Author Archive
  • #32 – A Recipe for the Future: The New Rural Reconstruction Movement

    event #32
    February 24th,  2014

    Prof. Dr. WEN Tiejun 温铁军
    Executive Dean, Institute of Advanced Studies for Sustainability, Renmin University of China
    Executive Dean, Institute of Rural Reconstruction of China, Southwestern University of China


    Tiejun WEN is a renowned expert on social-economic sustainable development and rural issues, especially in policy studies, macro-economic, geo-strategy of south-south cooperatives, and long-term inclusive growth.
    Wen, who also is executive dean of China’s Institute of Rural Reconstruction of China, Southwest University, focuses particularly on policy studies, macro-economic, geo-strategy of south-south cooperatives, and long-term inclusive growth.He is member of State Consultant Committee of Environment Protection, and is vice chairperson of the China Society of Agricultural Economics. Wen has received numerous honors and awards, including the First Rank Award for Science and Technology Progress from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and the First Rank Award for Teaching and Education from the Beijing Municipal Government. Wen Tiejun is author of the influential best-selling work on the agrarian crisis in China. As Executive Secretary General of the Chinese Society for Restructuring the Economic System, he is leading China’s grassroots efforts to revive rural communities and economies. As agricultural economist Wen Tiejun won his fame last year not as a theory maker, but as the creator of China’s first free farmer’s training centre – the Yanyangchu Countryside Construction Institute in Hebei Province.
    In 2004, China Business Weekly named Wen one of the top ten “movers and shakers in China’s economy.”


  • #31 – reading list

    December, 03th 2013

    5+5 五加五
    A cabbie driving for art: Artists and Villains in a Beijing Village

    Supplementary Materials


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      December, 03th 2013 5+5 五加五 A cabbie driving for art: Artists and Villains in a Beijing Village Supplementary Materials Reviews « Cinq plus cinq », un hymne à la liberté (in French) | download 天真的与实际的 (in Chinese) | download Extended Synopsis To a certain extent China is a country with a malformed…
      Tags: artists, laojin, art, songzhuang, village, chinese, life, cabbie, china
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      #31 - 五加五 5+5event #31 December 03rd,  2013 Screening of the documentary 5+5 五加五 A cabbie driving for art: Artists and Villains in a Beijing Village by Xu Xing (China) and Andrea Cavazzuti (Italy) 85 min, Chinese with English subtitles Comedy, Docu-Drama, Art, Social Issue   Synopsis Forty kilometers from the city of Beijing,…
      Tags: artists, village, laojin, songzhuang, art, china, life, cabbie, chinese

  • #31 – 五加五 5+5

    event #31
    December 03rd,  2013

    Screening of the documentary

    5+5 五加五
    A cabbie driving for art: Artists and Villains in a Beijing Village

    by Xu Xing (China) and Andrea Cavazzuti (Italy)

    85 min, Chinese with English subtitles
    Comedy, Docu-Drama, Art, Social Issue




  • #30 event report: China’s Global Role 2.0 – Keeping a High Profile

    November 6th, 2013, Bridge Café (Wudaokou)

    Speaker: Prof. WANG Yizhou, Deputy Dean of the School of International Studies, Peking University



    Three main themes underlined all other issues in Professor Wang’s speech. The first was his own concept of ‘creative involvement’. This entails looking beyond traditional options to find new ways to engage with and lead on the world stage. The second was his opinion that China no longer has the option to remain withdrawn from international politics. Finally, and most importantly, he explained why in order for China, or indeed for any country, to change its international behaviour, it must first change its domestic framework.


  • #30 – reading list

    November, 06th 2013

    China’s Global Role 2.0 – Keeping a High Profile

    Supplementary Materials


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      Tags: november, yizhou, wang
    • 10000
      November 6th, 2013, Bridge Café (Wudaokou) Speaker: Prof. WANG Yizhou, Deputy Dean of the School of International Studies, Peking University   Presentation Three main themes underlined all other issues in Professor Wang’s speech. The first was his own concept of ‘creative involvement’. This entails looking beyond traditional options to find new…
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      event #30 November 06th,  2013 Prof. WANG Yizhou 王逸舟 Deputy Dean of the School of International Studies, Peking University Abstract In his two recent books about the evolution of China’s global role, Wang Yizhou famously initiated the concept of creative involvement, calling on China to play a bigger role in international…
    • 10000
      November, 06th 2013 China's Global Role 2.0 - Keeping a High Profile Supplementary Materials Wang Yizhou, Creative Involvement: The Evolution of China's Global Role, Peking University Press (2013) Wang Yizhou , Creative Involvement: A New Direction in China's Diplomacy By Peking University Press (2011) Wang Yizhou , Construction within Contradiction:…
      Tags: yizhou, wang, china's, creative, china, peking, university, diplomacy, press, direction

