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  • #69 – Event Report – China’s Polar Silk Road

    SPEAKERS

     

    HONG Nong 洪农 Executive Director and Senior Fellow, Institute for China-America Studies

    CHEN Gang 陈刚 Assistant Director and Senior Research Fellow, East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore  

     

    REPORT  

     

    For our event#69, ThinkIN China invited two distinguished speakers, Hong Nong, Executive Director and Senior Fellow at the Institute for China-America Studies, and Chen Gang, Assistant Director and Senior Research Fellow at the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore, to share their takes on China’s Arctic Policy and discuss the various challenges and opportunities it brings about. In her presentation, Hong examined the implications of China’s first White Paper on Arctic Policy, published in January 2018, and described the different dimensions in which China’s interest in the Arctic manifests itself. After describing how China assumed an observer status in the Arctic Council in 2013 – having worked towards that goal for five years –  and shedding light on China’s effort in promoting bilateral ties with each individual Arctic country, Hong moved on to discuss the opportunities and challenges associated with shipping and resource development in the Arctic.   Since half of China’s GDP depends on shipping and many of the world’s largest container terminals and most productive ports are located in China, as Hong illustrated in her presentation, the opportunities of new and shorter sea routes created by the melting Arctic are of high interest to China. The new routes are an opportunity for China to diversify its supply and trade routes and reduce its dependency on the Strait of Malacca and the Lombok Strait. At the same time, these new routes bear economic benefits not only because of the shorter distance, but also in terms of avoiding piracy issues that in the past decade had significantly increased insurance cost.  

       

    However, Hong stressed that safety challenges, due to restricted search and rescue capability, as well as environmental challenges need to be considered as well. Moreover, the legal aspect constitutes another major challenge for Arctic shipping, as some states do not agree on the legal status of Arctic sea routes, which can be considered international waters, that can be used freely, or internal waters of a state, in which case passing requires the respective state’s permission. Hong used  the legal divergence between Canada and the US regarding the Northwest Passage to make a case in point.   Aside from shipping, resource development in the Arctic constitutes another major point of interest for China. However, as the boundaries within and beyond national jurisdiction has not been clarified due to the pending submission with the Commission of the Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf, China can currently only engage in resource development in the Arctic through cooperation with Arctic states. Furthermore, resource exploitation in the Arctic is also confronted with economic and technological challenges due to the high cost and technological requirements caused by harsh weather and difficult access; additionally, political and legal challenges are brought about by increasing and competing interest on the part of non-Arctic states, such as South Korea and Japan.   The development of Arctic resources requires enormous investment and China is well positioned to facilitate this investment, to acquire a major stake and in turn, as Hong pointed out, Chinese leaders hope that Arctic states will be inclined to back Chinese interests in the region. By trying to boost cooperation between Arctic and non-Arctic states and to increase its say in Arctic affairs through a strategy of scientific diplomacy, participation in Arctic institutions and resource diplomacy, China has shown lots of potential in terms of its future role in the Arctic, Hong concluded.  

     

     

    Subsequently, Chen Gang analyzed the Arctic Council member countries’ respective relationships with China, putting China’s Arctic Policy in the bigger context of an overall national strategy. China’s Arctic policy, as Chen put it, is not only about commercial interest, not only about tapping into natural resources or sea routes, but it is also about international relations, about the fight for global influence. China is not just building its relations with the geopolitical superpowers US and Russia, but with Northern European countries as well as Canada. Chen described China’s engagement in the Arctic region as very similar to its engagement in other areas of the world in terms of it being incremental and non-provocative and seeking win-win situations.   Chen then provided a brief overview of China’s relations with Arctic countries. With Russia, China has a strategic cooperative partnership on Arctic issues, whereas under the Trump administration cooperation between China and the US has significantly decreased. China´s relationship with Canada has been quite good in the past, and especially under Trudeau. The talks between China and Canada on a free trade agreement, however, have been hampered by a new agreement among the US, Canada and Mexico. China now invests strongly in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Generally, Chen viewed the human rights issue, high environmental standards, the non-market economy status of China and the arms embargo of the European Union as major obstacles for China’s pursuit of its economic relations with European countries. Chen underlined his argument of increasing importance of northern countries, European countries and Canada for China, by pointing towards the big change China’s outbound investment is currently undergoing. Total FDI from China to Europe in the first half of this year reached 12 billion USD, 6 times of its FDI in the US. Investment in Europe is still growing, at a rate of about 4 to 5%, whereas investment in US dropped dramatically, by more than 90%, attributable to the ongoing trade war.  

     

    In his conclusion, while Chen considered the Arctic strategy a good platform for China to improve its relations with these countries, he also pointed out that due to many uncertainties, as the geopolitical environment continues to change, and, depending on how the political actors engage with each other, the Arctic issue might also become a platform for all these relationships to deteriorate.  

     

    Report written by Theresa Stubhan.  

     

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      #69 - Event Report - China's Polar Silk RoadSPEAKERS   HONG Nong 洪农 Executive Director and Senior Fellow, Institute for China-America Studies CHEN Gang 陈刚 Assistant Director and Senior Research Fellow, East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore     REPORT     For our event#69, ThinkIN China invited two distinguished speakers, Hong Nong, Executive Director and Senior Fellow at the Institute for China-America Studies, and Chen Gang, Assistant Director and Senior…
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  • HONG Nong

    HONG Nong 洪农

    Executive Director and Senior Fellow, Institute for China-America Studies

     

    Dr. Hong is Executive Director and Senior Fellow of Institute for China-America Studies. She holds a Ph.d of interdisciplinary study of international law and international relations from the University of Alberta, Canada and held a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the University’s China Institute. She was ITLOS-Nippon Fellow for International Dispute Settlement (2008-09), and Visiting Fellow at the Center of Oceans Law and Policy, University of Virginia (2009) and at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law (2007). She is currently a research fellow with China Institute, University of Alberta, Canada, and the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, China. Her research takes an interdisciplinary approach to examine international relations and international law, with focus on IR and comparative politics in general; ocean governance in East Asia and the Arctic; law of the sea; international security, particularly non-traditional security; and international dispute settlement and conflict resolution.

