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MERICS researchers discuss and analyze developments and current affairs in China: What is behind the Belt and Road Initiative? What kind of leader is Xi Jinping? How should we assess China’s climate change policies? How does the Chinese government use social media to its own ends?

In addition to MERICS’s own staff, other experts on China and guest speakers at MERICS also take part in the interviews.

The MERICS Experts Podcast is produced by Ruth Kirchner.

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Frank Pieke: Risks and benefits of research cooperation with China

April 16, 2019

China’s advances in research and development range from its ambitious space program to controversial experiments with gene editing. Yet scientific cooperating with China can also offer benefits and opportunities for Europe and its scientists. But how to spot the risks and where to draw red lines? MERICS director Frank Pieke, co-author of a recent study on Europe-China cooperation in higher education and research, says Europe has been somewhat naïve in dealing with China’s strategic approach to research and development. Europe, he argues, urgently needs to develop its own research strategy to better defends its own interests when dealing with China. Listen to Frank Pieke in the latest Merics Experts podcast.

Kristin Shi-Kupfer: “China sees digitalization as a chance to increase its global footprint”

April 8, 2019

China spends a lot to develop digital technologies. For Beijing, digitization is a unique opportunity to upgrade its industries, increase social control, and become a global leader in digital technologies, says MERICS researcher Kristin-Shi-Kupfer. In a new study that she co-authored with MERICS research associate Mareike Ohlberg, she argues that China’s digital ambitions are mainly state-driven and rely on close cooperation between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the state, and private companies. China’s digital ambitions present a huge challenge to Europe, Shi-Kupfer says, but there also opportunities for cooperation. Listen to Kristin-Shi-Kuper, director of the MERICS research program on politics, society and media, in the latest MERICS Experts Podcast.

Lucrezia Poggetti: Rome’s support for BRI would legitimize China’s geopolitical ambitions

March 19, 2019 

Chinese President Xi Jinping heads to Europe this week, with his state visit to Italy (March 21 to 24) attracting a lot of attention. That’s because the Italian coalition government is expected to endorse the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s ambitious global trade and infrastructure program. Rome’s move comes at a time when elsewhere in the EU concerns about BRI are growing and Europe tries to forge a coordinated China policy, says Lucrezia Poggetti, research associate at MERICS.  In the latest MERICS Experts Podcast, she argues that Rome’s support for BRI would legitimize China’s geopolitical ambitions while Italy and Italian companies would get little in return.

Agatha Kratz and Mikko Huotari: EU moves to closer scrutiny of Chinese FDI

March 6, 2019

Chinese direct investment in Europe has continued to decline in 2018, according to a new report by MERICS and Rhodium Group. The slowdown in FDI comes amid heated debates in Europe about Chinese influence and growing awareness that some investments from China - for instance in high tech sectors or infrastructure - might need closer scrutiny. Agatha Kratz, Associate Director at Rhodium Group in Paris, and MERICS deputy director Mikko Huotari discuss the latest Chinese FDI figures and recent policy changes in Europe that could eventually lead to a broader overhaul of Europe’s policy toward trade and investment with China. 

You can read the complete report “Chinese FDI in Europe: 2018 Trends and impact of new screening policies” online here.

Ying Zhu on Chinese cinema: “Censorship is a very challenging issue”

February 22, 2019

Film fans still wonder why Zhang Yimou’s “One Second” was withdrawn from the Berlin Film Festival. The official explanation that “technical reasons” were to blame only fueled speculation that Chinese censors objected to the film’s debut. Leading Chinese film scholar Ying Zhu, who teaches in New York and Hong Kong, discusses Zhang Yimou’s case in the new MERICS Experts podcast. For Chinese filmmakers “censorship is a very challenging issue”, she notes, adding that controls over film narratives were tightened last year. The Chinese leadership regards film as a key soft-power tool and uses the cinema – often with help from Hollywood - to get is messages out.  As the collaboration between China and Hollywood matures, Zhu warns, “we will see more and more stories with highly sanitized China images.”

Jeffrey Ding on AI in China

January 28, 2019

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? How advanced is China in AI? 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 United States. That’s because easy access to huge amount of data isn’t everything, says Ding in the latest MERICS Experts podcast.

Adrian Zenz on re-education camps in Xinjiang

January 11, 2019

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, who has studied numerous government documents on Xinjiang, says China attempts to enforce “complete control” and loyalty towards the Communist Party. The CCP wants long-term generational change and younger Uighurs to forget their religious and cultural roots, Zenz says in the latest MERICS Experts podcast.

Alicia García Herrero: What the Sino-American trade war really is about

November 28, 2018

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. What the trade war is really about, she argues, is a battle for hegemony, a kind of economic Cold War. Europe is caught in the middle between its two largest trading partners. Some industrial sectors could benefit from increased trade with China, García Herrero says, but the EU also has to be aware that the Sino-American trade dispute carries huge risks for Europe. Listen to Alicia García Herrero in the new MERICS Experts podcast.

Jane Duckett: "Rural areas still struggle to provide basic health care"

November 22, 2018

In the past 15 years, China has made considerable progress in setting up a comprehensive health care system. Today, over 92 percent of Chinese have basic health insurance. 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 and co-editor of a new MERICS report on social development in China. One of the big issues is “training the right kind of health care workers to deliver primary care,“ says Duckett in the latest MERICS Experts Podcast. 

This is part 2 of a series based on a new MERICS publication on social services in China: "Serve the people. Innovation and IT in China’s social development agenda.”

Theresa Fallon on China’s BRI: “The EU needs to proceed very carefully”

October 2, 2018

When Xi Jinping first launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the idea of improving trade and transport links between China, Asia and Europe was received favourably in many European countries. Especially central and south-eastern European governments were keen on Chinese infrastructure investments. Five years on, the mood has somewhat changed. There are concerns over “debt diplomacy” and political influencing. And there’s pushback from Brussels. The EU Commission last month published its own plan for better connecting Asia and Europe. Still, the BRI presents a dilemma for the EU, says Theresa Fallon of CREAS, a Brussels-based think tank: How to engage with China without compromising European standards and values? In the new MERICS Experts Podcast she argues that “the EU needs to proceed very carefully.”