Faculties of Humanities and Theology /Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies


The Belt and Road Initiative is one of China’s most debated undertakings. Despite the promising agenda and initially outlined bright prospects, it faces certain challenges in terms of perception and implementation.  Our webinar seeks to provide fresh and grounded insights into the ongoing discussion of the BRI’s purpose, means, and trajectory.

Thursday, October 21st , 17.00 -19.00 CEST


Moderator:Maryia Danilovich

Alfred Gerstl, Senior Researcher, Department of Asian Studies at Palacký University Olomouc. 

China’s Inroads to Europe: The 16 (17) + 1 Mechanism: from High Expectations to Growing Disappointments 


While the European participants of the Chinese-led 16 (17) + 1 had at the creation of this cooperation format in 2012 high expectations of increased economic exchange with China, they became recently more critical. Notably their exports to China did not develop in the expected manner. Conversely, fears of increased economic and subsequently political Chinese influence grew. During the pandemic, China supported many 16 + 1 members with face masks. However, despite the “mask diplomacy”, apart from Serbia, the perception of the broad public of China did not improve, on the contrary. This talk will start with an analysis of the responses of the EU to the strategic challenge posed by 16 +1, distinguishing between the EU member states and the candidate countries. Subsequently, it will use case studies from the Visegrad Four (Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary) to highlight how the economic and political relations with China developed since 2012.

Bartosz Kowalski, Assistant Professor, Department of East Asian Studies, the University of Lodz.

China’s Mask Diplomacy and the Health Silk Road in Europe: Seeking Foreign Gratitude and Domestic Stability


The talk discusses China’s diplomatic offensive in Europe following the outbreak of COVID-19, with a focus on Central and Eastern Europe. By looking at selected case studies of countries competing for Chinese medical supplies, it demonstrates how China’s party-state leadership have been promoting the narrative of a “transparent and timely response” to the pandemic, while nurturing own image of a benevolent global leader. It argues that China’s mask diplomacy has aimed to cover up the failure of China’s leadership to contain the pandemic in its initial stage and to strengthen domestic public approval of the legitimacy of the Communist Party governance.

Igor Denisov, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of International Studies, Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

BRI-EAEU Conjugation in the Recent Russia-China Interaction


This talk provides a critical look at the understanding of conjugation between BRI and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) by the Russian side. It argues that current perceptions of BRI by the Russian side become less enthusiastic. Russia’s involvement in BRI is seen mainly in the context of advancing Moscow’s own initiatives in Eurasia.

Friday, October 22nd , 17.00 -19.00 CEST


Moderator: Tabita Rosendal

Juliet Lu, postdoctoral research fellow,  Atkinson Center for Sustainability.

For Profit or Patriotism? Grounded insights on Chinese state capital through the case of Yunnan State Farms in Laos


What makes China different from other investor, development partner, or aid donor countries? The mainstream assumption is that actors are all coordinated, perhaps even directed, by the Chinese state. This raises a specter of Chinese overseas expansion as a monolithic, unidirectional force being inserted into other. In reality, there is a dizzying diversity of ties between the various Chinese actors and institutions engaged in expanding overseas and the state and their engagements abroad are shaped by host country strategic interests and systems of power. Through the case of Yunnan State Farms (YSF), a province-level state-owned enterprise that has invested in rubber plantations across northern Laos, the talk will cover when and how the category ‘state capital’ is useful and how we should study it. YSF complicates understandings of Chinese state capital in that it is a province level enterprise and a State Farm and contrasts the industrial central level firms on which we typically focus. Moreover, the state support YSF receives is attributable not simply to its state ties but also to rubber’s status as a nationally strategic resource. Key insights are derived from the case of YSF by looking at its operations on the ground in Laos, particularly its negotiations with the Lao state.

Min Ye, Associate Professor of International Relations,  Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University. 

Title: TBA

Abstract: TBA

Hong Zhang, postdoctoral fellow, China Africa Research Initiative, Johns Hopkins University-School of Advanced International Studies.

International Contracting and China’s Trajectory in Economic Globalization


Current policy and media attention tends to focus on China’s ‘financing’ of the BRI infrastructure projects, but it is often neglected that China is also ‘building’ those projects. In fact, it is the capacity tobuild—the engineering process demonstrated through such endeavours—that Chinese narratives tend to highlight. ‘Builder’, rather than ‘financier’, is more reflective of kind of image that China seeks to project globally. This talk focuses specifically on this ‘builder’ aspect and discusses the ‘international contracting’ activities. They have largely been overlooked by analysts of China’s international economy, even though in the eyes of Chinese policymakers they have always been an important category since China opened up its economy in the 1970s. The talk also covers the history of the international contracting industry, how it reflects China’s shifting role in its participation of the global economy, and how this sector has exemplified China’s state capitalist economy. It helps us understand the intertwined relationship between political and economic goals in the BRI nowadays.

About the event coordinators:  

Dr. Maryia Danilovich is a researcher at ACE and at the Centre for Modern East Asian Studies at the University of Göttingen.  Her main research areas are China’s foreign policy and the implementation of China’s BRI in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Tabita Rosendal is a Ph.D. student at ACE. Her project focuses on contemporary Chinese governance practices of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

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