     

    Her selected publications include China’s Interests in the Arctic: Opportunities & Challenges – Examining the implications of China’s Arctic policy white paper (2018), Maritime Order and the Law in East Asia (Routeldge, 2018, co-edited with Gordon Houlden), Understanding the Freedom of Navigation Doctrine and China-US Relations in the South China Sea Legal Concepts, Practice, and Policy Implication (2017); UNCLOS and Ocean Dispute Settlement: Law and Politics in the South China Sea (Routledge, 2012); Maritime Security Issues in the South China Sea and the Arctic: Sharpened Competition or Collaboration? (China Democracy and Legal System Publishing House, 2012); Recent Developments in the South China Sea Dispute: The Prospect of a Joint Development Regime (Ashgate, 2014, co-edited with Wu Shicun); UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the South China Sea (Ashgate, 2015, co-edited with Wu Shicun, Mark Valencia).

     

     

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  • #69 – China’s Polar Silk Road

    SPEAKERS

     

    HONG Nong 洪农 Executive Director and Senior Fellow, Institute for China-America Studies

     

    CHEN Gang 陈刚 Assistant Director and Senior Research Fellow, East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore

     

    ABSTRACT

     

    With nearly half of its GDP being shipping-dependent, anything affecting international shipping will have a tremendous impact on Chinese economy. Climate change is speeding up the melting of the ice-covereted Arctic,  opening up new northern sea routes that will shorten the distance between Asia and Western Europe by over 6.000 km. It is also estimated that the Arctic contains up to 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13% of the world undiscovered oil resources.

     

    Despite it is not an Arctic littoral state – it has not Arctic coast and no sovereign rights to underwater continental shelves – in the past few years China has become a member of every single Arctic and Arctic-related governance body it was entitled to join and is strengthening diplomatic and economic relations with all the Arctic countries. Free-trade deals, investments in mining and infrastructure, real estate interests but also one of the world’s strongest polar scientific research capability are all elements of the new China’s Arctic strategy, revealed earlier this year, in January 2018, with the release of the first White Paper focusing on “China’s Arctic Policy”.

     

    Which are then the biggest opportunities related to the opening of the Polar Silk Road? Who are the actors involved in shaping this strategy? And most of all which are the challenges that China will have to deal with, both on the environmental level but also in its relations with Arctic states, including Russia? 

     

    SUGGESTED READINGS

     

    • Hong, Nong (2014), Emerging Interests of non-Arctic Countries in the Arctic: a Chinese Perspective, The Polar Journal, 4:2, 271-286
    • Gang, Chen (2012), China’s Emerging Arctic Strategy, The Polar Journal, 2:2, 358-317

     

    VENUE

     

    Since the Bridge Café does not exist anymore, for this event we will be hosted by Tsinghua SEM X-Elerator 清华经管学院-创业者加速器, at the entrance of Innoway Zhongguancun.

     

    Address:

    Innoway Zhongguancun, Haohai Building 3rd floor, Haidian East Street 36, Haidian, Beijing 

    北京市海淀区海淀西大街36号中关村创业大街昊海楼写字楼3层

    Link on Baidu Maps

     

    *On the northern entrance of the Haohai building there’s the lift that will take you to the third floor, directly at the X-Elerator

     

    PLEASE RSVP USING THIS QR CODE

     

    Our events are as usually for free, we kindly ask you to register in advance in order to help us in the organization of the venue, thanks!

     

    SalvaSalva

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  • CHEN Gang

    CHEN Gang 陈刚

    Assistant Director and Senior Research Fellow, East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore

     

    Dr. Chen Gang is Assistant Director and Senior Research Fellow of the East Asian Institute (EAI), National University of Singapore. Since he joined the EAI in 2007, he has been tracing China’s politics, foreign policy, environmental and energy policies, publishing extensively on these issues. He is the single author of The Politics of Disaster Management in China: Institutions, Interest Groups, and Social Participation (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), China’s Climate Policy (London and New York: Routledge, 2012), Politics of China’s Environmental Protection: Problems and Progress (Singapore: World Scientific, 2009) and The Kyoto Protocol and International Cooperation against Climate Change (in Chinese) (Beijing: Xinhua Press, 2008). His research papers have appeared in internationally-refereed journals such as Asia Pacific Business Review, The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies, The International Spectator, The Polar Journal, China: An International Journal, The Chinese Journal of International Politics, and The Journal of East Asian Affairs. He is frequently interviewed by media like Bloomberg TV, The Wall Street Journal, the BBC, NHK, Channel NewsAsia and Xinhua News Agency. He sometimes gives lectures at the Business School of the National University of Singapore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore, and Singapore Environment Institute. He helps the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy to design the “Public Sector Risk Management” curriculum for MPA students. He is a member of the Global Emerging Voices program jointly sponsored by The German Marshall Fund of the United States, Stiftung Mercator, Torino World Affairs Institute and Australian National University. He has participated in various international research projects like the “EU-Asia Dialogue” co-funded by the European Union and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) of Germany and the Asian Energy Program sponsored by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

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  • #68 – Event report – Engaging the Middle East: China’s rising role in the region

    SPEAKERS

     

    NIU Xinchun 牛新春, Research Professor, Director of Institute of Middle East Studies, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR)

    Tugrul KESKIN, Professor and Director, Center for Global Governance, Institute of Global Studies, Shanghai University

     

    REPORT

     

    According to prof. Keskin, with the economic development derived from the Opening Up policy, launched forty years ago by Deng Xiaoping, China’s middle class has grown exponentially, increasing national oil consumption and consequently the demand for fossil fuels. Therefore, China is turning its eyes to the Middle East to fulfill its own demand for oil and gas, particularly by importing it from the Persian Gulf. From a Chinese perspective, the Middle East has always been the United States’ “backyard”, and therefore China, which had most of its economic and diplomatic ties in the African continent, entered the Middle East are more cautiously, in order not to get in direct conflict with the United States. However, from President Obama’s administration onwards, the USA has begun to retrieve its presence in the area, changing its policy towards the entire region. Energy-wise, US interests are decreasing since the adoption of new oil-producing techniques, such as fracking, that helped the US in 2013 to see its crud oil production surpassing net imports.

