Tag Archives: cooperation

Chinese high-speed trains in Europe

Two months ago, Chinese premier Li Keqiang visited Central and Eastern Europe, and attended a regional summit in Bucharest, Romania. This visit coincided with the conclusion of several business deals.

One of these deals concerns infrastructure and transport systems. China and Romania have agreed on the construction of a high-speed rail network connecting Constanta on the Black Sea to Bucharest and then maybe onto Budapest in Hungary.

Other countries showed interest in similar proposals; another high-speed train line may be built between Budapest and Belgrade in Serbia.

What can we learn from this partnership?

Firstly, China has gained a real expertise in high-speed rail. After building an impressive high-speed rail network in its homeland, China can now export its know-how, which will help its diplomatic relations.

Secondly, this also shows the disparities in high-speed rail development within Europe. Whereas the Eurostar has connected Paris and London for almost twenty years, rail transportation in Central and Eastern Europe still suffers from poor infrastructure.

How should Europe feel about this Chinese offer?

Of course, Central and Eastern Europeans can only welcome this opportunity that will surely boost their development.

However, some would deplore the fact that China has succeeded where the EU has failed. Why does Romania have to turn to China to get this high-speed rail network? Why hasn’t the EU launched a similar programme already?

Maybe the most important point regarding the nature of this project is the way this agreement has been reached. China will use this project as a showcase for operations in other countries, and so offered very attractive conditions for the construction of this network. Usually, before deciding on this kind of large-scaled investment, tenders are required and competition among private companies is the rule.

There is no problem using Chinese technologies for constructing and operating high-speed rail networks in Europe, as long as they are the best solution, but there needs to be fair competition among companies – this is a key principle of the EU. Furthermore, we should question if cooperation between China and EU member states should be focused solely on the financing of infrastructures, when there a broader exchange, both technologically and culturally, could be developed.

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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China, Japan and ROK hold air pollution summit

In spite of regional tensions, China, South Korea and Japan held an environmental summit on pollution.

Wu Wencong (December 13, 2013), China, Japan and ROK air pollution summit, China Daily

China, Japan and the Republic of Korea will hold a summit to tackle air pollution and promote green industries in Langfang, Hebei province, from Dec 14 to 15.

Around 300 delegates, consisting of governmental officials, scholars and entrepreneurs, from the three nations will participate in the two-day conference to share their experiences and look into opportunities of cooperation.

The China Center for International Economic Exchanges, together with the Japan-China Governmental, Industrial and Academic Cooperation Organization and the Korea International Trade Association, hosted the summit.

Full text available on line : http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-12/13/content_17174010.htm (accessed 16 december 2013)

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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16th EU-China summit


EU China summit

In the past few months, relations between the EU and China had been quite tense as illustrated by the “trade war” on solar panels and wine. Another cause of friction is the European arms embargo. In spite of these issues, China and the EU continue to maintain important trade relations. The EU is China’s largest trading partner, and China is the EU’s second largest.

All these topics were widely discussed at the 16th EU-China Summit. This event, held in Beijing on 21 November 2013, was the occasion for José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, to meet China’s new administration. Trade was not the only topic discussed during this meeting. As mentioned in a previous post by Ai Chi-an, a sub-forum was also devoted to EU-China cooperation in urbanisation, where several members of UrbaChina’s Consortium introduced the project’s activities. China’s massive urbanisation may be considered a golden opportunity for European investors, with millions of new urban consumers who may adopt European products. China will also need better transport, energy and network infrastructure to accompany this urbanisation. However, China’s urbanisation cannot be reduced only to the trade aspect. Urbanisation has created several challenges including pollution and social integration that need to be addressed. Although Europe has never undergone such massive and sudden urbanisation, we believe Europeans can provide insight on some aspects of urbanisation based on their experience. Questions relating to social housing or compact cities have been debated for a long time in Europe, and therefore this experience may help Chinese cities find their own way to resolve urban issues and offer sustainable living to their inhabitants. Regarding pollution, we can observe that most cities in Europe and in China are looking to reduce their environmental footprint and be more energy efficient; in this respect, they share the same challenge. However, these problems are complex and there is no single solution. That is why more cooperation is needed between China and Europe to make Chinese and European cities greener.

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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The long way to Kunming

Southeast Asian architecture in Kunming

As Ai Chi-han explained two weeks ago, Kunming plans to become a regional hub, increasing its connections with Southeast Asian countries. The fulfilment of Kunming’s ambitions depends on the development of transport infrastructures between China and its southern neighbours.

In the past, Kunming played a major role in relations with Southeast Asia, thanks to the Burma Road, for example, or the Kunming-Haiphong railway. After WW2, exchanges between Yunnan and Southeast Asian decreased – mostly due to the Cold War – and Kunming became a dead end.

Since the 90’s, new projects have been drafted to improve transportation between these two regions, by means of highways, a railroad and travel on the Mekong.  The Greater Mekong sub-region, created in 1992, illustrates this trend.

