European Research on China

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three Horizon Europe projects aimed at supporting China scholars in EU

The European Commission is taking steps to strengthen Europe's independent knowledge of China and its intentions amid increasing geopolitical tensions. The Commission has allocated €10.5 million for three Horizon Europe projects aimed at connecting and enhancing the expertise of approximately 1,000 specialist researchers on China across EU universities and think tanks, reports ScienceBusiness. The objective is to build an EU knowledge base on China that is separate from the perspectives of the US, UK, or other countries scrutinizing China's economic and political rise, and utilize this knowledge for EU decision-making.

The three Horizon projects align with the Commission's efforts to establish a new EU-wide strategy for engaging with China, as outlined by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. She advocates for Europe to "de-risk" its relations with China rather than completely sever ties or "de-couple" from the country (European Comission). Experts in the field of China studies are calling for a distinct EU-specific strategy. Kjeld Erik Brødsgaard, a China expert at Copenhagen Business School, which is coordinating one of the Horizon projects, believes there is a European perspective on China that differs from other regions. He suggests that Europe does not view China as a threat and adopts a more objective approach rather than an ideological one. However, Brødsgaard highlights the necessity for fundamental knowledge and understanding of China to formulate a robust policy. Similarly, Philipp Brugner from Vienna's Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI), involved in the ReConnect China project, emphasizes the need for Europe to develop its own, independent knowledge of China. The community of China specialists is dispersed across the EU, making it crucial to establish links and collaborations between knowledge nodes through initiatives like the Horizon projects.

The three Horizon projects aim to address these challenges by providing a platform for independent research on China. The Commission recognizes the need for Europe to understand China on its own terms and not solely through external sources. Therefore, participation in the projects is limited to organizations based in the EU or countries that have joined Horizon. This exclusion means that renowned Chinese research institutions in Europe, such as Oxford University's China Centre and the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, are not part of the Horizon projects.

Two of the Horizon projects began in late 2022 with a combined budget of €8 million. Their objectives include generating more research on China, fostering networking among existing EU experts, and disseminating their findings to policymakers and the wider public. The third project, for which grant applications closed in March, will allocate €2.5 million to create a public online database encompassing various types of China research, including English translations of official Chinese government documents.

Source: Science Business