     

    On the opposite side of the world, around 50% of Chinese oil demand is fulfilled by the Gulf’s countries. To protect and preserve its interests, China must play a more determinant role in the Middle East to stabilize the region, which does not imply a military intervention, but more a use of different soft power tools, as the launch in 2013 of the Belt and Road Initiative. The consistent problem of the Middle East is the struggle for stability, which according to the Chinese vision can be reached only through economic development. China is progressively shifting approach to the Middle East by intensifying its diplomatic ties, especially towards Iran. However, in its new policy, China is not considering engaging non-governmental actors who are an active part of local civil society, like Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood, key players in deterring the stability of the entire region.

     

    According to professor Niu, unlike Europe, the USA or Russia, China engages only partially with the Middle East. The main field of interest in the region for Beijing is the economic sector, especially trades in the energetic domain. In the past thirty years, China dramatically increased its presence in the Middle East, becoming for several Middle Eastern countries the biggest and main trade partner, hitting in 2015 350 billion dollars value in bilateral trades. In more recent times, bilateral trade values reduced to 240 billion dollars, because of the variation in gas and oil prices; nonetheless, the amount of product imported by China from the region is still increasing. 68% of China’s oil consumption derives from foreign countries, and half of it comes from Middle Eastern countries: as an example, three out of ten Chinese cars are fueled with Middle Eastern oil, making the region extremely important for China’s energy security. 

    In terms of investments, China FDI in the area increased quickly in the last 10 years, but compared to Western countries  – Europe and the US – the amount invested is still small. In 2016 China FDI in the Middle East was less than 10 billion dollars, with almost half of them directed towards Israel.

     

    For what concerns Arab countries, China is investing cautiously due to instability, political and economic risks. For BRI the Middle East is an important component, but since the launch of the initiative the region has fallen into a very unstable situation, which makes it unfavorable to implement such a wide and intense program. China has engaged politically the Middle East, but it has not a political influence over the region; the only instrument to be influential is the veto power within the UN Security Council. In Syria, China has used its veto power six times, but generally China tries not to get involved in tangled and sensitive topics. As an example, during the Syrian crisis, China did not take part in the Geneva negotiations, as well as for the negotiation and political debate concerning the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. 

     

    China is engaging economically the region, but this engagement is not extended to the military sector, since it does not have a military base in the area of any military or political ally in the Middle East. China has also learned the lesson from other major powers, which tried to control and stabilize the area with negative results. In China, middle school students are taught that the Middle East is the great powers’ “graveyard”. The USA had and still has the ability, military power and instruments to resolve crisis, however, the in the last 15 years its initiatives had a very negative impact, destabilizing even more the region. Europe as well has interests in resolving the Middle Eastern crisis, but it has not a united military power and so the ability to have an impact. According to professor Niu, in a foreseeable future, China will not actively get involved in the Middle East. However, if China wants to expand its global influence and compete against the United States, the Middle East will be a last choice.

     

    Report written by Andrea Barbieri

     

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  • Podcast #67 – European Responses to China’s BRI

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  • #67 – Event report – European Responses to China’s BRI

     

    SPEAKERS

    Romano PRODI, President of the European Commission (1999-2005); Prime Minister of Italy (1996-1998; 2006-2008)

    WANG Jianye 王建业,Professor and Dean, Guangzhou Institute of International Finance; Former Managing Director, Silk Road Fund (2015-2018)

     

    One year ago, for our event#60, ThinkIN China invited Professor Romano Prodi, former President of the European Commission and former Italian Prime Minister, to talk on the future of Europe after Brexit and the revamp of populist movements in the EU. For the 67th event, ThinkIN China welcomed back Prof. Romano Prodi, together with Prof. Wang Jianye, Dean of Guangzhou Institute of International Finance and former Managing Director of the Silk Road Fund, to see if the political situation in Europe has changed and to highlight the future of China-EU relations in the light of recent developments of the Belt and Road Initiative. Prof. Giovanni Andornino (professor of International Relations of East Asia at the University of Torino and vice president of the Torino World Affairs Institute) moderated the debate where our special guests shared their views on the future of Europe, China and the most intriguing and ambitious geopolitical initiative of the XXI century.

     

    On China and the Belt and Road Initiative  

     

    Professor Romano Prodi highlighted few passages of his political career in which has been in close contact with China, stating that he always had a cooperative approach towards it. He underlined that when he was President of the European Commission, during the bilateral meetings, the Chinese counterpart was sharing the same positive approach towards Europe. From an economic standpoint, Prof. Romano Prodi praised the exceptional double-digit economic growth that China had for several years, stressing that the recent decrease to 6-7% points GDP growth per year should not be worrisome, as the economy is more consistent and prosperous than in the past two decades.  Prof. Prodi argued that, with the XIX National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the PRC changed outlook by becoming more assertive. The Belt and Road Initiative is now a component of Beijing foreign policy, the first world non-military foreign policy project since the Marshall Plan. According to his view, the BRI cannot be defined only as an economic initiative because its ambition, as well as its nature, implies the necessity of facing political challenges. Protectionist measures could potentially jeopardize the implementation of the Belt and Road, especially if those measures will be carried out by the European Union.  Mobilizing international resources is key to the initiative’s success. The value of the initiative stands in its capability of aggregating people and resources and the cooperation between Europe and China must be at its core.