  • #29 event report: Rich and Poor. China’s Unfinished Economic Transformation

    October 15th, 2013, Bridge Café (Wudaokou)

    Speaker: Prof. TAO Ran, Professor, School of Economics,  Renmin University of  China

    Special screening of excerpts from the documentary: China Rural Economy by Dr. Michele Geraci, Head of China Economic Policy Program, University of Notthingham in Ningbo, China 



    This month’s ThinkInChina event came with the added bonus of a special preview of part of a series of documentaries entitled “China Economy and Society,” put together by the head of the China Economic Policy Program, Dr Michele Geraci of Nottingham University in Ningbo, China. With the knowledge that traditional written reports are rarely read, this documentary series has been created with the intention of more effectively – and widely – conveying the research the CEPP has done into various aspects of the Chinese economy. The excerpt came from the first episode of the series, ‘China’s Rural Economy.’

    The clip shown examined Chinese economic growth from the perspective of the countryside and the farmers who have, notably, not taken part in the mass migration of people out of rural areas into the cities. The latter largely stemmed from, and was supported by, Deng Xiao-Ping’s policies of 1978 but the documentary discussed what the future for this movement is – an important question since China’s current growth still relies heavily upon it. Interspersed with interviews with farmers voicing their attitudes towards their own land and the possibility of moving to the cities, Geraci takes the viewer through the potential future of China’s current migration to the cities.

    While individuals’ views spanned from ‘I’ll go wherever I can make money’ to ‘the countryside is, and always will be, my home’ there was an underlying assumption that everyone – having moved to the city – will eventually want, or indeed need, to return home as a result of the hukou household registration system (which continues to bind people to their original place of residence in order to receive services.) Evidently, this impacts upon levels of migration as some conclude, if return is inevitable, there’s no point leaving in the first place. However, with the proportion of urban residents in comparison to rural ones crossing beyond the 50% threshold last year, it is clear that migration is still very much taking place. The clip ended by speculating that, with a narrowing gap between urban and rural living conditions and the continuation of the hukou system migration levels are surely set to decrease, with an inevitable impact on China’s economic growth.


    This point of view was echoed by Professor Tao in his talk on China’s development model and urbanisation. Leading with a bold statement of pessimism with regards to reform, Professor Tao promised to outline why economic reform here in China is tremendously difficult to enact and yet why, in order to avoid crisis, it is absolutely essential to do so. The speaker first addressed the reportedly false assumption that China’s centralised political system is the reason behind recent growth, directing the audience to focus more attention upon the role of local leaders rather than that of the centralised government.

    The second misconception addressed by Professor Tao was with regards to the ever-increasing rise in China’s house prices. While this meteoric rise over the past few years is often attributed to the 200million migrant workers who have moved to the cities, Professor Ran points out that only 1% of these can afford city housing. Instead, most are forced to live in dormitories or basements.Moreover, permanent residency in the cities is still relatively difficult and, indeed, uncommon for those coming from the countryside, largely as a result of the hukou household registration system which prevents rural children from attending urban schools – often forcing mothers and children to leave the city for schools. Thus labour shortages occur as a result of systems and the institution (i.e. hukou and land systems,) rather than a natural shortage of workers.

    Thus, to examine the truth behind China’s growth, the speaker gave his own view: China’s growth during the last two decades has indeed in many ways typified the type of growth and development occurring throughout East Asia (mostly involving elements of ‘labour suppression, financial repression and industrial policies’ and all managing to avoid the pitfalls of a largely non-consumer society through the successful development of export-oriented industries.) However, crucially, China — even by East Asian standards — is an extreme model of development: an extremity achieved only, he argues, through the high level competition for investments created by Chinese local governments’ actions.