However, the execution of these projects has been very slow and random. Of course, the authorities of Kunming support most initiatives that are likely to transform their city into a regional hub, but they have to face resistance from their neighbours and need to adapt to the international context.

Several factors threaten Kunming’s ambitions.

  • Kunming’s plan to become a regional hub depends on Chinese diplomacy. The province of Yunnan is not able to make direct deals with its southern neighbours without Beijing’s approval.  Cross border projects are the results of international agreements, and these can be lengthy to conclude. For example, it took three years for India and China to negotiate the possible construction of a road from Kunming to Kolkata1
  • Southeast Asian countries may also consider increasing traffic and exchanges with their northern giant a threat. China needs to reaffirm that all parties will benefit from more exchanges.
  • The new transport infrastructures connecting Yunnan to Southeast Asia need to be efficient and competitive. Several studies show that these in-land routes are still more expensive and less reliable than sea transportation2.
  • Administrative regulations need to be reduced to encourage cross-border trade.
  • The recent political change in Myanmar may also affect Kunming’s regional leadership. In the past, Myanmar proved to be a reliable partner for China. It is possible that political instability and growing ethnic conflicts may delay China-Myanmar projects. However, Myanmar’s opening is going to increase the level of exchange, and thus more goods will be carried between Myanmar and Yunnan.

Kunming will certainly benefit from the creation of new transport infrastructures to Southeast Asia, but these routes will lead nowhere without strong political support from both the Chinese and the Southeast Asian governments. More cooperation (perhaps modelled on the European Union) is needed to boost Kunming’s southern trade.

  1. Saibal Dasgupta (2012, 27 November). Road from Kolkata to Kunming? Times of India. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-11-27/india/35387026_1_stilwell-road-trade-route-yunnan  []
  2. Thiengburanathum P., Banomyong R., . Sopadang A. The impacts of Kunming-Bangkok expressway: logistics channel analysis []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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Interview with Andrea Ricci

Following the EU-China Mayors’s Forum on September  20 2012, Andrea Ricci gave an interview to News Eurideas, a Brussels-based company specialised in linguistic services.

Europe’s 2020 growth agenda and China’s 12th Five Year Plan make way for opportunities for China-EU cooperation to develop in areas such as urbanisation. Both China and Europe have to tackle the challenge of dealing with ageing populations, the growth of mega-cities and setting up the foundations for an inclusive society. Have common goals and the exchange of best practices been fruitful for both entities in the field of sustainable urbanisation?

Indeed, the ultimate goal is common to the EU and China: to ensure the sustainability of their cities. It is, however, too early to draw lessons from the experience of cooperation so far: a structured, strategy-driven cooperation has only been devised recently, while in past years cooperation activities have been rather uncoordinated and often left to the initiative of individual Member States. On the other hand, although the ultimate goal is shared, the EU and China are following quite different paths, owing to past history and to the differentiated challenges and constraints that characterise their respective socio-economic and political contexts: China looks at city sustainability in the context of a very fast growing economy and of a massive movement of population from rural to urban settlements, which is not the case for the EU, where the overall structure and pattern of urban settlements is rather stabilised, and has in fact contributed to the growing awareness of the severity of the environmental impacts potentially associated with urbanisation. 

The EU-China Urbanisation Partnership covers a lot of ground and it has ambitious goals. Has energy proven to be a central factor in urban policies?

Energy is one of the preferred fields of cooperation between the EU and China, and this was the case even before urbanisation was identified as a priority for cooperation: several flagship initiatives, such as the EU China Clean Energy Centre, have already been successfully launched. The EU-China Urbanisation Partnership now follows an agenda that clearly confirms and reinforces the priority role of energy, and does so in a context that should help streamline concrete cooperation, based on the commonality of energy-related issues in cities across the planet, on both the supply and demand side: the integration of renewable sources in high density settlements, the smart provision and use of electricity, energy efficiency in buildings, and electromobility, to name a few.

How about the concept of Smart Cities? Has it proven to be a viable policy, central to our EU-China cooperation on urbanisation?

Smart Cities have been so far looked at primarily from the energy angle, which has the merit of laying concrete ground for cooperation in an area that certainly has a considerable potential, and expected impacts are high at both the local (city) and the global level (e.g. through the reduction of GHG emissions). The Smart City concept, however, encompasses a much wider range of drivers, impacts, policies and technologies, which will hopefully be integrated in the EU-China cooperation framework. For instance, the interrelation between urban form (and land use patterns) and the potential “smartness” of cities, is a key element in urban development and this should be explicitly recognized.

What instruments for bilateral cooperation have been used between China and the EU so far?

The range of instruments is rather broad, from research all the way to policy agreements, including demonstration projects, exchanges of best practices, twinning programmes, technology transfer and support services such as those targeted by the above mentioned EU-China Clean Energy Centre. Each of those can be potentially effective, provided that their design and implementation are part of an integrated strategy. The URBACHINA project, funded within FP7, is a good example of how EU and China can, with the same instrument, pursue the dual objective of (i) jointly addressing common challenges while (ii) establishing and reinforcing the cooperative relationship in the field of social sciences.

Interview full version 

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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