     

     

     

    Professor Wang Jianye noted the progress that China achieved in the last forty years since the Reform and Opening Policy was introduced. As an example, in 1978, China had only one bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBC), acting as central bank, commercial bank, investment bank… with little foreign exchange reserves or foreign assets. After forty years, China has developed a large banking sector, the central bank PBC now has over US$ 3 trillion foreign exchange reserves, and foreign assets outside the central bank are larger than that of the PBC itself. China has benefited tremendously from integrating into the world economy under the global trade and monetary systems, put in place mainly by developed countries after the Second World War, that facilitated cross-border flows of goods, services, capital and people. Since the global financial crisis in 2008, China progressively shifted role, from a passenger to a key driver of global growth, from a pure importer to an exporter of capital, from a quiet participant to an active reformer of global institutions and governance. The Belt and Road Initiative is part of this process, its launching in part is a response to Western demand for China to become a more “responsible stakeholder”. Quoting its action plan, the BRI is “an ambitious economic vision of the opening up of and cooperation among the countries along the Belt and Road”. Since the essence of the BRI is to open up, it must start from the country that proposed the initiative. In fact, such an opening is not just to the BRI countries, but to trading partners around the globe. The BRI is not an international treaty, a country’s opening and reform do not depend on “reciprocal” actions of the others.

    Financial institutions doing business related to the BRI must carefully evaluate the sustainability of the projects. Investing in developing countries along the Belt and Road is challenging because most of them have relatively small domestic markets and there are hidden costs of doing business there. In addition, projects there are often associated with high geopolitical risks, currency risks, and counter-party risks. Many developing countries are vulnerable to external shocks as their economies are heavily dependent on commodity productions and exports. As the countries participating in the BRI are becoming more and more open, the stronger the pressure for domestic reforms, as capital, talents, entrepreneurs could vote by foot, the better the outlook for achieving win-win outcomes for all BRI countries.

     

     

     

    On Europe and China-EU relations 

     

    The absence of a common political will among European leaders and the lack of power in the collective European institutions, the commission and the parliament, are weakening the EU decision-making process, especially concerning foreign policy. Romano Prodi hoped that the economic crisis would have awakened the European members and accelerated the EU integration process, instead it has contributed in the revival of nationalist sentiments and anti-system political forces. European political leaders are still pursuing national interest in international bilateral meetings, stressing their concerns at the expenses of EU’s interests, such as the French President Emmanuel Macron did during his last visit in Washington. Even the mood towards China is changing. Two years ago, the acquisition of the leading German robotic company Kuka by Midea, a Chinese company, passed without restrictions even if the German government was concerned about selling the company outside of the EU. Today, however, the European and national authorities have stopped minor acquisitions led by Chinese companies. To drive away these uncertainties and misunderstandings, Romano Prodi suggested that the EU and China should aim at extending and strengthening cooperation on knowledge and culture, particularly in the field of science and technology. Bilateral meetings should contribute in establishing agreements and common regulations on future fields of expertise such as intellectual property rights, artificial intelligence, automation and so on. He affirmed that if China and EU do not develop  preventive solutions, then the results achieved in the past would be in danger. If a trade war will start between China, the European Union and the United States, the result will be unpredictable because, from an economic perspective, the interconnections between these entities are so tangled that no-one will benefit from such war.

     

    Report written by Andrea Barbieri

     

     

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  • #68 – Engaging the Middle East: China’s Rising Role in the Region

     

    event #68, Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

    SPEAKERS

    NIU Xinchun 牛新春,Research Professor, Director of Institute of Middle East Studies, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR)

    Tugrul KESKIN, Professor and Director, Center for Global Governance, Institute of Global Studies, Shanghai University.

     

    The Middle East has always been a crucial region in international politics both as a stage for superpower competition and as region rich of energy resources. Today, China is a increasingly important player in this game also thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). While China’s presence in the region has been growing significantly over the last twenty years, the region is also becoming increasingly dependent on the Chinese market and capitals. In order to protect its interest, China is therefore stepping up its engagement with the region in both diplomatic and, to a lesser extent, military terms.

     

    China’s renewed interest in the Middle East happens at a critical moment. The forceful return of Russia, the uncertainties caused by the Trump administration in the USA, and the sharpening of the competition among regional powers like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey are behind the tumultuous transformations that the region is undergoing today. All these actors look at China in different ways, while some look for a partner, some see a new competitor.

     

    Our speakers will look at China’s role in the Middle East from the Chinese, American, and regional perspective in order to shed light over these complex events and help the audience to better understand the situation in one of the most important and problematic places in the world.

     

     

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      SPEAKERS   NIU Xinchun 牛新春, Research Professor, Director of Institute of Middle East Studies, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) Tugrul KESKIN, Professor and Director, Center for Global Governance, Institute of Global Studies, Shanghai University   REPORT   According to prof. Keskin, with the economic development derived from the…
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  • NIU Xinchun

    NIU Xinchun 牛新春

    Research Professor, Director of Institute of Middle East Studies, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR)

     

    Prof. Niu holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and a BA and MA in History. His studies mainly focus on security and geopolitics of the Middle East, U.S. strategy towards the Middle East as well as China’s interest in and policies towards the region. His recent English publications include “China’s Interests in and Influence over Middle East”, “Islamic State Reflects the Darker Side of International Politics” and “The Disintegration of the Middle East: Retreating to the Weak Sovereignty Era”. He writes intensively for top Chinese journals on Political Science and International Relations like Contemporary International Relations and Foreign Affairs Review.


