Europe aims for a realistic, assertive and multi-faceted approach to China (Joint Communication “EU-China – A Strategic Outlook”, 2019). China and the EU are two of the three largest economies and traders in the world and in the last few decades, China’s economic and political dimensions have grown with unprecedented scale and speed. Recent developments within the international system including, the creation of new global frameworks and multilateral institutions such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and China’s growing presence in key international institutions, have unveiled a newfound Chinese pro-activeness in the international sphere. Today China is a key global actor and a leading scientific and technological power. This results in an increase in bilateral and multilateral engagements on a vast variety of issues such as trade, research/technology, sustainable development, climate change, foreign direct investment, and human rights. At the same time, this rise has exposed the weakness Europe faces in its capacity to better understand China in its various specificities, complexities, and goals and respond to its rapid evolution and new policy directions. As China becomes ever more prevalent in a wide array of policy areas, upgrading, supporting, connecting, and mainstreaming knowledge on the topic in Europe has become a necessity for policy-makers, stakeholders, and civil society at large in order to better navigate strategic opportunities and challenges with foresight instead of reacting with delay. Because of China’s increasing relevance, Europe needs to get to know and understand it on its own terms: not through the lens of other external sources but from its own European perspective. The upgrade needs to be based on independent European analysis grounded in facts and insights from science and research carried out in academia and by independent think thanks as well as surveys and trend analysis on experiences of stakeholders engaged in a number of areas. At the intersection of science, economics and foreign affairs, Europe should support an independent understanding of China and its overall defining social, economic, and political characteristics.
Projects are expected to address the following: further deepen European independent knowledge/understanding of China’s social, cultural, political, and economic characteristics, of the impact of its foreign policy, and of its compliance with international obligations/laws/norms (or lack thereof). Analyse new global narratives and study how these compare and interact with European interests and values, while acknowledging and reflecting Europe’s diversity. Enhance the visibility of our independent expertise and mainstream knowledge on China to increase its appeal in learning/research institutions among students. Stimulate and support the creation of independent knowledge on contemporary China to increase the level of “knowledge autonomy/independence” through the creation of new connections and synergies between intra-European China knowledge nodes from across all relevant organizations and joint research projects.