On his journey along the New Silk Road, Jacob Mardell discovers that Serbians are very happy to overstate China’s influence in the Western Balkans – and says EU leaders should take note.
The British Prime Minister seems determined to forge a “Golden Era” of UK-China relations, in the apparent hope that a free trade agreement with China can make up for the economic consequences of pending Brexit. But the wisdom of Theresa May’s course is being questioned domestically - the UK Parliament’s august Foreign Affairs Committee recently called for a re-think of what it views as Britain’s one-dimensional, trade-driven China policy.
Lauren A. Johnston
Before we write off China’s economic dynamism for a decade, we should consider the significant ways in which it differs from Japan. Differences in the timing of demographic change in the two countries in particular suggest that China’s experience will not mimic Japan’s. With appropriately targeted polices, China will avoid a “lost decade.”
Last week, over 30 heads of state and government attended the second "Belt and Road Forum" in Beijing. China's president Xi Jinping stressed that the Chinese initiative had already opened up new space for global economic growth and produced new platforms for international trade and investment. Our author Jacob Mardell is currently travelling countries that are already involved in the efforts to create a "New Silk Road." In this blogpost, which was first published by Berlin Policy Journal, he reports on the Great Stone industrial park outside Minsk - a place that currently feels like an empty monument to political ambition, but with increased involvement from Chinese investors and Beijing’s backing it still has potential.
Kai von Carnap
The blockchain has become one of the key technologies flanking the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Innovative data management systems could soon give Beijing access to immense amounts of personal and company data from abroad.
Slow progress towards slowing climate change is also a reflection of the immensity of the physical and social change that reshaping energy systems requires. China, the world’s largest source of carbon emissions, is a case in point: Chinese officials are especially wary of threats to social stability, energy transition included.
Subsidies are boosting rail freight along the New Silk Road, but it’s too soon to say if this expensive investment will pay off in the long run. On his journey along the "Belt and Road", MERICS freelance researcher Jacob Mardell stopped in the Polish village Małaszewicze where the larger part of EU-China rail freight traffic passes through.
The French think tank Institut Montaigne and MERICS jointly organized a Franco-German workshop on "Promoting a European China policy." In this interview, Mathieu Duchâtel, Director of Institut Montaigne’s Asia Program, and Mikko Huotari, Deputy Director of MERICS, discuss differences and similarities of German and French policies towards China. What are the limits of a convergence on China policy, and can this be translated into a more united European approach?
When EU and Chinese leaders meet in Brussels next week at their annual summit, the EU needs to present a united front. That looks like a tall order, and it remains to be seen whether the EU will be able to put its relations with China on a more equal and principled footing.
MERICS expert Jacob Mardell has embarked on a journey to investigate how China’s Belt and Road Initiative is being implemented on the ground. His travels are taking him all the way from Brussels to Beijing.
Lauren A. Johnston
In March, Italy signed an agreement pledging its support for China’s trans-continental Belt and Road Initiative. Rome hopes Chinese companies will invest in the country’s ageing infrastructure, while critics worry about China’s perceived geopolitical ambitions. However, Beijing's push has to be seen in a larger context: an important driver of its outbound ambitions is the interaction of economic and demographic change at home. Faced with an ageing society, China is looking for investment opportunities in countries with younger populations along the BRI.
The Shanghai Stock Exchange will establish an innovation and technology equity board to turn stock market gains into technological innovation. Previous tech boards have underperformed the market for years. But increased foreign investment and bank lending to the private sector as well as an improved listing process give reason to be optimistic.
According to the most recent estimates, China now has the second largest defense budget behind the United States. If Beijing refuses to engage in arms control, it takes a free ride and behaves as irresponsibly as Russia and the United States did by just walking away from the INF treaty.
By Rebecca Arcesati
The historic moon landing of China’s Chang'e 4 marks a symbolic victory for the emerging space power. But lack of transparency along with concerns about dual-use plans and surveillance undermine China’s efforts to persuade the world of its peaceful rise. For Europe, Beijing can be a selective partner on space matters at best.
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.