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  • #67 – European Responses to China’s Belt & Road Initiative

    event #67, Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

     

    SPEAKERS

    Romano PRODI
    President of the European Commission (1999-2005); Prime Minister of Italy (1996-1998; 2006-2008)

    WANG Jianye 王建业

    Professor and Dean, Guangzhou Institute of International Finance; Former Managing Director, Silk Road Fund (2015-2018)

     

    ABSTRACT

     

    One year ago, ThinkIN China invited Romano Prodi, former President of the European Commission and former Italian Prime Minister, to speak on the future of Europe after Brexit – the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. Being widely viewed as a huge step back in Europe’s integration process, this unexpected event gave rise to numerous questions on the challenges for the EU, that went along with it. Brexit constitutes a symptom of a general EU malaise. Euroscepticism and populist movements are on the rise because EU citizens don’t perceive the European Union to address their concerns. The absence of unity and political coordination is moreover undermining the EU’s role on the international stage as well as its efficiency in responding to new challenges and opportunities, such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative, to whom the EU has not defined a unified policy yet. Southern and Eastern European countries are more open to Chinese investments compared to the leading European economies, which are concerned about an influential role of China in their internal affairs. Indeed,  most of Chinese investments have landed in Germany, France, and Italy which are also the countries that are willing to create an EU-wide investment screening mechanism to control foreign investments in Europe as wells as to protect crucial industrial sectors and infrastructures. However, Portugal, Greece, and Cyprus, as well as some Eastern European countries, are not in favor of this initiative. While preparations for the China-EU summit in July 2018 are already well underway, the internal debate on how to adequately respond to the BRI is still going on within the EU.

    In the upcoming ThinkIN China event, Romano Prodi and Wang Jianye, dean of Guangzhou Institute of International Finance and former executive director of the Silk Road Fund, will discuss the challenges and opportunities that the Belt and Road Initiative has brought to Europe and shed light on the various responses that European countries are giving to the most intriguing and ambitious geopolitical initiative of the XXI century.

     

    RSVP

    In order to RSVP send your name & affiliation to events@thinkinchina.asia. Please note that there’s a limited number of seats, therefore successful confirmation of registration will be sent according on a first-come-first-served basis.

     

    Time: 18.00 – Registration commences; 18.50 – Registration closes
    Venue: The Bridge Cafe
    Location: Rm 8, Bldg 12, Chengfu lu, Beijing 北京市海淀区成府路五道口华清嘉园12号楼8号
    Price: FREE

     

    Conditions

    1.  An ID must be shown upon arrival
    2. Registration will start at 18.00
    3. Guests will not be allowed to enter after the registration closes at 18.45
    4. In order to speed up security procedures at the entrance, large items are not recommended to be carried

     

     

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      #67 - Event report - European Responses to China's BRI  SPEAKERS Romano PRODI, President of the European Commission (1999-2005); Prime Minister of Italy (1996-1998; 2006-2008) WANG Jianye 王建业,Professor and Dean, Guangzhou Institute of International Finance; Former Managing Director, Silk Road Fund (2015-2018)   One year ago, for our event#60, ThinkIN China invited Professor Romano Prodi, former President of the European…
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  • WANG Jianye

     

    WANG Jianye 王建业

    Professor and Dean, Guangzhou Institute of International Finance

    Rotating Secretary General, International Working Group on Export Credits

     

    Professor Wang is the former Managing Director of the Silk Road Fund (2015 – Feb 2018), Economic Counselor and Chief Economist of the Export-Import Bank of China (2008-2013). He is a Professor and Director of the Volatility Institute at NYU Shanghai, and Adjunct Professor at Peking University. Prior to joining China Exim Bank, he held various positions at the International Monetary Fund (1989-2008), where he led IMF policy surveillance and lending missions to member countries. Prof. Wang holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Columbia University (1989) and B.A. from Peking University (1983). His recent publications include Debt, Currency and Related Reforms (China Financial Publishing House, 2012).

     


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  • #66 Event Report – Can China Shape Global Modernity?

     

    SPEAKER

    LIANG Xuecun 梁雪村, Assistant Professor, Renmin University of China

     

    On March 23rd ThinkIN China inaugurated the new spring season with Professor Liang Xuecun from Renmin University of China. As an expert in IR, following a PhD in nationalism of contemporary China at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and post-doctoral studies at the University of St Andrews and King’s College London, during the event she investigated one of the most debated issues within the scenario of international relations: can China shape global modernity and support a development that promotes cooperation with the rest of the world?

     

    Towards the essence of Chineseness: understanding the concepts of modernity, identity and nation

     

    In order to answer these questions, Liang pointed out the importance of these three terms: modernity, identity and nation, stressing their controversy and complexity.

     

    What is modernity? Not all the scholars perceive this word in the same sense. It is not only referred to the present meaning, but also to the emergence of rationality, of a market-industrial economy, of a bureaucratically organized state and of a political creed of popular rule. Charles Taylor perceived modernity as “a wave, flowing over and engulfing one traditional culture after another”. But if it is a process in constant evolution, is it right to consider the existence of only one type of modernity? Liang stressed that the meaning of modernization is often perceived by many Chinese people as a process of westernization, since the concept is a Western creation, that aims at changing a country according to Western values.

     

    The concept of identity is difficult to define, too. According to Anthony Giddens, in the post-traditional order identity is not inherited or static, but it becomes an endeavor that we continuously work and reflect on. It’s not a set of observable characteristics of a moment, but becomes an account of a long process. As the identity of each individual is not only the result of heritage, but also of social interactions and experiences, also contemporary China is not only a reflection of the past, but also a process of continuous changes which are subject to external influences.

