Delegation of Tsinghua IR Department to the Netherlands

12-14 September 2016, a delegation from Department of International Relations paid an academic visit to the Netherlands. It included Prof. SHI Zhiqin, Prof. ZHANG Lihua, Asso.Prof. Zhao Kejin, Dr. LAI Suetyi and 2014 Bachelor class student Si Xiaoyu.

This trip was an invitation from Department of International Relations and International Organizations of University of Groningen as well as Groningen Confucius Institute. The delegation was invited to attend the Conference ‘One Belt One Road: China’s Pivot towards Europe?’ on 12 September 2016. There were a total of eleven papers presented in the conference. Speakers were mainly from China and the Netherlands, exchanging ideas and views on the Belt and Road Initiative. Prof. SHI Zhiqin, Prof. ZHANG Lihua, Asso.Prof. Zhao Kejin and Dr. LAI Suetyi each gave a presentation.

As the first speaker of the conference, Asso.Prof. Zhao Kejin presented ‘Belt and Road Initiative and China’s rebalance strategy’. His main ideas included: the origin and current development of OBOR; the strategic balancing between land and maritime defense has been a major challenge of China’s grand strategy; China has determined to be a great power on maritime affairs in the coming decades so that how to manage its relations with both established powers and other small ones would be the top priority of China’s foreign policy and diplomacy.

Prof. ZHANG Lihua’s presentation was ‘The Belt and Road and Sino-European Relations’. She stated that: China’s Belt and Road Initiative has been a long-term strategy which would not only benefit the development of China and its covering countries but also the world economy. Prof. Zhang emphasized that OBOR promoted the values of win-win cooperation, openness, inclusiveness and peaceful development. The focuses were not limited to infrastructure building but also the enhancement of cultural exchange and political understanding. She argued that OBOR would contribute to the development of the China-EU relations, although the differences in cultural values, ideology and political system have posed challenges to such cooperation. In such regard, fostering mutual understanding between China and the EU was necessary.

Prof. SHI Zhiqin presented on ‘16+1: China-CEE cooperation in China-EU relations’. The paper stated: In geography, politics and economic, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has been crucial not only in the wider Sino-European relationship but also to China’s Belt and Road Initiative which aimed at linking Asia to Western Europe via Central Asia and Central Europe. This presentation reviewed the development and importance of the relations between China and the CEE countries, including the 16+1 cooperative platform which was launched in 2012 with the Warsaw Summit. The role of 16+1 in the China-EU relations was also examined. The final part of this presentation explored the essentiality of CEE countries in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Dr. LAI Suetyi’s presentation titled ‘Perception of China's Belt and Road Initiative in the EU’, which stated that despite enormous persuasion efforts from the Chinese side, namely huge number of delegations visiting Europe to explain what is in the OBOR plan, there was few positive welcoming of the initiative in Europe in 2013 and 2014. Noteworthy, the situation changed starting from late 2015, Europeans started showing interest in OBOR. Her paper traced the shift in perception of the Belt and Road Initiative in Europe, especially the opening up of attitude from reservation, and identified the reason behind the change.

The four reports of the Tsinghua delegation were all well received by the attendees of the conference, who posed numerous in-depth questions and gave useful comments. The Q&A sessions were candid and fruitful, which produced useful policy recommendations on OBOR for China, the Netherlands as well as the EU.

Prof. ZHANG Lihua (top-left), Asso.Prof. Zhao Kejin (top-right), Dr. LAI Suetyi (bottom-left) and Prof. SHI Zhiqin (bottom-right) presenting their papers
Chinese and Dutch presenters at the conference on ‘One Belt One Road: China’s Pivot towards Europe?’, 12 September 2016

After the academic conference, Prof. ZHANG Lihua (Director), Prof. SHI Zhiqin (Deputy-Councilor), and Dr. LAI Suetyi (Director Assistant) of the Research Center for China-EU Relations had a meeting with the partners in University of Groningen. The meeting overviewed results of the first phrase (five years) of the bilateral cooperation under the Research Center for China-EU Relations framework. Both side expressed satisfaction on the fruitful cooperation and agreed on a second phrase of cooperation.

On 13-14 September 2016, the delegation visited both political and economic centers of the Netherlands, The Hague and Amsterdam.

Photo with Prof. Jan Melissen of Clingendael Institute and with Minister Counsellor of the Embassy of China in the Kingdom of the Netherlands

In The Hague, the delegation first visited Clingendael Institute, the biggest and most influential think-tank in the Netherlands. They were hosted by a famous Dutch expert on public diplomacy and foreign policy, Prof. Jan Melissen. The recent development of the EU, recent development of the study of public diplomacy, public diplomacy between Asia and Europe and China-EU relations were among the issues discussed.

In The Hague, the delegation was also invited to the Embassy of China in the Kingdom of the Netherlands for a meeting. Representatives from Chinese diplomats in the Netherlands explained recent development in China-Dutch relations as well as China’s presence and participation in the international organizations in The Hague.

In Amsterdam, the delegation was hosted by a representative of the China Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands, who introduced the key businesses of Chinese businessmen in the Netherlands as well as in Western Europe, problems encountered and integration of Chinese migrants in the Netherlands. It is learnt that hotel business has been one key investment of Chinese businessmen in the Netherlands, the delegation was shown two of these hotels in Amsterdam.

This work trip to the Netherlands has been very fruitful, enhancing mutual understanding between China and the Netherlands as well as between China and the EU.

2014 Bachelor class student Si Xiaoyu won the scholarship in the 2015-2016 class on Comparative European Politics under the Jean Monnet Module project ‘Introducing the EU to the classroom of Tsinghua’. The scholarship offered Si Xiaoyu a one-week trip to the EU countries, to enable her first-hand experience and understand of Europe and the EU. This project is chaired by Prof.SHI Zhiqin for academic year 2015-2018. It is part of Jean Monnet Academic Module funded by the European Commission.