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#China - The Belt and Road initiative meets excitement and concerns in Europe

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5 year after its launch, Chinese President Xi Jinping's flagship Belt and Road initiative (BRI) is still facing an uncertain prospect in Europe. Mixed feelings were shown during a multi-stakeholder conference on the initiative in Brussels, where European business associations expressed excitement about the potential opportunities, and the EU officials warned of "no future for the BRI" if a level playing field is not established.

The conference, held together by the ACCA (the association of Chartered Certified Accountants), the EU-Asia Centre, the European Movement International (EMI) and UEAPME on Wednesday, was attended by a group of the EU officials, decision makers, and representatives from European trade union and business groups. Among the speakers were MEP Jo Leinen, Head of the European Parliament EU-China Delegation, and Alain Baron, team leader of the EU-China Connectivity platform, the main negotiation channel for EU-China cooperation on the BRI.
Leinen praised that the scale and scope of the Belt and Road initiative is "nothing can be compared to in the 21st century", but the unilateral idea proposed by Beijing needs to become multilateral in order to achieve success.

"If we're not able to make sure that the level playing field, the reciprocity and transparency is applying to the BRI, I am afraid there will be no future for the BRI," said Baron.

The Belt and Road Initiative, first addressed by Xi in 2013 as "One Belt, One Road" shortly after he assumed office, aims to create a trade and infrastructure network connecting China by land and sea with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes.

Closely linked to Xi's leadership and legacy, the initiative is expected to mark a global economic paradigm shift with a promise of more than $1 trillion investment in over 60 countries. China clearly showed its endeavor when the initiative was enshrined in the Communist Party Charter during the 19th Party congress in October 2017.

 

Compared to many countries in Africa, Southeast and Central Asia, the EU has been wary of endorsing the BRI. French President Emmanuel Macron mentioned about the imbalances of the initiative during his visit in China earlier this month. UK prime minister Theresa May, who is visiting China later this week, is expected to raise concerns about the initiative in front of the Chinese officials

Projects under the Belt and Road initiative have been criticized for their lack of transparency and monopoly of Chinese contractors. According to a study published a few days ago by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, among all the contractors participating in Chinese-funded projects under the BRI in Asia and Europe, 89% are Chinese companies.

China's different understandings of market rules, huge dominance of the government in business and lack of freedom in the associations were also stressed during the conference. The Budapest-Belgrade high-speed railway project, one of the hallmark schemes under the BRI in Europe, is still under the European Commission's investigation for breaking EU tendering rules.

"We do see a lot of opportunities, but also challenges," said Ada Leung, Head of the ACCA China, to EU Reporter. She pointed out that a lot of coordination needs to be done since different jurisdiction and cultures are involved along the planned routes of the BRI.

The EU is also facing an internal challenge. So far, the member states have not yet had a common standpoint towards the BRI. While France and Germany hesitate to endorse the BRI, six European countries, including Spain, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland, have already signed a joint communiqué with China and other 23 countries on the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in May 2017. There is as well concern that the 16+1 initiative between China and East European countries could undermine the EU's overall approach to China.

 

 

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Huawei chief: The world needs an open approach to scientific research

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At the webinar for Beijing-based research and science attaches from Europe and from the EU, I made the following comment on the subject of research collaboration in Europe: “The nationalization of scientific activity – country by country – is not what the world needs at this time,” writes Abraham Liu.

Here’s why

The events surrounding COVID-19 have given us all some time to reflect upon many different issues – some are of a micro or personal scale – others have a larger macro-economic dimension.

But as the world is embarking on finding a vaccine for COVID-19, there is one clear dawning realization for us all to reflect upon.

Research, educational, private, and public bodies from all over the world must collaborate on basic and applied research. Without intensive international engagement and co-operation, society will not be able to benefit from new innovative products and services. Governments and the private sector alike must substantially invest in basic scientific research if the new products of tomorrow are going to be delivered into the global marketplace.

The process of innovation must not be confined to any one company or any one country. Scientific excellence working together across borders can create new products that address key socioeconomic challenges in the world today. That is why so many multi-jurisdictional research teams across the globe are working on a vaccine for COVID-19.

The same principle – namely the need for international engagement and co-operation – applies to the ICT sector and to the capability to bring new technological innovations into the marketplace.

Huawei is one of the most innovative companies in the world.

Under the EU industrial scoreboard for research and development 2019 Huawei ranks fifth in the world in terms of the levels of financial investment that the company makes in the fields of R&D. This a  finding of the European Commission having surveyed 2,500 companies in the world that invest a minimum of €30 million in R&D per annum. We:

  • Run 23 research centres in 12 countries in Europe.
  • Hold 240+ technology partnership agreements with research institutes in Europe.
  • Collaborate with over 150 European Universities on research.
  • Employ 2,400 researchers and scientists in Europe.
  • Invest 15% of our global revenues into research each year and this level of investment is going to increase.

International collaboration is at the heart of the Huawei business model when it comes to our research activities.

Europe is home to 25% of all global R&D investment. A third of all scientific publications that are reviewed in the world today emanate from European researchers. Europe is home to the best scientists in the world. And this is why so much of Huawei investment on the research side is based in Europe.