     

    Liang also introduced the complexity of defining what a nation is. Many scholars since 1882 have contributed to explore the meanings of this concept. Among them, Charles Tilly analyzed state-making and nation formation interdependently, but he soon realized that nation “remains one of the most puzzling items in the political lexicon”.  Liang stressed that the concepts of nation and nationalism are difficult to be articulated especially in China, since they are not the results of home-grown processes in traditional Chinese politics. Before the Chinese empire collapsed at the beginning of the twentieth century, different ethnic groups had coexisted under the same Tianxia (天下, which is literally translated into “all under the heaven”, in ancient China denoted the land, space and area divinely appointed to the Emperor by universal principles of order, but is today associated with political sovereignty), but managed to keep their own customs and dialects. When the modern Chinese state was founded, it tried to join the international club of nation-states by reconfiguring its political structure on the basis of rather fragmented imperial legacies. This is an onerous task.

    China is a multinational state which largely inherited the imperial territory of the past. Since nation refers to a distinct, homogenous group of people united by common history, culture, language and territory, the concept is totally foreign to ancient Chinese tradition. For example, during Tang dynasty (618-907AD) the society was very multiethnic, not only Persians, Indians, Koreans and Vietnamese held positions of high-rank officials, but also the Emperor Taizong (reigned 629-649 AC) married a Xianbei (proto-Mongol) wife.

    Since the concept was not native to the Chinese tradition, it became an arduous task to decide where the boundaries between Chinese people, state and nation should be drawn and how to operate as a single nation in political practices despite the very complex composition of 56 ethnicities.

     

    Zhonghua minzu (中华民族) and the principle of sovereignty 

     

    The term Zhonghua minzu (Chinese nation) was first coined by the late Qing political thinker Liang Qichao in 1902. Initially it only referred to the Han ethnicity but it was then expanded to include the Five Races Under One Only Union (Wuzu Gonghe 五族共和), one of the most important principles upon which the Republic of China was founded in 1911. It referred to the five major ethnic groups in China based on the ethnic categories of the Qing: the Han (汉族),the Manchu (满族), the Mongols (蒙族), the Hui (回族) and the Tibetans (藏族).

    When Sun Yat-sen seized power at the beginning of last century, he initially considered the Manchu as a group of foreign invaders to be expelled, but then he identified only the Manchu ruling class as the perpetrators to be eliminated for the purpose of nation unification. Today, the Chinese nation refers to all 56 ethnic groups living inside the borders of China.

    The fact that the country faces serious challenges in terms of nation-building has led to China’s adherence to Westphalian sovereignty, since Westphalian sovereignty bases authority on the territorial state rather than on cultural identity. This is also evident by the fact that respect for sovereignty, as well as territorial integrity and national unity, remains the core Chinese national interests.

     

    A list of twelve “core socialist values” was then showed to the audience. Among them appeared: prosperity, rule of law, democracy, patriotism and equality. How do we make of these principles, Liang asked? A plethora of good words reveal the indecisiveness in articulating a Chinese identity.  And it is impossible even in principle to be harmony between all good values, according to Isaiah Berlin. Other charts showed that the percentage of Chinese citizens who believe in the necessity to defend their way of life is significantly lower than its neighboring countries. These figures underlined that the primary goal of Chinese nationalism is not to defend a “Chinese” way of life, Instead, Chinese nationalism concerns itself primarily with enhancing the country’s international status. The promotion of The Double Top University Plan in 2017 or hosting the Olympic Game as it did in 2008 are good examples to illustrate this point.

     

    Is it therefore correct to say that China has adopted Western values?

     

    Alastair Iain Johnson made distinctions between the process of learning and adapting. Learning involves a fundamental change of assumptions and approaches while adapting requires no more than adjusting to changing circumstances. The question is whether China has been learning or adapting.

    Some scholars as James Mann argued that a big number of China observers assume economic liberalization would sooner or later lead to political liberalization. That is how engagement policy with China has been sold politically in the United States. Other decision makers like Wesley Clark considered the Chinese approach as an adapting one. Clark stressed that China was not becoming more like a typical Western country, which suggested that it had merely adapted to the external environment, but not learned from it.

    Liang asked what if the primary goal of engagement policy – to transform China according to a Western blueprint – cannot be achieved? There is no doubt that China is trying to make contributions to the so-called international society, but it does so in its own way.

    Referring to the public speech held by Xi Jinping at the UN Assembly in Geneva in January 2017 titled “Work Together to Build a Community with Shared Future for Mankind”, it appears reasonable to ask what are the principles on which this global community should be founded. Is it possible to build a shared future without liberal internationalism, universalism and cosmopolitanism?

    If on one side China is going abroad, supporting a development which promotes cooperation through cultural plans and important infrastructural projects, on the other side it still keeps its own characteristics without being conquered and dominated as were other countries in the past. So nowadays it is difficult to determine which directions Chinese foreign policy will take and which strategies it will adopt in the future. What is sure is that a real change within the political Chinese system will not occur tomorrow, but new outlooks and features will be gained through a process which requires time.

     

    The Q&A  session gave space to a stimulating debate that expressed the expectations and at the same time the uncertainties regarding future developments in global modernity. Liang, however, showed optimism in the future, arguing that despite China may perhaps find itself in the trap of Thucydides, facing an increasing rivalry with the US, at the same time it does not intend to subvert the international order. China is more helpful to the world today and is struggling to improve its soft power. The Belt and Road Initiative was launched in response to the economic threats arising from the TTP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and through this project China encourages new business routes and promotes economic development. Chinese government tries to enhance its image also abroad doing much effort for the overseas community: through the diaspora, China has the possibility to understand foreign countries and influence them.

    At the same time, however, its engagement in Africa and the “peaceful rise discourse” leave us with a big question about China’s real strategic intentions. Can the further increasing engagement in the economic framework stay apart from security? Is China an harmonious nation or does the government use this rhetoric to justify Chinese behavior?

    These questions will be answered only in the modernity that will be revealed day by day.

