Does Populism Matter in EU–China Relations? The Cases of Italy and Czechia

Jakimow, Malgorzata; Boni, Filippo and Turcsányi, Richard (2024). Does Populism Matter in EU–China Relations? The Cases of Italy and Czechia. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies (Early access).



This article investigates whether populism affects the foreign policy of European Union (EU) member states towards China and, if so, through what mechanisms. In order to answer this question, we examine the cases of Italy and Czechia, both of which went through turbulent relations with China in the recent decade whilst also experiencing several government changes between populist and non-populist parties. Our analysis reveals that whilst populist-led governments appeared to be more China-friendly than non-populist governments, the impact of populism is not direct but mediated through other variables, namely, thick ideology, economic pragmatism and international positioning. We propose this model as a hypothesis for testing in future research. In addition, our findings suggest a need to rethink the relationship between thin–thick ideologies in the study of populism and to emphasise the role of ‘economic pragmatism’ as a mediating variable, which has been largely missing from the literature on populist foreign policy.

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