The second round of the MERICS European China Talent Program took place from 13 to 15 April 2016. For the second time, MERICS invited fifteen outstanding graduate students and young professionals from ten different European countries to Berlin. The three-day program allowed participants to share their professional and personal experiences with contemporary China and get valuable new insights from MERICS researchers as well as external experts and practitioners. The long-term goal MERICS is pursuing with this annual program is to build a strong and lively network of future China experts and policy-makers across the European continent.
This year’s overarching topic was “New Chinese trajectories into Europe – in search of European policy answers”. In accordance with the policy-oriented approach highly valued at MERICS, participants discussed three different aspects of growing Chinese influence on Europe with experts and decision-makers from the business community, national diplomacy and European politics. In addition, the intense three-day program also featured a public discussion on Sino-European dialogue formats and a lunch talk by Prof. Yuen-ying Chan, University of Hong Kong, on recent developments in Chinese news media. At the end of the program, the European China talents presented and discussed their collective insights with MERICS president and founding director Professor Sebastian Heilmann and MERICS researchers.
Based on the different expert sessions of this year’s programme, the presentations covered three aspects of Chinese trajectories into Europe: China’s growing role in international security crises affecting Europe, Chinese outbound foreign direct investments (COFDI) in Europe, as well as Beijing’s new, proactive diplomatic initiatives vis-à-vis European countries. In each of these fields, a group of five European China talents identified key developments and formulated policy recommendations as to how European decision-makers should react to changes in China’s role and foreign policy activities.
Discussing China’s growing international role at the German Federal Foreign Office
The first day’s highlight was a visit to the German Federal Foreign Office, where participants had the chance to meet and freely exchange policy ideas with high-level German diplomats. The European talents had prepared a number of questions and ideas as to how Europe could seize the opportunities arising from China’s steadily growing role in a number of international crises.
Business session on Chinese foreign direct investment in Europe
The second day started with a completely different aspect of China’s growing international impact, namely the implications of the surge in Chinese outbound foreign direct investment in Europe. To provide participants with first-hand insights into the actual workings of COFDI in Europe, MERICS had invited experts from European and Chinese companies and law firms directly involved in both greenfield investments and acquisitions. The 'marketplace format' with rotating small groups made the off-the-record exchanges all the more intense and allowed participants to directly compare different insider perspectives.
In search of responses to new Chinese diplomatic initiatives in Europe
From the Belt and Road initiative and the so-called 16+1 format to the foundation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Beijing has lately proposed a number of important diplomatic initiatives which, while also presenting opportunities for cooperation, pose an increasing challenge to a common European foreign policy. In light of these developments, the European politics session on Thursday afternoon focussed on exploring European strategies for reacting to China's diplomatic proactiveness.
Public discussion with Angela Köckritz, Johannes Braun and Zhu Yi
The changing political environment in China poses new challenges to existing and prospective dialogue formats with European countries. These challenges and possibilities for continued constructive engagement were at the heart of a public discussion specifically geared towards a young Sino-European audience on Thursday evening. Under the title “Closing doors for constructive dialogue? – Changing dynamics of interaction between China and Europe”, MERICS research associate Elena Klorer discussed with three experts on existing dialogue formats from very different backgrounds:
Angela Köckritz, who gained a deep insight into Chinese society and politics as a long-standing correspondent for German weekly Die ZEIT in Beijing, Johannes Braun, who has been involved in many German-Chinese dialogue formats as a project coordinator with the German development agency GIZ, and Zhu Yi, a research associate at MERICS and expert on Chinese society and international people-to-people exchange. In addition to these expert insights, the open and interactive fishbowl format that allowed the audience to directly participate in the debate on stage resonated particularly well with the audience of over 80 young people.