     

    Report written by Alessia Bonato

     

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  • LIANG Xuecun

     

    LIANG Xuecun 梁雪村

    Assistant Professor, Renmin University of China

     

    Liang received her Ph.D degree from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her doctoral thesis, A Tense Time: Explaining and Understanding Contemporary Chinese Nationalism, looks to domestic socioeconomic changes and systematic pressures on the international level to explain the revival of nationalism in contemporary China. During her Ph.D years, she taught a variety of undergraduate courses including Government and Politics of China, Intergovernmental Relations, Asian International Relations, and Asian Comparative Politics. After graduation, she conducted post-doctoral studies at the University of St Andrews, where she focused on nationalism and state building in late modernizers. She has then been a Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of War Studies at King’s College in London, before moving back to China and started teaching at Renmin University in Beijing.

     

     

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  • #66 – Can China Shape Global Modernity?

    event #66, Friday, March 23rd, 2018

     

    SPEAKERS

    Helwig SCHMIDT-GLINTZER, Founding Director, China Centrum Tübingen

    LIANG Xuecun 梁雪村, Assistant Professor, Renmin University of China

     

    ABSTRACT

    ** Professor Schmidt-Glintzer had a personal emergency and left for Germany right before the event, so the talk has seen professor Liang Xuecun taking the lead in the explanation **

     

    Professor Schmidt-Glintzer will talk about the predicament of China after the end of Imperial rule as a country that tries to become a member of the global community while at the same time maintaining a distinct identity. In a sense China has not yet regained an idea of itself and indeed centers around an “empty space”, such as the empty character of Tian’Anmen Square, the symbolic center of China. At the same time China shows a remarkable ability to deal with contradictions both within the country and in its relations with the neighbors.

     

    Schmidt-Glintzer will delineate the historical identity of China as the center of All Below Heaven – 天下, as a multicultural entity that had to deal with migration, with centrifugal and centripetal forces, as well as extensive foreign exchanges for centuries. The core question is whether or not China could be a model for modernization and ordering of the world in a harmonious way.

     

     

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  • #65 – Event Report – Philanthropy in China: New Era, New Challenges, New Strategies

     

    SPEAKERS

    HUANG Haoming 黄浩明, Vice-Chairman and Executive Director, China Association for NGO Cooperation

    ZHAO Chen 赵晨, Deputy Director, Child Development Center, China Development Research Center

    ZHANG Shantong 章善桐, Project Officer, Sany Foundation

     

    For the last event of the Fall Season 2017, ThinkIN China gathered for the second time in the co-working and event venue 3ESPACE, key project of the SANY Foundation, to discuss about philanthropy and charity in the new era of China. For the occasion we invited three speakers, differently committed to non-profit and charity initiatives in China: HUANG Haoming 黄浩明, Vice-Chairman and Executive Director of the China Association for NGO Cooperation; ZHAO Chen 赵晨, Deputy Director of the Child Development Center within the China Development Research Center; ZHANG Shantong 章善桐, Project Officer of the Sany Foundation.

     

    Dr. Huang Haoming drove our attention to two crucial dimensions which need to be addressed in order to get a realistic idea of how philanthropic and charitable projects developed throughout the years up to present. He indeed focused first on the complex legal and political evolution of NGOs’ status in China, both home-based and overseas, specifically pointing out the relevance of the recent improvements triggered by the 2016 new Charity Law. Secondly, he delved more deeply into the future prospects for further developments of philanthropy in China, not only in terms of effective implementation of the newly released norms, but also taking into consideration which new issues Chinese NGOs will be dealing with at the global level.

    After briefly outlining the differences between social organizations, social service agencies (private non-enterprise unions) and foundations, Dr. Haoming provided detailed data about the outstanding growth of the so called ‘society organizations’ in China, most notably of foundations. These in fact recorded the quickest and most significant development over the last eight years, doubling in number and collecting 62.5 billions yuan out of the 78 billions totally arranged through social donations in 2016.

    Charitable and non-profit organizations active in mainland China have been also facing significant changes since the new Charity Law was released in 2016, marking a big step-forward if compared to the 1999 Welfare Donations Law.

     

    Far from only regulating donations of private fundings, assets or shares stocks, the brand-new normative covers a wider range of issues, like volunteer work, involvement of companies in charity trusts, legal recognition of organizations under the new law or the employment of the Internet and online social platforms for raising funds.

    What is more, the landscape of NGOs in China has been radically transformed by the huge increase of overseas organizations which have been setting up their activities in the country. As recent as November 2017, 280 representative offices of foreign non-profit organizations were already registered, mainly in Beijing, followed by Shanghai and Guangdong province.

    Remarkably, the new, clearer regulatory framework has been creating a favorable domestic environment for Chinese NGOs to expand, what has got them to adopt a more and more global approach. Their participation in international organizations and major summits, like the Hamburg G20 or the 2017 UNFCCC in Bonn, has been scaling up steadily, along with their presence in humanitarian assistance actions and public welfare projects.

     

    Such outcomes certainly lay the groundwork for positive forecasts over future improvements, taking into account unprecedented dynamics such as a stronger focus on the rule of law, a renewed governmental support in terms of public policies and the increasing diversity of actors involved in charity projects for tackling complex and intertwined social issues.

    Yet, several challenges need to be addressed in order to fully get the opportunities emerging in China’s charity sector, both at national and global level.

    First of all, Chinese non-profit organizations still lack capacity resources and prepared professionals, two elements that jeopardize the overall efficiency of the activities they carry on.

    A second critical point is represented by the controversial relationship between social agents and governmental authorities, since the first are in need for public resources but are also subjected to a stricter control and supervision by the latter.

     

    The Chinese government has indeed changed its role in philanthropy fields, directly committing to increase the level of professionalism but also designing management and assessment mechanisms to make NGOs fully comply with governmental regulations.