Huawei has participated in 44 collaborative research projects under both FP7 and under Horizon 2020. We have engaged in research covering, for example, 5Gcloud and device technologies and the building of ICT platforms that will deliver the smart cities of the future. So Huawei has a strong embedded imprint on research in Europe, and this remain the case for many years to come. In fact, Huawei’s first research facility opened in Sweden in 2000.

The Huawei Research Center in Gothenburg

Horizon Europe – the next EU research, innovation and science instrument 2021-2027 will play a central role in delivering upon the policy agenda of the EU institutions. This includes strengthening the industrial strategies of the EU, delivering upon the EU Green deal and tackling the UN sustainability goals.

Huawei can positively support the implementation of this exciting new EU policy agenda.

The ‘nationalization’ or ‘de-compartmentalization’ of scientific and research activity – country by country – is not what the world needs today. The public, private, educational and governmental sectors  need to take an open approach to scientific engagement. This will ensure that the key global challenges facing the world today can be positively addressed for all of mankind.

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Thoughts on post-Abe Japan in foreign policy

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After more than seven years of steady rule, Shinzo Abe’s (pictured) resignation as Japan’s prime minister has once again put the country’s foreign policy into the world’s spotlight. With the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) racing for the selection of new party leader and later on, the nation’s prime minister, several possible candidates have come to the fore. Apart from the ambitious Shigeru Ishiba who attempted to challenge Abe for the party’s leadership in the past, others such as Yoshihide Suga (current Cabinet Secretary) and Fumio Kishida, are expected to stand as contenders for the top post within the LDP as well as the government.

First, the perception of China within the Japanese public and LDP, has been at a low level even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck Japan. According to Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes survey in late 2019, as much as 85% of Japanese public viewed China negatively ⸺ a figure that put Japan as the country which had the most negative view of China among the 32 countries polled that year. More importantly, such survey was conducted months before the three events: the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, the passing of the Hong Kong security law and the continuing dispute of the Senkaku (or Diaoyu) Islands. With all these three issues involving China converging at the same time, it will be challenging to expect the Japanese public will have a more positive view of Beijing this year.

The US-China rivalry today has also entered uncharted waters in which military conflict is no longer a distant dream for many. Given its vested relationships with both US and China, such challenge remains to be the most difficult for Abe’s successor to grapple with. On one hand, Tokyo has to safeguard its close trade ties with China while on the other, the former has to depend on its security alliance with the US to safeguard both national and regional security against hypothetical threats (including China). As reported by Kyodo News in last July, Suga himself was aware of such dilemma as a middle power and even recognised that the balance of power strategy might not be suitable anymore given the current freefall relationship between Washington and Beijing. Instead, Suga alerted of the possibility in siding with one of the two powers as the eventual option for Japan in the near future. While he did not mention which country to side in case such scenario becomes a reality, political observers should not be too conclusive in that he will choose China as opposed to the US if he becomes the new Japanese prime minister.

Last, Abe’s successor inherits his legacy of Japan as a proactive leader in the Southeast Asia region. As a person without much experience in foreign policy, it is challenging for Suga (more than Kishida and Ishiba) to preserve Japan’s leadership status in Asia without heavy reliance on the foreign policy establishment. That said, the current Abe administration’s policy of encouraging its manufacturers to shift production from China into either Japan’s own shores or Southeast Asian countries, will likely to be continued in consideration of the urgency compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the freefalling US-China relations.

With Japan’s collective pursuit with the US, India and Australia for the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) vision as a security counter against Beijing in Southeast Asia, on top of Tokyo’s national economic interest to reduce its overdependence on China, the country fits well into the sort of external power needed by the ASEAN member states.

ANBOUND Research Center (Malaysia) is an independent think tank situated in Kuala Lumpur, registered (1006190-U) with laws and regulations of Malaysia. The think tank also provides advisory service related to regional economic development and policy solution. For any feedback, please contact: [email protected].  

The opinions expressed in the above article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

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China: Peak emissions before 2030 and climate neutrality before 2060

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Following the speech made by President Xi Jinping to the United Nations General Assembly on 22nd September 2020, the Energy Transitions Commission has provided the following response: “President Xi’s commitment that China will peak emissions before 2030 and aim for carbon neutrality before 2060 is a huge step forward in the fight against harmful climate change, and a welcome example of responsible global leadership. Strong policies and large investments. especially focused on the clean electrification of the economy, will be needed to achieve the mid-century objective. Analysis by ETC China have given us the confidence that a fully developed rich zero carbon economy is attainable. The priority now is to ensure that actions in the 2020s, and in particular in the 14th five-year plan, achieve rapid progress towards the twin goals.“ Adair Turner, co-chairman, Energy Transitions Commission. 

ETC Reports on China 

In June 2020, the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) jointly released the report – Achieving Green Recovery for China: Putting Zero-Carbon Electrification at the Core.

In November 2019, the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) jointly released -  China 2050: A Fully Developed Rich Zero-Carbon Economy.

About the Energy Transitions Commission 

The Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) is a global coalition of leaders from across the energy landscape committed to achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century, in line with the Paris climate objective of limiting global warming to well below 2°C and ideally to 1.5°C. Our commissioners come from a range of organizations – energy producers, energy-intensive industries, technology providers, finance players and environmental NGOs – which operate across developed and developing countries and play different roles in the energy transition. This diversity of viewpoints informs our work: our analyses are developed with a systems perspective through extensive exchanges with experts and practitioners.

For further information, please visit the ETC website. 

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