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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.

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„30 years after Tiananmen: Social movements are less likely in today’s China”

June 13, 2019

On June 3rd, MERICS and the Federal Agency of Civic Education (bpb) jointly organized a panel discussion on the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests. Leading experts from Germany and the US discussed the legacy of June 4th and its consequences for China’s domestic development and civic engagement. The debate was moderated by Kristin Shi-KupferDirector of the Research Area on Public Policy and Society at MERICS.

Perry Link, Emeritus professor for East Asian Studies at Princeton University co-editor of “The Tiananmen Papers,” lived in Beijing at the time of the protests. For Link, the crackdown on protesters on June 4th marks a turning point in Chinese history: “The Communist leaders, seeing that their socialist ideology was now useless, looked elsewhere to bolster their regime and found that unbridled money-making, a narrow kind of nationalism, and meticulous repression of wayward thought were the answers. This toxic mixture has brought the nation to the brink of an abyss.”  

Felix Lee, longtime China correspondent for the German newspapers taz and Zeit-Online, says: “Prosperity in exchange for political freedom – this formula works worse and worse 30 years after Tiananmen. China could soon be facing a watershed again.” 

Professor Sandra Heep, an expert on China’s economy at Bremen University of Applied Sciences, argues that “China achieved immense economic success in the last thirty years. However, economic risks are rising with today’s political repression.” The panelists agreed that social movements are unlikely in China’s near future. “But there is always a possibility that something unpredictable happens,” says  Daniel Leese, Professor of Modern Chinese History and Politics at the University of Freiburg.

You can listen to an edited version of the debate in our latest MERICS Experts Podcast.

Joerg Wuttke on the future of EU-China economic relations

May 29, 2019

Only recently international companies have been allowed to start their own major projects in China. The German car builder BMW is for the first time majority shareholder of a joint venture in Shenyang, whereas chemical company BASF announced the investment of 10 billion dollars into a joint project in Guangdong Province. China opens up its market in areas where it could benefit from prestigious partners, says old China hand Joerg Wuttke, BASF China chief representative and newly elected president of the European Chamber in Beijing. Together with Kerstin Lohse-Friedrich and Frank N. Pieke he discusses the latest cooperation, the US-Chinese trade dispute and the European-China relations. Listen to the live recording of the MERICS event from May 7 in our latest podcast.

Chloé Froissart: “Labor issues are particularly sensitive for the CCP”

April 30, 2019

Over the last year, the Chinese government has been tightening its grip on labor activism across the country. In the southern industrial hub of Shenzhen, factory workers of a welding machinery company were arrested after trying to form their own union in July 2018. Many of them remain in custody until today. But crackdowns on labor activists do not seem to discourage workers and employees. Recent social media protests against excessive working hours in the tech industry show that they are increasingly aware of their rights and actively oppose poor labor conditions. In our special Labor Day issue of MERICS experts, French researcher Chloé Froissart talks to Claudia Wessling about her field work with Chinese workers and explains the dilemma of official trade unions torn between workers’ demands and party loyalty.

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.