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In its fight against the spread of the Coronavirus, Beijing is placing an awful lot of faith in untested AI and big data applications. Kai von Carnap says the world should use these new tools with caution.

Thomas Geddes

The WHO’s excessive acclaim of China’s response to the coronavirus is a sign of Beijing’s growing sway over the UN agency, says Thomas Geddes.

China’s leaders prize information control over information sharing, even at the risk of delaying actions to curb the spread of a disease. In that sense, the Corona epidemic has laid bare the weakness of centralized, top-down systems of authority, says Nis Grünberg.

Thomas Geddes

President Xi has recently been promoting Macau as the posterboy for China's “One Country, Two Systems” principle. He may be hoping that Hong Kong's citizens will heed his call, but this seems unlikely for the differences between the two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) are huge.

A wave of ideological indoctrination and discipline is undoing a generation of flexible policy making, says Nis Grünberg. Love for the party and the socialist idea are no replacement.

For months now Hong Kong has gone through a rollercoaster of escalating protest, police action and government intransigence. The impression is left of a government that is out of touch with the population, unable or unwilling to represent Hong Kong’s interests against China and, most of all, without a game plan.

Resistance to Chinese technology is growing in Germany—and the ripple effects could reach across the continent.

Lavender Au, Mats Kuuskemaa

China’s personal social credit scoring has sparked controversy, but many in China appear willing to accept it. Lavender Au and Mats Kuuskemaa ask how far this acceptance goes. This article is part 4 of a mini-series to present the outcomes of the MERICS European China Talent Program 2019.

Alice Mingay

The first in a series of Courts of the Internet to open across China utilizes Alibaba’s size and experience to pioneer online dispute resolution reform. It not only demonstrates the Chinese internet giant’s growing influence in the regulatory sphere, but more widely shows the increasing symbiosis of big tech and government, says Alice Mingay.

The Communist Party praises itself no end on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. But let’s not forget the truth on October 1 – China’s people are the power behind the country’s phenomenal rise over recent decades, says Kristin Shi-Kupfer.

The protests in Hong Kong that have been going on for weeks and the tough attitude of the city’s government, which is remotely controlled from Beijing, now make it unmistakably clear to everyone that the coexistence of totalitarian politics and a liberal economy does not work with China, says Kristin Shi-Kupfer.

Traditionally among the biggest investors in China, Taiwanese companies are shifting their focus to neighboring countries. Michelle Tsai says the US-China trade conflict is only one reason.  

Supress and conceal: China is an emerging world power, yet it has still failed to find any other way of dealing with the legacy of the bloodily crushed protest movement of 1989.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

Matthias Stepan

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 Genia Kostka

Educated and wealthy urban Chinese have an overwhelmingly positive view of commercial and government-run systems that rate the “trustworthiness” of citizens, businesses and social organizations. Rather than perceiving them as instruments of surveillance, they see them as a way to protect consumers from food scandals or financial fraud – and to access benefits connected to a high social credit score.

Interview with Frank N. Pieke

For years, many China observers believed that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would eventually crumble under the contradictions between a Leninist political system and a dynamic society. “But we were all proved wrong,” says Frank N. Pieke, the new head of MERICS. The CCP is more modern, more powerful and confident than ever, he says. Yet, Xi Jinping, who likes to present himself as an all-powerful state and party leader, might find it more difficult than expected to secure a third term.

Frank N. Pieke plans to build on MERICS' successful first five years as the institute's new director and CEO. The former head of the Leiden Asia Center and the Oxford China Center sees the Communist Party's transformation as the key to understanding China's global rise. At the helm of MERICS, Pieke and his deputy Mikko Huotari want to facilitate more coordinated information-sharing on China in Europe.

Interview with Rogier Creemers (via Young China Watchers)

The aim of China's social credit system, as Rogier Creemers of Leiden University sees it, is "to ensure that people who behave in a sincere and trustworthy way in society are incentivized to do so." In this interview, the postdoctoral scholar in the Law and Governance of China describes the current state of the social credit system and its intended uses for government oversight and moral education.

China used to be a strong proponent of a stable and unified Europe – as a market and as a pillar in a multipolar world. Yet its recent infrastructure foreign policy initiatives and political outreach to central and eastern European countries have raised the question if Beijing’s priorities have changed. This article is the sixth and final part of a MERICS blog series on China’s new foreign policy setup. 

Xi Jinping has a global vision for China and has centralized foreign policy around himself and the CCP. In this blog series, MERICS researchers take a closer look at the (new) setup of China’s foreign policy leadership, institutions, budget and personnel – as well as on its policy approach to Europe. This article is part 1 of the series.