuses. In case of multilateral agreements, India has not yet signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is under considerable pressure from external actors like the EU to join the regime

  6. The project has been funded by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission and aims at pursuing a comprehensive and thorough understanding of China’s perception of the EU; its publications are available at

  7. However, analyses of the concept remained confined to the EU context; it was not transferred, e.g. to discuss Japan’s foreign policy posture as Maull did in 2005 (Maull 2005).

  8. There is not a comparable Indian White Paper on Defence, yet the connotation of security notions can be followed by of think tanks like the ISDA and ORF, e.g. at the Annual Asia Security Conference:

  9. The first generation writings of diffusion research focused on conceptualisation (Walker 1969; Wilensky 1974; DeLeon 1979) and the second generation empirically tested various hypothetical diffusion mechanisms, identifying basic diffusion mechanisms such as policy emulation, harmonisation, lesson drawing and others (Rose 1991; 1993; Bennett 1991a; Bennett 1991b; Wolman 1992; Stone 1999; Dobbin et al. 2007)

  10. Diffusion always happens in both directions; for the sake of operationalisation of the analytical framework, the EU is here referred to as ‘sender’ while India and China are referred to as ‘recipient’

  11. The NFG Research Group ‘Asian Perceptions oft he EU’ analyses diffusion processes of security norms, paradigms and best practices and factors and mechanisms within these processes with an international and interdisciplinary team. Results are available through the NFG Working Paper and the NFG Policy Paper series:

  12. The NFG researchers conducted appr. 200 interviews in India, China and in Brussels, Berlin, London and Paris with representatives of government, bureaucracy, military and think tanks (think tanks also as proxies where access to government officials was not feasible due to the sensitivity of the issues)

  13. For more information, please check

  14. for more information, e.g. check

  15. Asia-Pacific features the highest number of natural disasters world wide—about 80 % of the total of $366 billion in global disaster economic losses occurred in Asia-Pacific in 2011, and 75 % of the fatalities in disasters between 1970 and 2011 were people killed in the region (UNISDR 2012). Five of the 10 costliest natural disasters and 6 of the 10 costliest floods of the past 33 years have occurred in the region (Munich Re, NatCatSERVICE 2014)

  16. The water, energy and food security nexus means that all three sectors—water security, energy security and food security—are inextricably interconnected and that activities in one area increasingly have impacts in one or both of the others; see


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Stumbaum, MB.U. The diffusion of norms in security-related fields: views from China, India and the EU. Asia Eur J 13, 331–347 (2015).

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