    Obstacles have emerged in fund-raising and social mobilization as well, since philanthropists and foundations still have to develop strategies for benefiting more from online platforms and channels.

    Overseas NGOs active in China will also have to deal with several operational issues, such as building efficient win-win partnerships with local organizations, recruiting professional personnel through the use of China’s social security system, and improving the coordination of their often separated units, in order to actually respond to social communities’ demands.

    Chinese citizens’ new awareness and interest in philanthropy and charity have been also strengthening public claims for increased transparency, accountability and legitimacy of all the actors involved.

     

    In the next ten years, China’s social organizations are expected to enlarge their participation within the global governance system, as well as the trans-regional cooperation with their foreign peers.

    Beijing has been exerting an always more prominent role in setting the international agenda as far as major global issues are concerned, from environmental and climate change policies to poverty reduction.

    Such a leading position, though, requires to find a new and more effective balance between governmental policies and supervision, talents, private funds and social trust, in order to solve social problems.

    How can, for instance, innovative industries contribute to reform philanthropy, enhancing professionalism and flexibility among an increasing number of stakeholders?

    Higher transparency in the organizations boards and decision making process, accountability in terms of operational efficiency and financial effectivity, standardization and equality of rules for all NGOs, shared responsibility in supervising the collection and allocation of donations, they have now turned into priorities for making philanthropy and charity in China true allies in serving people’s social needs.

     

    Zhao Chen focused more on the charity initiatives promoted by the China Development Research Foundation, initiated by the Development Research Centre of the PRC’s State Council (DRC).

    Governmental background and backing to the CDRF are based on recognition that China’s outstanding rate of growth has also triggered conflicting effects, particularly in terms of social injustice and inequalities. Therefore CDRF’s mission shoulder to shoulder with the government is to keep promoting economic development while making good governance and public policies sort out social imbalances.

    The foundation firstly constitutes a channel of easier communication, that is it facilitates companies and organizations to gather and get in touch with ministries and State Council’s departments active in fields where crucial social issues need to be addressed. The China Development Forum organized on annual basis is the most noteworthy example.

    Secondly, the foundation is active in the government-entrusted research area, in cooperation with different ministries, through the issue of reports aimed at analyzing first class social issues and possible solutions in a wide range of sectors, from environment to education and public health.

    Lastly, the CDRF directly manages development programs, mainly in the rural and poorest counties of China, like Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou provinces, which are realized as ‘social experiments’ and pilot projects. Main purpose is to collect information and achieve positive outcomes which are likely to be broadly implemented at the national level.

     

    Since the CDRF is a non-profit organization, its mutual relation with central and local governments is necessary in order to get access to resources while making public authorities more and more accountable, as far as social welfare services are concerned.

    Such strict compliance to the government directions is mirrored by the CDRF’s function of policy advocacy, which is intended to assure an efficient allocation of resources, as well as to design, release and implement accurate policies to tackle social problems identified in CDRF’s reports.

    As a consequence, the foundation also exerts the role of evaluation centre once public norms are issued, specifically guaranteeing standardization in the implementation degree among difference provinces and thus contributing to continue improvements.

    In the recent years, the foundation has been focusing on the education and nutrition areas, with the launching of different pilot initiatives in the most indigent parts of mainland China.

    In 2009 in Ledu, Chengdu province, so called ‘MaMa Schools’ were first set off, providing pupils’ mothers training to healthy nutrition for their children.

    A number of other projects then followed, offering education and concrete support to families of children at different ages.

     

    The China Reach Parenting Program constitutes in home-visitings, in order to get in touch with parents of zero to 3-year-old babies, and inform them about accurate diets. For children between 3 and 6 years old, the foundation supported the establishment of pre-school education programs, like the Village Early Education Centers (VEECs).

    With the aim of providing life course intervention on education and nutrition, the pilot project also included e-learning activities in rural primary schools for 6 to 13 years old students, and secondary vocational training to rural students until they turned 18.

    The first social experiments led to national nutrition improvement plans for rural students during compulsory education, currently covering up to 834 counties and more than 34 million students.

    The CDRF keeps carrying on its activities of reporting major social issues, supervising public policies and supporting collection and sharing of data, in order to promote poverty eradication from intergenerational transmission and the construction of a multidimensional social security system for the weakest sections of China’s society.

     

    Last but not least, Zhang Shantong, Project Officer at Sany Foundation, outlined the association’s mission of promoting a scientific, transparent and professional philosophy to charity in China. Such approach is reflected in the ‘ecosystem’ offered by the 3ESPACE as an Easy, Enjoyable and Effective (3 Es) co-working space for exchanging ideas.

    In the first place, the accurate and objective method the Sany Foundation has been making a point of results in a strong focus on concrete and systematic evaluations of charity projects in terms of employed resources, impact, achieved outcomes and actors which need to be involved (like NGOs and private companies).

    Philanthropy and charity are able to represent real assets in tackling social issues and fostering social development when programs are designed in such way they can make the difference in the weakest and deprived categories of society.

    The foundation is thus specifically committed to support pilot initiatives, like issuing high school scholarships in the form of traditional cash transfer under conditionality, in order to assess whether it could improve the students’ attendance and performances, especially in rural China.

    The elaboration of such kind of projects starts with evaluating which areas (mainly rural regions) and groups (students at high school stage) are most in need of charity interventions. In such social experiments, donations and philanthropic organizations’ resources are allocated on the basis of concrete indicators, which ultimately lead to objective data – for instance the increase in academic performances of students who receive a scholarship regardless their prior grades.

    Data and results are thus the key elements in the whole activity carried on by philanthropists, charitable organizations and foundations, whose contribution to China’s social development not only relies on getting access to money, but also on an always more efficient, rational and effective convergence of resources where people really need them.

     

    Report written by Sara Paganini

     

     

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