    This extreme model of development, Professor Tao argued, will at some point inevitably reach a breaking point. With an eye to examining the model itself, the speaker posed the puzzle of why there hasn’t been a decrease in productivity and growth within the provinces, since the tax sharing reform of 1994 significantly decreased the amount they gained from taxes. However, conversely, in the case of China, it seems that the incentive to promote economic growth has been maintained. The speaker therefore encouraged the audience to consider what factors have caused the local government to exponentially encourage growth in their provinces despite the fact that they are seemingly receiving less reward for doing so?

    He outlined how the centralised government orchestrated a heady combination of cheap RMB, cheap production costs, little adherence to labour and environmental regulations and the possibility of buying land at a negative price (i.e. . the land requisition costs plus the cost to develop the land total more than the investment price) in order to attract investors, though largely at the cost of farmers’ and labourers’ interests. China thereby became an extremely appealing investment and has speedily amassed lots of foreign reserves. While purchasing of manufacturing land yields very little income to local governments (as the price at which it is sold is so low,) the area in which they make money comes from residential and commercial land. With an influx of manufacturing industry, services inevitably spring up around these areas in order to provide for these estates. Therefore, a demand for housing and service land becomes an important potential area of income. Through over-supplying cheap manufacturing land (albeit at a loss,) a demand for residential land which is then under-supplied gains enough income for the government to pay back the loan they originally made from state-owned banks. However, the speaker went on to describe the effects of the global financial crisis of 2008, when the purchasing and investment power of most countries dramatically decreased – the government consequently using a stimulus package of 44 trillion to keep the economy going.

    The talk concluded with the question of what happens when this housing bubble bursts? And, indeed, Professor Tao posited that it cannot last forever. While, for now, it is still encouraging tremendous economic growth and yielding high revenues, it is also reinforcing issues of inequality, corruption and pollution, to name but a few. The state monopoly is not providing good jobs for graduates – with systems still relying heavily on the concept of guanxi. The solution? Professor Tao advocated the possible reform of de-monopolising the urban land market and allowing farmers and migrants to personally let, and then, eventually, sell properties on their own land. With the requirement that houses must, within a stated timespan, be sold this disincentives speculators to speculate. Farmers in this deal may then give up some land to the government on which urban schooling and services can be built. Demand for manufacturing and industry will thereby once more rise. The talk ended with a solemn warning of social unrest if reform is not undertaken quickly and carefully.


    The talk raised many interesting questions from the floor. One audience-member enquired about the effects of China’s current high-level of debt on the economy. With the startling statistic that China currently has 25trillion RMB of debt – that is to say, 40-50% or local Chinese GDP – Professor Tao speculated that the government would potentially need to sell off residential land at a faster rate than it is now in order to accrue money, a process which could potentially be the trigger for the burst of the housing bubble.

    A similarly pessimistic response was given to the question of what China was to do with the 3 trillion USD it has in foreign reserves. While China currently produces half of the world’s steel, according to the speaker the government no longer has the money available to maintain this infrastructure and, he goes on to say, no country on earth has the expertise and certainty of what will occur in the future to manage 3trillion USD effectively. The outcome of such, therefore, is still unknown yet, worryingly, increasingly uncontrolled.

    The discussion was summed up by a more practical examination of what reforms must now take place, according to Professor Tao. Stating that necessary hukou reform cannot take place without land reform first having been enacted, it was pointed out that in order to settle permanently in a city, a migrant would require both affordable housing and equal access to urban schools and thereby remphasising his earlier point that, if China wishes to continue reform, gradual urbanisation and deregulation are necessary. In one final example of the problem China is facing, the Professor showed how it is in areas in which the housing market is still booming – for instance in Beijing and TianJin – that this suggested route of reform ought to, and will most effectively, occur. However it is precisely these places where reform will not be considered for a very long time because provincial governments are currently gaining large sums through the monopoly they have on this land.

    (report by Clio Chartres)

  • #29 – Rich and Poor: China’s unfinished economic transformation

    event #29
    October 15th,  2013

    Prof. TAO Ran 陶然
    Director of China Center for Public Economics and Governance, Renmin University of China

    During the event we will also screen some excerpts from the documentary “China Rural Economy” (2013).
    Author: Dr. Michele Geraci, Head of China Economic Policy Program and Assistant Professor of Finance – Nottingham University Business School, Ningbo, China



  • EURAXESS-China Science Slam



    EURAXESSScienceSlamChina2013Finals_Page_1The finals of the 1st EURAXESS Science Slam in China will take place on Thursday 26 September evening from 6:30 to 10pm at the Bridge Café.

