The European Union in the Eyes of Asia - EU External Perceptions - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

The European Union in the Eyes of Asia

Time Line

2006 - Ongoing

Countries in Focus

Japan, South Korea, mainland China, SAR Hong Kong, SAR Macau, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and India

In 2005, the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) initiated ESiA - a network of European Studies in Asia. The motivation was pragmatic and sought to redress an apparent imbalance. Whilst within the European Union (EU) there are already a number of credible institutes that focus on Asia and Asian affairs, in Asia, there are very few comparable institutes that examine the EU and European studies. 

In a serious effort to reinvigorate European studies institutions in the Asian region, one of the first activities of the ESiA network was to undertake a comparative trans-national empirical project on how the EU is perceived in Asia, in a partnership with Fudan University (China), Hong Kong Baptist University (SAR Hong Kong), Keio University (Japan), National University of Singapore (Singapore), Korea University (South Korea), and Chulalongkorn University (Thailand) in 2006-07; Vietnam National University (Vietnam), Universitas Indonesia (Indonesia), and Ateneo de Manila University  (the Philippines) in 2008-09; University of Malaya (Malaysia), Universidade de Macau (SAR Macao) and  Jawaharlal Nehru University (India) in 2009-2010.

EU in Eyes of AsiaThis choice of topic reflected the reality that reliable knowledge did not exist hitherto: the information available tended to be impressionistic, some comparatively convincing, some seemingly implausible, but completely lacking hard, empirical evidence on how exactly Asian citizens and the media saw the EU. For all of the regions examined in this project, the EU represents either a significant, or the most significant economic relationship and is increasingly emerging as a significant political and security dialogue partner.  

Conceptually, this project helps to inform us about the global importance of the EU and how this is being interpreted outside of Europe. As was outlined in a substantive report for the Commission, “Europe does not exist without non-Europe” and “Europe can only be realized in the mirror of Others” (Stråh, 2002). To understand the EU itself, external reflection is needed in order to interpret its meaning.


ASEF Asia-Europe Foundation
NCRE The National Centre for Research on Europe, University of Canterbury, New Zealand,

For more information on the ASEF initiative "European Studies in Asia" (of which this project is an inaugural activity) please see visit the official website

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