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The China Road Project team plans to traverse the Eurasian supercontinent, from London to Jakarta and back again, investigating the infrastructure projects that make up China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). By gathering data on projects and interviewing stakeholders, the project aims to shine a light on what is a much talked about, but little understood initiative. It also seeks to tell the stories of those whose lives are being transformed by the new roads, railroads, ports, and power stations along the BRI. 

Kai von Carnap

China is a world leader in blockchain development and is testing it in applications from civil administration and tax documents to evidence in the criminal justice system. Yet the technology creates a dilemma for China’s leaders. Their priority on centralized control contradicts the decentralized distribution of data through a blockchain. 

China wants to become the global leader in Artificial Intelligence (AI) by 2030 and therefore pumps huge amounts of funding into AI research and development. But how realistic are China’s ambitions? Its facial recognition technology already ranks among the world’s best, says Jeffrey Ding of the University of Oxford, but in many other areas China still lags behind the US.

By Rebecca Arcesati

China’s efforts to shape global technology standards and norms have been at the heart of its ambitions to achieve technological self-reliance. Now these efforts are yielding results in areas like 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity – and they endanger Europe’s industrial competitiveness.

The People’s Bank of China has begun easing monetary policy to respond to slowing economic growth, falling producer prices, and peak bond repayments. The success of this round of monetary easing depends on the allocation of funds to relevant companies and the effectiveness of heavy-handed restrictions on capital flows.

China’s new EU policy paper reflects the assertiveness of Xi’s China and a more nuanced Chinese assessment of EU capabilities. The result is a more strident set of demands for Brussels – and clear evidence European policymakers must be ready for more frictions in interactions with Chinese counterparts in the future. 

No precise count of the number of people currently detained in camps in Xinjiang has made its way out of China. In the absence of officially reported numbers or other hard evidence, researchers of various stripes have converged on the figure of one million. Former MERICS Visiting Academic Fellow Jessica Batke explains how international observers arrived at this figure.

China’s policies in the north-western region of Xinjiang have come under international criticism in recent months, especially the detention of tens if not hundreds of thousands Muslim Uighurs. The Chinese government says the re-education camps and other surveillance measures in Xinjiang are part of a campaign to fight terrorism and religious extremism. But the independent researcher Adrian Zenz says China attempts to enforce “complete control” and loyalty towards the Communist Party. 

Jerome A. Cohen

The normalization of Sino-American relations in 1971 benefited the people on Taiwan and in China, while the Soviet Union and the Chiang Kai-shek government lost out. On various occasions the US decision to normalize relations with China was critized domestically and internationally. In an article first published by ChinaFile, Jerome A. Cohen, professor at New York University School of Law, says that US government decided for the preferable option of uneasy but stable peace amidst worse choices.

 

Lauren A. Johnston

One country and one region that are each home to more than a billion people – China and Africa – are fundamental to international efforts to combat climate change. Since China is a leading investor in Africa’s infrastructure as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, it is timely to identify lessons – good and bad – from China’s own development experience for African policy makers and interested investors. This can support African countries to adopt a more sustainable industrial path than did China over the last forty years.

The news that two genetically edited babies might have been born in China revealed the country’s deficiency in defining ethical norms and a dangerous lack of transparency in technological research and development. Whereas China is investing vastly into “hard science,” the negligence of “soft science” and humanities could undermine trust in China as a tech-superpower – and it could ultimately put humanity at risk. 

Karen Fisher, Haiqing Yu

The digital economy offers new employment opportunities for China’s disabled people. Expanding the digital economy to include broader parts of the population combines the economic goal of China’s transition to a high-tech nation with the political imperatives of growth and social stability. This is the fourth part of a series based on a MERICS publication on social services in China.

Podcast with Alicia García Herrero

The meeting between US President Trump and the Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina did not lead to an end to the Sino-American trade war, but only to a truce between the two super powers. According to the Hong Kong-based economist Alicia García Herrero the truce gives both sides more time to disentangle their economies from each other.

Barbara Schulte

Digital solutions have not delivered on the promise to guarantee high-quality education for all in China. The introduction of information and communication technology has encountered resistance from teachers and parents. It has also created a new divide between the producers and the consumers of ICT content. This is the third part of a series based on a MERICS publication on social services in China.

Interview with Jane Duckett

In the past 15 years, China has made considerable progress in setting up a comprehensive health care system. But huge challenges remain notably in rural areas. While people in urban centers often have access to modern facilities and well-trained doctors, rural residents still struggle to get basic care such as vaccines, says Jane Duckett, a health care specialist from the University of Glasgow. This is part 2 of a series based on a new MERICS publication on social services in China.

China counts on non-state actors, from charities to private companies, for the modernization of its social service delivery systems. Given the CCP’s preference for maintaining operational and ideological control, this approach has limitations. This is part one of a four-part series based on a MERICS publication on social services in China.

MERICS Guest Author Marcin Kaczmarski

The closer cooperation between China and Russia is unlikely to turn into a threat to the EU. Even with growing exports to China, Russia will still need the EU as a market for its oil and gas. China on the other hand, benefits from access to the European market and does not share Russia’s political goal to derail the European project.

Interview with Mareike Ohlberg (via Young China Watchers)

The collection of citizens' personal data is a global issue, but China's social credit system is unique in its ambitions. Its uses range from assessing individual credit risks to forcing companies to comply with environmental standards, but also to discouraging dissenting political opinions. In this interview MERICS researcher Mareike Ohlberg describes China's struggle to define the standards for a nationwide system.

China’s electric vehicle (EV) battery industry is well positioned to be competitive in global markets. The industry’s strong performance results from state support of domestic manufacturers. As China’s EV battery manufacturers expand abroad, manufactures in free market economies are up against Chinese state-backed competitors.

Unrest over Chinese online financing platforms shows that the combination of unregulated market forces and uninformed individual decision making can lead to undesirable outcomes. Unless the CCP is willing and able to foster comprehensive reforms, events might again spiral out of control when new innovative financial solutions are introduced.

Chinese private security companies (PSCs) are increasingly going global. Not so long ago they focussed mostly on providing bodyguard services for China’s rich and famous, and guarding facilities in China. But now, China’s growing global footprint has driven this sector to start operating beyond China’s borders.

Italy’s right-wing populist government has embarked on a course of all-out cooperation with China, presenting it to the Italian public as an alternative, while alienating European partners. Ultimately, a more active China policy that lacks balanced assessments is setting Italy on a risky route.

Despite much effort, China still has many problems achieving its goal of cyber sovereignty. But on the way towards independence, the country might achieve something else: cyber hegemony.

Felix Turbanisch
China uses civil associations to lobby for CCP causes among overseas Chinese in New Zealand, Australia and the United States. The same organizations are active in Germany, but the spectrum of Chinese associations is much broader. Their focus on technology reflects China’s ambitions for industrial upgrading.

Even under a more critical government in Islamabad, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is unlikely to be derailed. The stakes for both sides are too high. Pakistan needs Chinese funding for its economic revival, and a healthy Pakistani economy is in China’s regional security interest.