    6 researchers of different nationalities who qualified for these finals will compete by giving exciting and creative 10 minutes presentations of their research.

    The audience will determine who win the 1st prize. We warmly invite you to attend and to bring friends along! This is an open event.

    Food & drinks (and t-shirts) will be offered.

    Further details and contacts on Slam webpage or download the flyer


  • #28 event report: China’s Dilemma: Marching West but Thinking East?

    China’s Dilemma: Marching West but Thinking East

    September 24, 2013, Bridge Café (Wudaokou)

    Speaker: Prof. WANG Jisi, Professor, School of International Studies, Peking University


    In order to fully grasp the very essence of the so-called “China goes West” theory, Professor Wang Jisi emphasized the importance of understanding China’s global identity within the newly globalized context. First of all, China is a socialist country, led by a communist party. According to Prof. Wang Jisi, due to these special political settings, China should not be seen as an ordinary partner in global affairs. Secondly, in terms of its role and attitude within the existing world’s political and economic order, China is a beneficiary, participant and reformer, at the same time. Third, despite belonging to the sphere of developing country, we should also bear in mind that China is probably the most developing country in the world. Lastly, considering China’s global identity within its geo-political and geo-economic context, China is both a maritime and continental power, with its identity ranging from an East Asian country to the bigger sphere of Asian countries.

    Moving forward, Prof. Wang Jisi showed the audience two different world maps, explaining the asymmetries between East and West perspectives over geography, while also tracing some important historical linkages between China and the East-West divide. In the first map, the “Chinese map”, China is represented in the middle, the US is then China’s Far East, Japan is the Near East, Europe is China’s Far West and the Middle East now becomes China’s Middle West. In the second map, the one western people tend to be more familiar with, China is located in the very Far East. On one hand, in the ancient times China saw itself as a middle kingdom, although it was not until 1911 that China officially adopted the name of “middle kingdom” (中国). At that time, however, China was already regarded as a Far Eastern country, belonging to the East Asian region. During the Cold War era, China joined the Soviet Union and other East European countries to form the bigger socialist camp. Citing one of Mao Zedong’s remarks, ”The East wind prevails over the West wind” (东风压倒西风), Prof. Wang Jisi also emphasized how China’s first identity as an“Eastern” country does still maintain an influence in today’s academic and political discourses, “East and West relations” (东西方关系). After the escalating friction between China and the Soviet Union during Mao Zedong’s ruling period, and also after Deng Xiaoping’s generation of reforms, China has not been emphasizing anymore its attachment to Eastern countries; conversely, China has been marking its identity as developing country, while some people still refer to China as belonging to third world countries. On the other hand, China has also got great linkages with its own West. Taking a closer look at tha map of Asia, China is still located in the middle. China’s Western provinces result to be extremely different from countries located in the East of China, such as South Korea and Japan. For instance, due to particular geographical and cultural linkages, Tibet Province appers to share many similarities with India, the same can also be said for Yunnan Province and Myanmar, not to mention the significant muslim population settled in the Xinjiang Region. In regards to how the West interacts with China’s identity, Prof. Wang Jisi also mentioned that for many US analysts, politicians and think tanks, China simply belongs to the East Asia sphere. Under this framework, China is put together with Korean, South East Asian countries and Japan, leaving out India from this sphere of influence. This particular standpoint leads to precise policy implications, when the US says they want to go back to Asia, they actually mean East Asia rather than the Middle East. When China talks about its opening to the rest of the world, they are essentialy talking about East Asia and beyond, all the way through the US and Canada. However, Prof. Wang Jisi also explained that along China’s increasing demand for natural resources, its interests are now gradually shifting to the Middle East. Xi Jinping’s recent tour to Central Asia confirms this region’s increasing importance within China’s new geo-political and geo-economical strategy. Prof. Wang Jisi concluded its remarks on the first part of his speech by stating than China is neither simply an “East asian country”, nor simply a “socialist country”, China is at the centre of Asia, a country between the East and the West, that is the Americas and Europe, and at the same time closer to its neighbours in continental Asia, compared to other Asian countries.

