China’s fondness for memorandums of understanding (MoUs) in its relations with foreign entities is well known. Governments, think tanks and international institutions – including many United Nations organs – are regularly asked by Chinese counterparts to sign such letters of intent for cooperation of some sort. As Europeans discuss the balance of opportunities and challenges of MoUs with China, this Clingendael Policy Brief proposes that inspiration should be drawn from Japan’s approach of conditional engagement. While care should be taken not to align one’s own priorities with Chinese priorities, MoUs can be a tool to forge cooperative ties with Chinese banks and businesses. Significant commitment to follow up is required to test the real potential for such cooperation.