    The second part of Prof. Wang Jisi’s speech focused on the identity of China in regards to the North and South paradigm. This dimension lies more on geo-economic basis: the South usually refers to less developed regions, such as Latin America, Africa and South East Asia. Geographically, China belongs to the North countries’ category. However, in political terms China still defines itself as belonging to the developing world. According to Prof. Wang Jisi, China is a very special developing country in three main aspects: its economic size and potential (its GDP is even larger than the four BRICS countries’ economies put together, Russia, South Africa, Brazil and India and it is expected to become the biggest world economy in the next decade); its demographic strength (China has been experiencing a significant slow-down in population growth, this will lead China to avoid labour force surplus in the future); its reliance on manufacturing industry rather than exports of natural resources (China does not export many natural resources, but uses them to cater its manufacturing production and urbanization process, something not typical for developing countries). China is going to serve as the bridge between developing countries and developed countries. In 1978, right after the cultural revolution, during the period of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, China set as the main national objective the modernization of the society. According to the CCP national objective, China will become a modernized socialist country by the 2040, right 100 years after the establishment of CCP. If we accept the concept of modernization, China is now half way through this process, that is in between pre-modern societies and post-modern societies.

    Prof. Wang Jisi concluded its speech by pointing out that China is neither East nor West, neither North nor South, China is in the middle. Under this framework, as the country’s geo-political and geo-economic influence grows larger, China should also look beyond its sphere of interest in Asia and rebalance its strategy towards the West, just like the US has done towards East through the asian pivot strategy. Although today East Asia is still of vital importance, China is not only part of Asia, China should therefore pay more strategic attention to the West, at the same time, exploiting the great potential for cooperation with other countries that also share interests in those areas. In terms of China’s role in the North-South relations, Prof. Wang Jisi also stressed the importance for China in enhancing the cooperation with developing countries while also increasing its interests with developed countries.


    The presentation was followed by a very fruitful discussion which saw students from different cultural and academic background interacting with Prof. Wang Jisi.

    Many of the issue raised revolved around the role of China’s cooperation with its neighbouring countries in the achievement of China’s global interests.

    As far as China and Nepal relations are concerned, on one hand, China should very mindful of the fact that some of its Western regions share some of their cultural traits with neighbouring countries; on the other hand, as Nepal is geographically located between two big countries, that is China and India, China should respect Nepal’s own identity along with its cultural and political sensitiveness. Prof. Wang Jisi, despite highlighting the importance of marching towards West for China, remains very conscious of the fact that the most important region to China is represented by its neighbouring countries. Prof. Wang Jisi does neither believe in a bipolar world nor does he hope for a multipolar world. Conversely, China should share the leadership with other countries, assuming at the same time, a more responsible role in world’s affairs.

    For what concerns potential frictions between China and Russia, due to China’s economic expansion in areas that have been regarded for many years as Russia’s backyards, Prof. Wang Jisi believes that all countries should be allowed to engage in economic competition in these areas. In today’s world there is no country that can claim another territory to be its own backyard as it refers to old notions of colonialism.

    Despite economic relations between China and African countries have been improving during the last few decades, Prof. Wang Jisi pointed out that China should still be more careful with dealing with certain issues in those countries, especially for what concerns fair-trade, labor rights and environmental protection. At the state level, China has managed to build up solid political foundations with many African countries that have also fostered economic cooperation. However, at the micro level, that is individual behaviour of chinese people abroad, China should has a long way to go in terms of improving its image.

    Another interesting questions pointed out the possibility of a shift in China’s foreign policy towards a more interventionist approach, in response to the country’s increasing need for natural resources to cater its production supply chain. Prof. Wang Jisi reframed the explanation, stressing China’s approach and policy for non-interference and non-intervention in other countries’ domestic affairs. However, according to Prof. Wang Jisi, China’s role should be expanded into a deeper involvement and understanding of other countries’ domestic affairs as they directly influence the sustainability of China’s development. Prof. For anyone interested in this specific academic discourse, we also suggest Wang Yizhou’s theory of “creative involvement” (创造性介入).

    (report by Gianluca Luisi)